BIG RAPIDS, Mich — While other seasons have been canceled, esports is going strong. Ferris held its 2nd annual Michigan Bandwidth Bowl Saturday, hosting dozens of college teams.
Jonathan Eaton, Esports Coordinator for Ferris State University tells FOX 17 being in quarantine with no sports has only made today's tournament that much more gratifying.
“They’re very excited, they’ve been looking forward to this tourney for a while, a lot of our leagues have been canceled in Michigan, and this is the first big tournament since everyone has been sent home.” Eaton said. His job is to manage the coaches and teams, handle team logistics, and give advice where needed. He personally coaches FSU's Overwatch team.
Esports is seeing a surge in popularity since COVID-19 ended competitive seasons across the country, some even before they began. On both school and professional levels, people are ready to root for a team again. With an already virtual platform, video game competition is ready and able to fill the gap.
"You see the NASCAR drivers doing iRacing, you see the NBA players doing 2K, so even traditional sports figures are playing video games right now because of quarantine, it’s the only interaction they can have without being in person.” Eaton explained. "All of our players previously played at home, so we haven’t had to adjust much there.”
While spectators miss the thrill of competition, competitors see it as only second to the growth and winning potential in the pro-level.
"Last year, with that 16-year-old winning $3 million from Fortnite, it brought [esports] to a lot more people’s attention who didn’t take it seriously, and now with it being the online sport you can play right now, it forces it into the public spotlight even more.”
Saturdays tournament featured 16 schools, including 2 high schools. About 150 students from schools like Grand Valley State University, Central Michigan University, and Michigan State University made their way through double-elimination brackets for each game. The top 5 winners in each game earns points towards their team's ultimate total score.
Despite the popularity growth, enrollment in the competition was down, so the winners of the tournament get a trophy. The 2nd annual Michigan Bandwidth Bowl was aired on Twitch. It started at 11 a.m. Saturday with an expected end time around 7 p.m.