(UW Athletics photo)

(UW Athletics release)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Consistent with the spirit of innovation that has defined the Conference since its inception, the Mountain West (MW) announced today it will host the first-ever MW eSports Showdown in conjunction with the MW Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships this March in Las Vegas.

The MW eSports Showdown will feature eSports teams from Boise State and UNLV competing in three highly-popular eSports games: League of Legends, Rocket League and Overwatch. League of Legends was developed and published by Riot Sports; Rocket League by Psyonix; and Overwatch by Blizzard Entertainment.

The eSports teams from Boise State and UNLV, each consisting of up to 15 participants, will compete in Show Matches (exhibitions) on March 8 and 9 in the Strip View Pavilion inside the Thomas and Mack Center, followed by the MW eSports Showdown Main Event on March 10 inside Cox Pavilion. Admission to the Show Matches is free for ticketholders to the MW Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, and fans will have an opportunity to learn more about eSports directly from the participants. Ticket pricing and availability for the Main Event will be announced in the coming weeks.

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The Show Matches and Main Event will also be broadcast live via the Mountain West eSports Twitch page at https://www.twitch.tv/mountainwestconf. 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.

eSports is enjoying explosive growth in popularity around the world — particularly among younger demographic groups – and research suggests as many as 150 million enthusiasts around the globe regularly participate in eSports. eSports championship events attract sellout crowds to large sporting arenas in the United States and beyond, and industry experts predict the eSports economy will grow to more than $650 million in 2018.

Boise State and UNLV were selected 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 Boise State President Dr. Bob Kustra and UNLV President Dr. Len Jessup.

“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,” MW Commissioner Craig Thompson said. “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.

“We are excited to connect the tradition of our successful MW Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships with something innovative and different like the MW eSports Showdown,” Thompson added.

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.

The Boise State eSports program is led by Dr. Chris Haskell and Dr. Brett Shelton in the Department of Educational Technology, the College of Education, and with the College of Innovation + Design. Follow Boise State eSports at boi.st/BroncosTwitch and esports.boisestate.edu

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. 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. 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.

The UNLV eSports program is led by Robert Rippee, Director of the Hospitality Lab and eSports Lab at the International Gaming Institute. Follow UNLV eSports at https://www.twitch.tv/8bitunlv

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