Are eSports Going to Be Part of the Olympic Games?
Professionally-organized competitive tournaments of video games, more broadly known as eSports, have been consistently on the rise in recent years. With more and more people playing online games and gaming viewership platforms like Twitch increasingly gaining traction, it is no wonder that competitive video gaming has become so popular. Having established itself as a reputable industry and having gathered so much hype around the globe, could eSports be on the verge of entering the ultimate sports tournament in the world - the Olympic Games?
The Staggering Rise of eSports
One argument working well in favor of the idea is the staggering number of people interested in viewing eSports tournaments and in closely following their favorite players - much like fans following Tom Brady or LeBron James. As the Whitman Syracuse University reports, eSports appeals to over 250 million spectators, while it is estimated that, by 2020, a single eSports tournament final will gather an audience of roughly 70 million people. This means more viewers than traditional sports finals like baseball or hockey.
By that same year, gaming enthusiasts will watch some 3 billion hours of eSports content - which translates to 10% of viewing across all sports. In the US, in particular, only NFL will remain ahead of eSports viewership among professional leagues by 2021. NBA is projected to have 63 million viewers by that year, and MLB 79 million, both of which are lower than the estimated 84 million eSports spectators. According to the same source, eSports are vying for the same demographic as traditional sports: 73% of eSports viewers are aged 18-34.
Will eSports Be Included in the Next Olympics?
Based on that incredible worldwide appeal and the growing numbers of fans, there has been talk lately of including eSports in the Olympic Games. This move would be widely considered the ultimate recognition that eSports are sports, too - a fact that is contested by several sources within the sports industry. Yet, besides the issue of the eligibility of eSports, it seems that there are some further details that need to be ironed out before the genre could become part of the Olympic family.
For instance, traditional MMO and MMORPG games are often based on historical contexts ranging from Ancient Greece and the Viking Era to the Middle Ages and the two World Wars, with the mobile developer Plarium offering a good example of this. This means that strategy video games more often than not adopt a military approach that includes waging war against your opponents, even though players often also need to forge alliances and employ their skills at diplomacy in order to win. But the Olympic Games are all about promoting peace, so any games that feature conflict or violence would be a no-go with the International Olympic Committee.
Instead, video games that simulate traditional sports, like NBA or FIFA gaming titles, are considered a more natural fit. With eSports already included as a medal event in the next 2022 Asian Games, and Paris in talks to welcome eSports as a demonstration sport when it hosts the Olympics in 2024, it seems that official inclusion might just be around the corner.
While eSports tournaments will continue to grow even without being part of the Olympic Games, such a move would undoubtedly provide the industry with some coveted recognition and status.
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