Digital Entertainment Events Show Esports Industry is Changing the Game in Georgia

Staff Report

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

When you think of sporting events and Atlanta, you probably see visions of footballs being thrown across Mercedes-Benz Stadium, soccer fans cheering on Atlanta United, and buzzers cutting through the noise at State Farm Arena.

You probably don’t think about video games.

Over the last few years, a new kind of sporting event has risen in popularity in Georgia—esports. Esports, short for electronic sports, describes the world of competitive video gaming. Esports players stream their gaming sessions live on platforms like Twitch and YouTube, and millions of fans follow from all over the world.

Georgia itself is home to three franchised esports teams, including the Atlanta Reign, Hawks Talon, and the most recently formed Atlanta FaZe. Hi-Rez Studios, Blue Mammoth, Scuf Gaming, and ELEAGUE also call Atlanta home. Presence of this industry in Georgia means the potential for viewing crowds that rival most traditional professional sports outings, and Georgia has sought to place itself in the center of the action.

In November, the Georgia World Congress Center hosted DreamHack Atlanta, a three-day, immersive gaming lifestyle festival which brought in more than 27,000 people from 49 states and 21 countries over one weekend. At the event, gamers competed in person for the chance to win prizes.

Other large events have taken place in Atlanta, including the Collegiate Esports Commissioner’s Cup (CECC) in May, which was the largest ever national collegiate esports live event and delivered $1.7 million in local economic impact. Riot Games also brought the Worlds 2022 League of Legends semifinals to State Farm Arena in October.

The increasing presence of events like these and the tremendous growth of the esports industry in Georgia is not just a fluke.

Team members at the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) Center of Innovation have worked to kickstart infrastructure and workforce development in the gaming and esports industries. In addition, the Georgia General Assembly passed the only esports tax credit in the United States. The Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act gives certain companies an annual tax credit of up to $1.5 million, with an annual statewide cap of $12.5 million, for developing interactive entertainment projects, such as console or computer games or mobile apps. The Center has leveraged this resource along with partners and businesses to grow the esports ecosystem.

The Center is also part of a statewide partnership called the Georgia Esports League (GEL), which is the nation’s first comprehensive statewide initiative covering esports competition, curriculum, and workforce development to serve the videogame, esports, and digital entertainment industry.

The partnership is between the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Film Academy, founding partner universities across Georgia, esports production company Skillshot Media, and Ghost Gaming, an Atlanta-based professional esports and lifestyle organization.

The Georgia Esports League is open to all two-year and four-year colleges in Georgia and will offer numerous titles starting with Rocket League, which is played across Georgia in middle schools, and in high schools as a sanctioned varsity sport.

To go a step further, the Georgia Center of Innovation’s Georgia Creative Communities Project, which strives to help educate students about the creative career paths available to them in Georgia, has expanded to include esports. DreamHack Atlanta, for example, donated more than $250,000 worth of tickets to students, youth clubs, school sports coaches, and others, so they could visit the festival and learn about the amazing opportunities Georgia offers in the esports industry, from careers playing esports to designing videogames themselves.

Bringing events like DreamHack Atlanta to the state shows those students that they can work in the creative sector and stay in Georgia, rather than moving away to find opportunities those industries.

The esports ecosystem continues to flourish with the help of partners all around the state.

The Atlanta Sports Council recently launched the Atlanta Esports Alliance, a division designed to drive esports and gaming events in the metro Atlanta area.

“The creation of the Atlanta Esports Alliance could be a massive leap forward for the gaming industry as a whole. Atlanta Sports Council has had a heavy hand in the development of Atlanta as a sporting event destination and – with its new division, as well as Atlanta’s pre-existing gaming community – we’re expecting big projects in the future," said Georgia Center of Innovation Senior Industry Engagement Manager Asante Bradford.

Esports is big business in Georgia, contributing millions annually to the state’s economy. Through collaborative partnerships across the state, the Center of Innovation is changing the game when it comes to the future of the esports in Georgia.