Why the Collegiate Esports Commissioner’s Cup is the latest move in Atlanta’s push to become a major esports capital

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Collegiate esports company ESPORTSU has announced the Collegiate Esports Commissioner’s Cup (CECC), a scholastic esports event that will take place in Atlanta from May 6-8. The event represents a partnership between ESPORTSU and all of Atlanta’s major esports organizations and is the latest move in a push for the city to become a hotbed of competitive gaming.

ESPORTSU evp Angela Bernhard Thomas anticipates that the event will draw over 400 competitors, which she said will make the CECC the “largest celebration of collegiate esports ever.”

Students from any U.S. two- or four-year university are invited to compete, plus students from local Atlanta high schools.

“This is an event that is meant to unify,” Thomas said. “To this point, we have 11 different conferences competing in our event; I don’t believe there’s ever been an esports event where that was the case.” 

The event highlights the bevy of big-name esports orgs and gaming companies that have popped up in Atlanta in recent years. In addition to the Overwatch League’s Atlanta Reign and the Call of Duty League’s Atlanta FaZe — both of which are administered by venture capital firm Atlanta Esports Ventures — the CECC includes among its sponsors the Atlanta Hawks and its NBA 2K League team the Hawks Talon, Atlanta-based esports org Ghost Gaming and the*gameHERS, an online gaming community for women.

Atlanta’s ascendance in esports is, to some extent, a matter of statistics. After all, Atlanta is the largest population center in the Deep South, making it a lucrative market for brands looking to reach any sort of community, gaming or otherwise. In any case, the high number of gaming companies in Atlanta is the result of slow and steady growth, not a rapid explosion. In addition to the event sponsors listed above, well-known game developers such as Hi-Rez Studios, the creator of popular esports title Smite, have been in Atlanta since the mid-aughts.

“Atlanta has put a lot of resources and organization behind the desire to actually attract esports events to their market, and we’re very aware of that,” Thomas said. “There are several other markets that are doing this as well across the country, and one of the main things we liked about Atlanta was the Atlanta Esports Alliance.”

In spite of this crowded list of sponsors, Atlanta’s esports teams say they aren’t feeling any friction. “It’s a really unique market, where no one feels like they’re competing; a rising tide lifts all ships,” said Andrew Saltzman, evp and CRO of the Hawks. “I think we want Atlanta to be known as the esports capital of the world — certainly the esports capital of the U.S. — and events like this only help further solidify that position.”

Atlanta is not the only city whose esports stakeholders want it to become a competitive gaming center.

Internationally, observers have made similar claims about cities such as Shanghai and Katowice, Poland. Stateside, Los Angeles might have the best claim at the moment, given its status as a hub for game developers and their attendant esports leagues. Atlanta’s esports teams are hoping that collaboration with the city authorities will help continue to raise their profile.

“We’ve talked about having more of a relationship with City Hall,” said Erick Teach, vp of partnerships at Atlanta Esports Ventures. “I understand the mayor is actually a bit of a gaming fan, so we’re trying to figure out how to do something.”

In 2019, the Atlanta Reign sold out Atlanta’s 2,700-capacity Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre for its Overwatch League Homestand event. The upcoming May event features tournaments for both Overwatch and other popular esports such as Rocket League, NBA 2K, Valorant and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Though there won’t be an Overwatch Homestand in Atlanta in 2022, live esports events in the Georgia state capitol aren’t going anywhere. “We would certainly take lessons learned and apply them to the future,” Teach said. “As we continue to look at opportunities to engage with our fans on a localized basis, we will participate where and when it makes sense.”


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