What comes to mind when you think about the Olympics? Probably sports. So, what about playing video games? Should it be considered a sport that’s worthy of the Olympics?
We think so.
Video games are rooted in competition, and the top gamers constantly practice to hone their skills. To be deemed a professional takes years of dedication, and esporting events bring in fans from all over the world to cheer on their favorite gamers. Should video games be an Olympic sport? Yes. Will it ever happen? Maybe.
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Let’s start by seeing how the Olympics can benefit from including video games and esports.
Why the Olympics Needs Esports
Two days before the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, another group of people gathered virtually for their own event. No, they weren’t completing gymnastic routines or swimming laps—they were playing video games at an elite, competitive level. And by all means, the event was a massive success.
Almost 11,000 gamers from nearly 100 countries participated in the Intel World Open tournament, hoping to claim $500,000 in prize money by beating out their competition in Rocket League and Street Fighter V. Esports already has a massive fanbase, with tournaments like the Rocket League Open World attracting close to 800,000 viewers.
This tournament was streamed and promoted on the official Tokyo Olympics website, making it the closest esports has ever gotten to being a part of the Olympics. It was an exciting step forward for esports and opened more people up to the possibility of video games becoming an Olympic event.
And many gamers continue hoping that the two get even closer. Not only would they be happy to see esports become an official Olympics competition, but it could bring the Olympics some benefits, too, like drawing in a more diverse crowd and people who don’t care for conventional sports.
The Popularity of Esports & What It Could Mean for the Olympics
Over the decades, esports has become a billion-dollar industry, creating a way for gamers and games to connect on an international level. Esports is predicted to see close to $3 billion in revenue in 2025, compared to just over a billion in 2021—you can’t argue about its growing popularity. Top-tier gamers are making a living playing competitively and streaming on platforms like Twitch while millions of people tune in; this could significantly benefit the Olympics by increasing its audience.
Almost 500 million people watched esports in 2021, and that number is expected to grow closer to 600 million in the next two years.
Esports Got More Viewers Than the Olympics in 2016
And not by a small margin—The League of Legends World Championships got about 43 million viewers in 2016. The Olympics that year, which were held in Rio, had about 27 million viewers each night. And while esports viewership continues to grow, interest in the Olympics continues to drop. The recent Tokyo Olympics attracted less than 17 million viewers nightly, which was the lowest in 33 years.
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Video Games Can Bring Younger Viewers to the Olympics
We believe that the Olympics could benefit greatly from the excitement that esports can bring to the table, especially for young adult viewers. Tastes change, and it’s time to adapt and cater to contemporary audiences.
The average age of esports viewers is 31, which is much younger than traditional sports—57 for MLB, 50 for the NFL, and 42 for the NBA. Esports can bring in many viewers that aren’t drawn to conventional sports; however, many conventional sports fans may not consider video games to be a true sport.
There is no doubt that as conventional sports fans age and esports continue to gain popularity from people of all ages, video games could be the best way to bring in more viewers for the Olympics.
Are Video Games the Future of The Olympics?
The Olympics that we know today are extremely different from when the event first started in 1896. Then, it only featured events like running, shot put, long jump, boxing, javelin, and equestrian events.
Now, we split the Olympics into summer and winter, and they feature a variety of sports. The summer Olympics hosts over 45 events, while the winter Olympics now caters to over ten different sports.
And with every new Olympics, the IOC, which governs the games, adds and removes different events. For example, in 2020, karate, skateboarding, surfing, and rock climbing were added to the roster. In addition, baseball and softball returned after being cut in 2012.
What Needs to Happen For Video Games to Join the Olympics?
If we want to see esports in the Olympics, the IOC would have to recognize video games as a sport. However, because the competition is virtual and aren’t typically viewed as physical events, which are a hallmark of the Olympics, it will be challenging for this to happen.
If the organization designated esports as a qualifying sport, they would still have to establish rules and regulations for how video games in the Olympics would work. However, even if the IOC officially recognized esports as a sport, that doesn’t necessarily mean that video games would make it to the Olympics. For example, the organization recognizes chess, cheerleading, and bowling sports, but none of those events are part of the Olympics.
In 2017, the IOC stated that esports could be considered a sport because the players train with an intensity comparable to athletes and conventional sports. However, they still have not made a decision about including competitive gaming as an Olympic event, but it could happen in the future.
One of the biggest hurdles to get video games in the Olympics is licensing. Because every game is owned by a licensor, the IOC would have to get explicit permission to include each game in the Olympics.
Some video games have incorporated the Olympics into it. Snake.io is a video game that had Olympic live events within the game. It’s a past live event that had ran in the game snake.io.
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How Do Gamers Feel About Video Games Being Part of the Olympics?
One problem that gamers have when thinking about adding video games to the Olympics is but it doesn’t have the same kind of free access and interactivity as live streaming platforms. Taking away the fan interaction, a significant part of esports, could turn some gamers and fans away.
Ultimately, it’s up in the air. Some gamers believe that recognition from the Olympics would help bring more people into esports, while others believe that it may alienate some fans. And from the IOC’s perspective, the new viewership that video games could bring might be exactly what they need to retain their stature in the years to come.
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