They’re used to pocketing coins and scoring experience points, but could video gamers soon be picking up Olympic Golds?
The answer is yes, according to Tony Estanguet, co-president of the successful Paris bid committee, who says eSports could be included in the 2024 Olympic games, and has pencilled in a meeting with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and eSports representatives to discuss the inclusion of video games alongside other “genuine” sports in the French capital.
The IOC will start discussions over the Paris event in 2019 and will make a final decision on which new sports can take part after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Even if it doesn’t make the Olympic cut, eSports is already moving into the sporting mainstream, notching up a major success earlier this year when the Olympic Council of Asia – responding to the video sports’ cult following in China, South Korea and Taiwan – announced it will be included as a “demonstration game” in the 2018 Asian Games. By 2022 it will be a medal sport.
This is good news for eSports as the Asian Games is the largest multi-sport competition after the Olympic Games, featuring 484 events in 42 sports.
But what exactly is eSports and does the game have what it takes to become an officially recognised sport on an equal footing with, say, football and tennis, that have achieved Olympic status?
For the uninitiated, eSports is basically competitive video gaming where players compete against each other in front of spectators to win tournaments. And if you thought it was limited to the confines of teenage boys’ bedrooms, think again. Each year, eSports tournaments draw in huge crowds from all corners of the globe, filling massive stadiums and concert venues to watch – and bet on – the events.
And the numbers keep on rising, with global eSports spectator figures set to hit 385 million this year, according to market researcher Newzoo.
To put the figures into context, this year’s Intel Masters World Championship in Katowice, Poland, attracted over 46 million online viewers – more than the number of people who tuned in to watch Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. And last year, viewer figures for the League of Legends video game championship topped those of the NBA Finals, according to sports channel ESPN.
Alongside YouTube and other social media channels, eSports tournaments have their own dedicated streaming channel, Twitch, which pulls in millions of viewers every day, spurring Amazon to splash out almost $1 billion acquire the channel in 2014.
eSports’ surging spectator success is also pulling in investors, attracted by Newzoo’s forecast that global revenues will reach $696 million this year, up from $130 million in 2012.
The campaign to “legitimise” eSports won’t be easy though, with critics claiming gaming cannot be classified as a physical sport and its participants are not real athletes. And a recent remark by Thomas Bach, President of the IOC, that eSports goes against “Olympic rules and values of sport” has made the going even tougher.
However, Bach did concede that the would-be sport does enjoy “high engagement from the youth” – something the IOC is focussing heavily on in upcoming games – and this could finally tip the balance in eSports’ favour.
Is it time for the Olympic Video Games? Watch this space.
In the meantime, why not see what all the fuss is about by heading over to NetBet. The sports betting platform offers a wide range of bets on all the big eSports tournaments. Check out the odds here . It’s definitely worth a punt, and there’s still time to put money on Astralis at 3/1 to win at Counter-Strike in Malmo!