@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

State budget puts millions into growing NC's rep as esports destination

Posted November 24, 2021 3:46 p.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2021 6:00 p.m. EST

State lawmakers hope to capitalize on a $150 billion industry with investments of tax dollars to foster the growth of videogames and esports in North Carolina.

"Raleigh is really positioned as a top global destination," says Ed Tomasi, co-chairman of the Greater Raleigh Esports Local Organizing Committee.

The city helped build that reputation when it hosted the international "Six Major" competition in 2019. Others followed.

The region also has a firm grip on the controller as home to a long list of tech innovators from Epic Games to Ubisoft to Red Hat. A very high percentage of employees there are gamers themselves or are interested in watching esports, Tomasi says.

The newly passed $5 million incentive program, the only one of its kind in the country to attract international esports events, has already had impact in the community.

"We started receiving a lot of calls and emails of interest for hosting in the greater Raleigh area," Tomasi said.

The Raleigh Convention Center will host the state's biggest esports event ever next month. Up to 5,000 people are expected to attend the Halo Championship Series, and that is just the start of the economic impact.

"From a visibility perspective, a brand perspective, there's going to be millions of viewers via livestream," Tomasi added.

Videogames have evolved over the past decade from a child's plaything to big-time money makers with celebrity players.

"Some people call it the new sport," Tomasi said. "You have professional athletes of traditional ball and stick sports investing into esports teams and leagues. This is the future of job creation in this entertainment space."

Local schools like Wake Technical Community College and North Carolina State University are among others are riding that wave as the city and state explore the next frontier.

"We're leading the world, and this bill really puts a bigger spotlight for the world to come here," Tomasi says.

The budget also directs $12 million to N.C. State to grow its esports program.

Lincoln County State Representative Jason Saine, an avid gamer himself, helped push through the legislation.

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