The first in a planned series of sponsor-supported platforms by Internet Sport Games Associates (ISGA), ScholarGamers.com is the brainchild of marketing executive Angelo Tartaro. Recognizing the increasing popularity of casual online games among middle- and high-school students, a demographic which will also bear the burden of skyrocketing educational costs, Tartaro assembled a team of marketing, technology and video game professionals to develop the ScholarGamers.com solution. “With the average annual cost of a college education exceeding $30,000, and the average debt load of a college graduate exceeding $20,000, a college degree is a significant financial burden,” said Tartaro. “We’re aiming to make that goal more attainable for kids who aren’t necessarily the star athletes or valedictorians, by leveraging one of their favorite pastimes for educational purposes.”
Although registered members may play any of the site’s flash games for free any time they wish, competition for scholarships is grouped into a series of 75 day rounds. Players will compete against the entire ScholarGamers.com community to generate the highest cumulative scores for 45 days. A time limit of 20-minutes is imposed on each competition. Within 30 days, the 15 players with the highest scores are flown to Disney’s BoardWalk Resort to compete head-to-head for the scholarships.
The first round of competition kicks off November 1, with participants playing for a $10,000 first prize. Each of the 15 finalists will receive scholarship money, in the form of 529 plan contributions that can be used towards educational expenses. Scholarships will only be awarded to middle-and high-school students, aged 13 and above. Competition rounds will repeat every 45 days, for a total of 120 planned scholarship opportunities in the next year.
Funded by carefully-vetted advertising and sponsorship of competitions, ScholarGamers.com is at the nexus of several of fastest growing areas online—including casual games and social gaming. Comscore reports that online games are growing at ten times the rate of the total U.S. Internet population and reach nearly one out of every two Internet users, while NPD Group reports that the percentage of online gamers ages 13-17 increased from 17 percent in 2008 to 22 percent in 2009. Marketer forecasts that advertising in online games will increase 133% from 2007 to 2012.