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Rethinking North Carolina’s Aspiring Esports Scene: A Reality Check

Recent narratives have positioned North Carolina, particularly Raleigh and Charlotte, as an esports mecca. However, a closer examination reveals a gap between these aspirations and the reality on the ground. This blog aims to dissect the claims surrounding North Carolina’s status as an esports hub and contrast them with more established esports centers.

North Carolina is home to many hubs. In the Triangle, we boast of our tech HUB and amateur sports hub. North Carolina and the Raleigh area call itself an esports hub.

Yet it begs us to ask the question “what defines a hub?”

Hub – ˈhəb

1: the central part of a circular object (such as a wheel or propeller) spokes attached to the hub of the wheel

a: a center of activity : FOCAL POINT
The island is a major tourist hub.
b: an airport or city through which an airline routes most of its traffic
c: a central device that connects multiple computers on a single network

Mecca – mĕk′ə


  1. A place that is regarded as the center of an activity or interest.
  2. A goal to which adherents of a religious faith or practice fervently aspire.
  3. A place visited by many people.

How is Raleigh a HUB? It only has one established and proven esports business which would be North Carolina Esports Academy.

The promise of North Carolina, particularly Raleigh, as an emerging esports mecca is often covered in promotional materials. A recent article published by the Sports Planning Guide states, “the Tar Heel State strives to bring in even more esports tournaments and events by offering incentives for would-be event runners. North Carolina’s esports incentive, a 25% rebate on qualifying esports expenses and purchases while in-state, demonstrates the state’s long-term commitment to the community and industry with a total of $5 million on offer per fiscal year funded through the NC Esports Industry Grant.

However, the reality tells a different story. After a large amount of activity in 2021-2022, the esports event landscape in Raleigh has notably quieted, with a significant drop in scheduled competitions. Moreover, initiatives like the Esports Business Travel Summit, while valuable, do not equate to direct esports competition.

What the articles fails mention is that there is minimum spend is $150,000 to take advantage of the incentive. North Carolina has attempted to attract esports events through financial incentives, offering a 25% rebate on qualifying expenses. Yet, the high threshold for minimum spend and the cumbersome application process have rendered these incentives ineffective, with both large and small companies finding them unattractive or inaccessible.

Comparative Lack of Infrastructure and Events:

Despite initiatives by local organizations and universities, North Carolina’s development of esports infrastructure lags behind. Plans for large arenas and increased university participation are in progress, but they do not yet compare to the facilities and ecosystems established in cities like Atlanta or Dallas, where the industry is supported by a robust blend of collegiate teams, professional organizations, and dedicated venues.

Atlanta and Dallas both bring in large esports events, have collegiate esports teams, and here is a comparison of small businesses in those regions:

Skillshot Media
Sandbox VR
Alpha Esports & Technology
Faze Clan
Ghost Gaming
Atlanta United FC

Latency VR
Sandbox VR
Esports Virtual Arenas
Esports Stadium Arlington
Mavericks 2K

Raleigh has:
North Carolina Esports Academy

Charlotte Phoenix
Stay Plugged in
Charlotte Esports

Despite efforts to promote the state as an esports destination, the actual scale and impact of these initiatives remain modest, especially when compared to true esports powerhouses like Atlanta and Dallas.

College and University Involvement:

The mentioned article aslo states, “At colleges like the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), esports are thriving with clubs, programs and even dedicated on-site arenas.”

While colleges in North Carolina have been adding esports, they are not doing it at a rate faster than other states nor are they doing anything so impressive that sets them apart.

Compared to other universities, how are North Carolina universities any better when it comes to esports? The article also mentioned that NC State is building an arena which would be the largest of its kind and states “when completed in 2024.” The reality is that they just launched their pilot gaming center earlier this year so it will be a few years before the major arena is completed.

The Role of GRELOC:

The Greater Raleigh Esports Local Organizing Committee (GRELOC), despite its promising name, has yet to significantly expand the scope or scale of esports events beyond what had been occurring prior to its formation. This reveals a gap between ambition and execution, highlighting the need for more impactful strategies to foster a true esports environment.

Check out this quote from the article, “we strive to host two or three major national or international events, two to four regional events and four to eight local events and programs” -representative from the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.

It doesn’t matter what they strive to do. What matters is what they actually do. Since the creation of GRELOC, I haven’t seen an increase in gaming and esports events. In fact, a popular event called the East Coast Gaming Conference won’t take place in 2024.


While North Carolina holds potential to become a significant player in the esports industry, the current reality falls short of the aspirations to be a hub or mecca of esports. Recognizing this gap is the first step towards making substantive changes that could eventually elevate the region to the status it aspires to achieve.

For those interested in the realistic progression of esports within North Carolina and beyond, it’s crucial to stay informed and engaged with the actual developments, beyond the promotional hype. Join the discussion on how North Carolina can truly evolve into an esports leader.

Additional Resources:
Below are some articles written that may mislead the public in thinking that esports is thriving in Raleigh:

*Please note: I do believe an area in North Carolina will become an esports mecca. We are just nowhere near there yet. Only through facing the truth head on and taking action will we get there.

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