Since 2017, EsportsGear has been creating sleek and beautifully designed apparel for competitive collegiate video gamers – kids and young adults who pridefully display their school’s logos and team colors in very non-traditional arenas.
Its client list has included a number of professional esports teams and schools such as Becker College, Northeastern University, New England College and the University of Central Florida, as well as several high schools.
But in April, business changed dramatically for the Worthington, Ohio-based company. Seeing a need to help those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, EsportsGear completely shifted its model from making jerseys and hoodies to making protective masks.
EsportsGear initially designed 15 prototypes before settling on five masks and started amping up production at its facility in Las Vegas. Now, this essential business is making 8,500 masks per day for clients across the United States, including those in nearby Ohio hospitals. One special project EsportsGear worked on was making 1,000 masks for military members on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, the Navy carrier ship stationed in Guam hard hit by coronavirus.
“As soon as the lockdown happened, we stopped producing all of our other gear and went full on production,” says Anthony Guerra, founder of EsportsGear. “In late March, it became apparent that PPE was becoming needed. We are working with the state of Ohio as well as other non-profits to make masks at cost.”
EsportsGear’s masks are dual-layer – the outer layer is made from a dense, poly-wicking fabric, while the lining material is an antibacterial dense mesh. Guerra says they are reusable and can be washed daily.
Pivoting from making jerseys to making masks has been a big change for EsportsGear.
“It has been a bigger challenge than we anticipated,” he says. “Originally, we wanted to have a lot of variety to encourage personalization, which we thought would lead to increased mask wearing, but we found it impossible to keep up with the demand for small orders, so we had to shift to less styles.”
That demand has created very few gaps or downtime to allow the company to make esports gear. Guerra expects that to be the case, possibly through the end of the year, though he does say he’ll be excited when they can shift back to making esports gear.
“We can’t wait!” Guerra says.
Unifying the playing field? As part of a massive rebranding overhaul, the former Midwest Esports is now under a huge umbrella organization called the Unified Esports Association. Within that group is a newly formed Unified Collegiate Esports Association, which will serve “high-level varsity esports programs.” The association boasts free open membership for top college and university programs.
“By forming this non-exclusive association, we hope to seamlessly unify our collegiate partners and students with the ever-evolving competitive landscape of esports,” says Victoria Horsley, President of UCEA and Chief Revenue Officer of UEA.
The new collegiate association boasts an impressive advisory council of 10 North American universities and colleges, including Arkansas State University, Aquinas College, Boise State University, Central Methodist University, DeSales University, Full Sail University, Ottawa University, St.Clair College, University of Kansas and the University of Missouri.
The overarching Unified Esports Association will provide executive thought-leadership, staffing, as well as funding to ensure the success and viability of UCEA.
“It is crucial that we take care of our collegiate partners while chartering this exciting endeavor,” says Ramsey Jamoul, founder and CEO of Unified Esports Association.
The collegiate association has several tournaments scheduled in the fall, including Rocket League, CS:GO, Overwatch, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Valorant and more.
Campus bytes: The State University of New York-Cobleskill is launching a varsity esports program that is slated to start this fall. The independent Fighting Tigers will compete in Fortnite, League of Legends, and Rocket League and have their own purpose-built practice and competition facility in Warner Hall. Students interested in joining can contact Director of Athletics Marie Curran-Headley at [email protected]. … Nerd Street Gamers is teaming with Immortals Gaming Club to host digital summer camps for League of Legends and Overwatch. You can get more information here … The ECAC, in conjunction with the American Video Game League is holding a free-to-enter, 5v5 Valorant tournament at 7 p.m. on June 11. For more information or to register, click here. … Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Wash., is inviting high school students to participate in free tournaments in Rocket League, League of Legends and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, May 22-24.
Chris Burt is the Esports Editor for University Business and is the Program Chair for the Academic Esports Conference and Expo. He can be reached at [email protected]