eSports takes another step towards mainstream

Could eSports one day be part of the Olympic Games?

The eSport phenomenon is gaining momentum. It is set to be included in the 2022 Asian Games programme in China.

The Olympic Council of Asia’s (OCA) decision to select gaming for the IOC-recognised event presents a huge opportunity for eSports to further expand its popularity on the world’s largest continent.

It will also feature as a demonstration event at this year’s Asian Games to be held in Jakarta.

While eSports as a mainstream sport is a relatively new concept in other parts of the world, the same cannot be said in Asia.

For years now in this region, it has not been uncommon to see huge crowds of raucous fans pack out arenas for live events.

Take the 2014 League of Legends World Championship finals in Seoul, where 40,000 supporters watched their heroes in action, while millions more followed online.

Even America’s most iconic sporting venues got in on the trend. Despite the relatively smaller following across the Pacific Ocean, New York’s Madison Square Garden and the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas – stadiums more synonymous with combat sports than Clash Royale – hosted live screenings.

And where there are big crowds, commercial opportunities follow.

In 2016 eSports generated $493m in revenue with a global audience of approximately 320m. This is no sleeping tiger.

This past Saturday France beat Belgium 3-0 in the first international e-soccer match which took place in Paris at the headquarters of the French Football Federation (FFF).

Close to a hundred fans gathered to watch France’s eFoot team and the Belgian eDevils face-off on the EA Sports FIFA game platform.

More to come

The decision to include eSports in the Asian Games was made in partnership with Alisports, the sports arm of Chinese online retail giant and top-tier Olympic sponsor Alibaba.

"the OCA has always been committed to the inheritance, development, and improvement of Asian sports," OCA president Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah said in a statement.

And we look forward to the forward-thinking concepts of sports by Alisports, who will be helping us with their strength and experience in eSports

Summit in Lausanne

It is fitting that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced it will host an eSports summit in Lausanne this July.

The move is designed to continue the IOC’s dialogue with the gaming industry, noting that IOC President Thomas Bach said earlier this year that organisers cannot consider games that include or promote “violence or any kind of discrimination”.

“eSports is clearly an exciting and growing sector in which millions of young people move regularly around the world,” Bach was quoted by Sport 1.

“The Olympic Movement can ignore such a phenomenon by no means.

“But it could still take a long time to get into the Olympic programme.

“The idea [of the Summit] is to enter into a dialogue with the gaming industry and the athletes and, in due course, approach the stakeholders of the Olympic Movement again.”

The Asian eSports Federation has confirmed that League of Legends, Hearthstone, Starcraft II, Pro Evolution Soccer, Clash Royale and _Arena of Valor _are the games that will be displayed at Jakarta 2018.