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W&M’s business school gains momentum with new esports & marketing course

person wearing headphones sits at a computerThe world of competitive video gaming, known as esports, has gained a massive following over the years. Estimated to generate over $1 billion in revenue for 2021, the popularity of the esports industry has garnered much attention over how esports functions from a business perspective.

This summer, professors Sailesh Patel and Karen Conner brought this discussion to the Raymond A. Mason School of Business by spearheading the esports & marketing course.

When developing the course, Patel and Conner were tasked with setting a foundation for esports classes as this would be the first 3-credit course about esports at William & Mary. The most crucial goal in creating a course like this is to introduce the relationship between business and esports in a comprehensive way.

"We wanted to introduce students to how they might apply marketing concepts to the esports industry," Conner said. The combination of Patel's experience working in the gaming industry and Conner's business background, as well as her executive position on William & Mary's Esports Advisory Board, allowed them to do just that.

For Lilie Malaeb '21, this was her first formal introduction to esports.

"Exploring marketing principles surrounding gaming and entertainment and the ever-growing size of the industry has given me more insight about potential career paths I could pursue within the field and with my marketing major, something which I had not previously considered," she explained.

Meanwhile, student Allen Ngo '23, who was already interested in esports before taking the course, could better visualize what he wanted to do in the industry.

"[The course was] not just about wanting to have a job related to games," he described, "but more about what talents and skills you can cultivate that would also apply to gaming."

As interest in esports increases, courses like Esports & Marketing provide William & Mary students with the knowledge and skills to make a positive impact.

"Since W&M is steeped in history and focused on innovation, we recognize the responsibility to provide our students access to the billion-dollar esports industry," Michele King, director of W&M esports, explained. Offering courses that apply an esports lens provides "our students with the standards of the academic rigors of W&M coupled with experiential learning to create a pipeline into esports. We are preparing our students to be pioneers to develop this landscape!"

According to Conner, with the numerous opportunities in esports, having a course like this shines light on the common misconception that the only way to get involved in the esports industry is to be a professional gamer.

"In esports, there are so many opportunities and jobs for students, from entrepreneurship, marketing, shout casting, data analytics, wellness, computer science, content creation, music composition and production to the ethical, legal, and psychological facets of gaming," she says.

The course's array of guest speakers exposed students to the many career tracks within the esports industry. In fact, for student Alex Washington '24, that was his favorite part of the course.

"We were able to meet a variety of people in the esports industry from all different levels, which helped to not only give us a better understanding of what the industry is about but provide an extra platform for us to ask professionals questions and network with them," Washington shared.

The esports community is growing every day. In fact, it's starting to become more popular than traditional professional sports, with esports drawing 33 million more viewers than the NFL and rugby combined in 2019. With courses such as esports & marketing, the Mason School strengthens the community of more than 300 gamers on campus while preparing students for lives of principled achievement within the esports industry.