Activision Blizzard Donates $ 4 Million To The University of Michigan To Start A Small Esport

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan announced Tuesday that it will use a multimillion dollar gift from Activision Blizzard CEO Robert “Bobby” Kotick to help start an esports minor.

The multidisciplinary program, housed at the University of Michigan School of Information, will have an endowed chair and begin in 2022.

Esports are spectator events from organized video game competitions. The University of Michigan will use Kotick’s $ 4 million gift to fund a professor to develop the program, which combines disciplines such as computer science, user experience, and sports management.

Activision Blizzard is known for its interactive entertainment companies Call of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, Candy Crush, World of Warcraft, and more.

Under Kotick’s 30-year leadership, Activision Blizzard has grown into one of the world’s leading video game holding companies and is currently a member of the Fortune 500.

Kotick attended the University of Michigan as an art history student in the 1980s, where he and a friend started a technology company. He was a constant supporter of the university.


Robert “Bobby” Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. (Activision Blizzard Entertainment)

“Esports is growing explosively and I am excited to be developing a talent development program at the University of Michigan to meet the demands of this complex and evolving industry,” said Kotick in a press release . “Unlike traditional sports, sport is really a participant sport that everyone can play and enjoy.

Read: University of Michigan Launches Competitive Esports Program

“Most of the viewers also play – this leads to more enthusiasm, commitment and really unlimited potential. The University of Michigan combines world-class teaching, research and athletics, making it the perfect partner for a multidisciplinary college program that will help shape the future of the sport. “

According to the Newzoo Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report, the booming esports industry is projected to top $ 1 billion in 2021. It also enjoys a growing fan base, which is projected to reach 729 million by the end of the year.


Activision Blizzard has nearly 400 million players worldwide.

“This generous gift from Bobby Kotick gives us the opportunity to contribute to a full understanding of video games, and in particular to esport it as a hugely important cultural and economic phenomenon,” said Dean Thomas Finholt of the School of Information in a press release.

“The time is now; this is the place to be. I think that fits in with the University of Michigan, of course, as we are interested in games as an institution, as a student body and as alumni.”

A Call of Duty League 2020 season event. (Robert Paul | Activision Blizzard)

Other early partners of the multidisciplinary program on campus include the School of Kinesiology and the College of Engineering.

The program’s flagship blockbuster course is expected to start in the 2022-23 academic year and is designed as an introductory course for large numbers of participants.

Students will interact with experts, platforms and teams in the esports industry, learning about the interaction between esports and video game companies, the economic and demographic differences between traditional sports and esports, distribution platforms, the competitive landscape and much more.


“We’re literally at the water’s edge right now,” said Mark Rosentraub, Bruce and Joan Bickner, Endowed Professors of Sports Management at the School of Kinesiology, in a press release. “Esports has very different, unique aspects that we need to understand. That’s what makes it so exciting. “

Call of Duty League 2020 season event. (Robert Paul | Activision Blizzard)

Almost ten existing university courses covering interactive design, data analysis, game development, and sports economics will be added to the minor. Other areas of study and research include the role of women in the gaming industry, the use and design of games, developmental and cognitive psychology, sports management, and more.

“This is an area that is inherently multidisciplinary, so it’s a great place to grow into,” said Barry Fishman, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Learning Technologies at the School of Information and School of Education, whose research focus is on video games lies models for learning environments in a press release.


“It has the potential to connect many parts of the campus in very productive ways that are in line with our mission as a public research university to participate in the understanding and building of things that the public can enjoy and learn from.”

Students participate in esports online. (University of Michigan Esports)

In September 2020, U-M’s competitive esports program launched as a recreational sport.

UMich Esports Student Coordinator Alex Downs helped the program become an officially sponsored university organization. With an ambition to study law, Downs hopes for a career in the growing industry.

“I think it’s great. Creating a minor is a big step, “Downs said in a press release. “It really is an endorsement of the profession and it gives our club legitimacy. I think some of the executives who are just graduating will be excited and a little shocked – and maybe even a little frustrated that we cannot take advantage of the minor. “

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