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Esports are growing – and so is Atlanta’s role in the industry


Thousands of Georgians already work in the video game industry, and with the continued worldwide growth of esports, many more are hoping to get in on the action.

Atlanta sports franchises are hoping an investment in the industry will help attract a younger generation of fans too.

When you think of the pros who play for the Atlanta Hawks, Trae Young or John Collins might come to mind. But what about names like “Putback” “Ceez” and “Witness”?

Those are just a few of the professional esports players with Hawks Talon GC. Earlier this summer, they played a series of NBA 2K games in person with all the trappings of a traditional sporting event like pre-game analysis, team huddles to talk strategy and, of course, cheering fans.

These types of in-person events are evidence of how video games have come a long way over the last few generations.

“It all started from sitting at home playing a game solo and then growing into being able to play multiplayer with friends,” said Wesley Acuff, director of Esports for Hawks Talon GC.

“Now playing in person, traveling for tournaments and meeting up and playing on stage and just creating energy, it’s really just amazing to see,” he said.

Hawks Talon GC began play in 2020, meaning in-person events were curtailed for a while by the pandemic. But Acuff says the team has continued competing and preparing for games.

“They practice a lot, they work really hard at their craft, they’re in here every day,” said Acuff. “They scrimmage, sometimes they’re studying film, reading scouting reports on opponents, there’s a lot that goes into it.”

Hawks Talon GC has also provided another revenue opportunity for the Hawks, drawing sponsorship from the Georgia Lottery, State Farm and University of West Georgia.

‘Tremendous’ growth

NBA 2K won’t be the only esports competition on display at State Farm Arena this year. On Oct. 29-30, the semifinals for the League of Legends World Championships will come to town.

“When we get to Atlanta you will have the four best teams in the world fighting it out in order to stamp their ticket to go off to the finals,” said Chris Greeley, global head of strategy for LoL Esports at the company Riot Games. It’s among the most played video games in the world.

“The massive growth that we’ve seen not just in players but in esports fans has been tremendous,” said Greeley. “You know, last year’s worlds, our finals had north of 30 million people watching at any given moment from across the world.”

Not only will there be a large online audience, but players competing in the semifinals will be able to hear and feel the presence of the fans attending in person.

Greeley says players will be wearing noise-canceling headsets so they can hear teammates, but it won’t completely shut out the crowd. See more here.


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