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U Michigan eSports program gifted $4M by Activision Blizzard CEO

By David Schwartz
Published: April 26th, 2021

The University of Michigan School of Informant has received a $4 million gift from Robert “Bobby” Kotick, CEO of gaming company Activision Blizzard, to establish a multidisciplinary eSports program.

The gift will lay the groundwork for launching an eSports minor at U-M by 2022 to help prepare students for careers in the fast-growing eSports industry. The program will combine best-in-class research and instruction in computer science, sports management and user experience, among other disciplines.

“Esports is poised for explosive growth, and I am thrilled to join the University of Michigan to develop a program that will cultivate the talent to meet the needs of this complex and evolving industry,” said Kotick, whose company has produced iconic gaming franchises including Call of Duty, Candy Crush, and World of Warcraft. “University of Michigan combines world-class instruction, research and athletics, making them the perfect partner for a multidisciplinary collegiate program that will help shape the future of eSports.”

Gaming represents a booming industry with career opportunities across a wide variety of disciplines — programmers, game developers, music composers and voice actors for the games, as well as event planners, broadcast producers, announcers for the event play-by-play, abd marketers. Activision Blizzard boasts nearly 400 million gamers around the world.

 “This generous gift by Bobby Kotick gives us an opportunity to contribute to an understanding of video gaming broadly and eSports more specifically as a tremendously important cultural and economic phenomenon,” said School of Information Dean Thomas Finholt. “The time is right; this is the right place to do it. I think it’s a natural fit at the University of Michigan, given our interest as an institution, as a student body and as alumni, in games.”

Among other things, the Kotick gift will fund a new eSports professorship position. The chair will develop an eSports “blockbuster” course, featuring an innovative, multidisciplinary curriculum, to be offered annually beginning in the 2022-23 academic year. The large-enrollment intro course will engage students with eSports platforms, teams and industry experts. It will cover such topics as the interplay between the video game and eSports businesses; the differences between traditional sports and eSports as they relate to economics, demographics, underlying products, the competitive landscape and distribution platforms; and the structure of eSports leagues and tournaments.

“We’re literally at the edge of the water right now,” said U-M Professor of Sports Management Mark Rosentraub. “Esports has very different, unique aspects that we need to begin to understand. This is what makes it so exciting.”

Source: Michigan News

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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