While esports isn’t what comes to mind when you think about sports, competitive video gaming is now an inch closer to becoming an Olympic sport. This comes after the International Olympics Committee hosted their first online gaming event before opening the Tokyo Games in an attempt to connect to new and younger audiences.
Hundreds of thousands of players from 100+ countries took part in this Olympic Virtual Series (OVS), which comprised five virtual sports – auto racing, baseball, rowing, sailing, and cycling. The event was hosted from 13th May to 23rd June, only a month before the summer games kicked off on 23rd July. However, the Olympic Virtual Series wasn’t a medaled event although it was the first licensed Olympic esports competition.
Esports has blossomed into a multi-million dollar industry with a rapidly growing audience, with the market expected to hit $500 million in revenue by 2024. The industry was boosted by the rise in popularity of video games and sports betting during last year’s lockdown. Nonetheless, the entire gaming ecosystem grew significantly, with global console sales hitting a record of $56 billion in 2020.
The decision to host the OVS came as good news to esports fans, considering that the International Olympics Committee (IOC) has criticized lots of games in the past for being too violent. Today, the IOC is working with game publishers and the global sports federation to resonate with the younger audience as traditional television viewers grow older.
According to the IOC President, Thomas Bach, there’s no doubt that esports will one day be considered as an Olympic sport. As such, Bach believes it’s not a question of whether that’s possible, but rather when that day is coming. Nonetheless, there’s a huge possibility that a virtual offering of a physical sport might become a recognized sport as early as 2028 during the Los Angeles Summer Games.
Clearly, the actual language to the roadmap doesn’t make a sure bet. However, the roadmap has a recommendation of adding physical virtual games in the Olympics Programme by cooperating with different International Federations. If that becomes a reality in the future, you can expect the games to take a fashion similar to what we’ve seen with rowing and cycling events at the Olympics Virtual Series this year.
You might notice that this event didn’t feature any games that you might typically see in other esports tournaments like Overwatch, which previously hosted World Cup-style competitions with players representing their countries. Nonetheless, the International Olympics Committee seems to be changing its view on esports by offering virtual competitions of physical sports.
All the OVS events hosted this year were virtual representations of physical games, although they all differed in concept and form. The events operated through their respective publisher’s platform, where the players could easily participate in the events. On the other hand, fans were able to follow and engage in the events through the Olympic channel. All this was organized according to Recommendation 9 of the Olympics Agenda 2020+5.