Limerick lab targets billion-dollar e-sports industry

Ireland’s first e-sports research lab at Science Foundation’s Lero software research centre in Limerick is envisaged to grow the visibility of Ireland to the rapidly expanding multi-billion-dollar e-sports industry.

The new lab is located in University of Limerick, at the headquarters of Lero, a world-leading SFI research centre. Lero researchers at UL will conduct studies designed to boost performance of international amateur and professional esports players.

“This is a massive growth sector,” said Dr Mark Campbell, director of the new Lero e-sports research lab.

“E-sports represent a rapidly growing billion-dollar global industry which is using innovation to push the boundaries of technology”

“Top professional players can earn millions of dollars per annum. However, unlike other professional sports, there has been very little application of sports science to the participants to date,” he explained.

“Our research lab will combine health science and computing to identify what makes a great player. For example, we will work on psychometric software incorporating eye tracking and brain imaging to measure the neural, cognitive and physical attributes of the most effective players.”

Dr Campbell added that research has shown that this is a sport in which female players can compete on equal terms with their male counterparts.

“While playing video games does have a male image there is no physical benefit for either sex unlike many traditional sports such as rugby. In esports, although there are far fewer female players, competitions are not organised by gender, so men and women compete against each other on equal terms.”

Earnings potential from e-sports

The earnings potential of esports was highlighted by last month’s Fortnite World Cup in New York where US teenager Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf, 16, won $3m. Dublin teenager Joshua Juliano, 17, took home $50,000 from the same event.

Prize money in 2018 exceeded $160m1 and for one event reached $25m2. Ireland’s top esports player, Jordan Crowley earned almost $250,000 in 2018 according to the esports earnings website3.

Revenues of global esports, or competitive video games played for spectators, will grow to $1.1 billion in 2019, a year-on-year growth of 26.7pc according to analytics company Newzoo4. The total global esports audience will grow to 453.8 million in 2019, a year-on-year growth of 15.0pc4.

“E-sports represent a rapidly growing billion-dollar global industry which is using innovation to push the boundaries of technology,” commented Professor Mark Ferguson, director-general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the Government of Ireland.

“This new Lero SFI Research Centre lab will help bring about greater levels of international visibility to the games industry, solidifying expertise across Irish third level institutions and industry.”

Pictured (above) at the Lero esports science research lab are, from left, software lead Prof Conor Ryan, postgraduate researcher Yueying Gong, and lab director Dr Mark Campbell. Image: Diarmuid Greene, True Media

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 30 August, 2019