It seems like only yesterday I was reporting on the first few schools that were starting to give out eSports scholarships, and everyone was laughing at them. Well, some people still may be laughing, but the practice is much more widespread now, and moving into bigger and bigger programs. And now Fortnite has been caught up in the trend, because of course it has.
The first Fortnite: Battle Royale college scholarship is here. It’s from Ashland University in Ohio, and will offer top Fortnite players $4,000 worth of tuition to join their newly formed esports program and compete on a squads team of four. This team will join their other esports offerings, Overwatch and League of Legends. Open tryouts for the squad will be announced sometime in the future.
Ashland is a small school, only 4,600 students, and ranked 223rd in the country by US News and World Report. Some have accused smaller schools like this of trying to use esports as a publicity stunt, and while sure, it may partially be a marketing tactic, I don’t see any harm in it. These students are getting tuition money, and then getting an education as a result. Nothing wrong with that, and I don’t see why scholarships shouldn’t be awarded for video games if the school is determined enough to set up a dedicated program for it. Why not? And no, I’m not getting sucked into this “are esports real sports?” debate for the thousandth time, as I think it doesn’t matter, and the fact is that we exist in an era when colleges are willing to pay people to play video games, and millions of people are watching these events live and on streams. Whatever esports “is,” it’s important, and hugely relevant to younger generations especially.
As for Fortnite, it’s still in its infancy as an esport. While Epic keeps adding tools that are certainly helpful for a potential esports future (the new replay tool is phenomenal), there is not a massive, centralized league in place yet like we see for Overwatch or League or CSGO. There are tournaments, sure, but the game is still finding its sea legs in the scene. Not to say that Fortnite couldn’t be a big esport at some point in the future, but it’s not there yet.
As for this scholarship? I think it’s cool, though I will say that a part of me wonders that if you’re good enough at Fortnite to earn yourself a scholarship to play it, that you might be good enough to make at least $4,000 from Twitch or YouTube over the course of a year. Though I suppose, perhaps, you could always do both.
My guess is whoever gets these scholarship spots are probably not going to be known names in the Fortnite community, as those folks are already making that streaming cash, and most of them are far older than 17-18, not exactly about to start college. So, it could be you, I suppose, a better-than-most Fortnite player who would like some cash to go to school in Ohio.
I’ll post more about open tryouts when that info is available, but start your training now, as this surely will not be the last Fortnite scholarship we see in this country.