UNLV is “all in” on esports, and some of the best in collegiate competitive gaming will meet on campus March 8-10 when the Mountain West Conference hosts the first-ever MW Esports Showdown.
Held at UNLV in conjunction with the Mountain West Conference Men's and Women's Basketball Championships, the MW Esports Showdown will pit UNLV's 8-Bit Esports against Boise State Esports in three highly-popular esports games: League of Legends, Rocket League and Overwatch.
The schools were selected by the conference to participate in the inaugural MW esports Showdown based upon the current organization and development of their esports programs, as well as enthusiastic support from the presidents of each institution.
"As a Conference, we have never been reluctant to try new and different things, and I appreciate the encouragement and support of our university presidents in bringing this exciting new initiative forward," said Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson. "Globally, esports is enjoying a boom in popularity – particularly among young people who are in the same age bracket as the students on our campuses. We are also seeing universities add esports programming, technology and business to their curriculum offerings.”
Esports is exploding in popularity around the world, including in Las Vegas and at UNLV. Competitive gaming is poised to become a $1 billion industry, and esports venues are emerging throughout Las Vegas, including a new competition arena scheduled to open in March at Luxor on the Las Vegas Strip.
8-Bit is UNLV’s collegiate esports organization and represents the Rebels at national competitions. Founded in 2012, the club-level team competes in five game titles and is an officially recognized organization in the Riot Games Collegiate Program and a partner of the TeSPA network. 8-Bit is one of the largest student organizations on campus, with former members going on to compete professionally. Follow UNLV eSports at twitch.tv/8bitunlv.
In addition to its competitive esports team, UNLV has one of the nation’s only academic programs for students combining the art, science, and business of esports. At UNLV's International Gaming Institute, researchers are immersed in the nuances of the nascent industry, driving best practices on esports and their intersection with the regulated gambling industries, legal and regulatory processes, game development, and competition infrastructure. UNLV is a founding member of the Nevada Esports Alliance, further positioning the state as a global esports hub and UNLV as a research leader.
Boise State University Esports is the first varsity competitive gaming team sponsored by a Mountain West institution. The program hosts nearly 60 varsity student e-athletes competing in five game titles. An additional 240 students compete for the school at the club level in other game titles. Boise State is building the largest gaming facility in college eSports with a 100-seat Battleground training center, broadcast facility, and spectator arena for live weekly matches. Follow Boise State Esports at boi.st/BroncosTwitch and esports.boisestate.edu.
The esports teams from Boise State and UNLV, each consisting of up to 15 participants, will compete in Show Matches (exhibitions) from 4 to 7 p.m. March 8, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 9 in the Strip View Pavilion inside the Thomas and Mack Center. The Main Event is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 10 inside Cox Pavilion. Admission to the Show Matches is free for ticketholders to the MW Men's and Women's Basketball Championships. Tickets for the Main Event are now on sale for $10 and can be purchased by visiting UNLVTickets.com or in person at the Thomas and Mack Center box office in Las Vegas.
The Show Matches and Main Event will also be broadcast live on the Mountain West eSports Twitch page. Twitch is a live-streaming video platform owned by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon.com. The site focuses primarily on video game live-streaming, including broadcasts of eSports competitions. Twitch has more than 100 million monthly unique users and 2.2 million monthly broadcasters.