Earlier this year, the International Esports Federation (IeSF) applied to have esports recognized as a an official sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)—the first step to having video games added to the Olympic Games in 2024. IeSF’s move on behalf of competitive gaming has many asking, “Should esports be in the Olympics?”
Nielsen Esports found that while 53 percent of esports enthusiasts surveyed across the US, UK, France and Germany consider esports to be an actual sport, only 28 percent think it should be in the Olympics.
Esports has already been accepted as an official medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in China—an event officially recognized by IOC. But even if esports are accepted as part of the 2024 Olympics, don’t expect to see Call of Duty or CS: GO.
“We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence and peace among people,” International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach told the South China Morning Post. “This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line.”
Ken Hershman, executive chairman and commissioner of the World Esports Association (WESA), disagrees.
“The games themselves, even the first-person shooter games, are much more about strategy and skill than they are about violence,” Hershman told AListDaily. “There are other sports that have been a part of the rich Olympic tradition that are far more violent, such as boxing and judo, where there is actual physical contact.
“I don’t believe that the genre of the game should be the litmus test.” Hershman said. “The deciding factor should instead depend on what games are most popular and what games will attract the largest audiences. Nevertheless, this is of course a sensitive topic that must be respected for the sensibilities of the audience and broadcasters, as well as the Olympic spirit.”
Bach’s statement condemning violent games may be good news for Nintendo, whose non-violent Splatoon is already making colorful waves in the esports arena. The publisher did not respond to requests for comment.
Going For The Gold
Analysts agree that adding esports to the Olympic Games would help attract a younger audience—and all the advertiser dollars to go with them. Traditional sports clubs, athletes and brands are using esports to help reach male millennials, who watch as much esports as baseball.
Competitive gaming may actually be more beneficial to the Olympics than to the esports industry, especially if the most popular games are not included.
“To become the sports-cultural phenomenon that it can be, competitive gaming doesn’t need to be part of the Olympics any more than chess or skateboarding,” Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData Research told AListDaily. “Being in the Olympics is a ‘nice to have’ and would certainly go a long way toward unlocking more sponsorship money. The downside of such an inclusion, however, would be a complete sanitization of esports for the sake of advertiser interests.
“Few sponsors are excited about being associated with shooter games, for obvious reasons,” said van Dreunen. “This limits the part of esports that can really participate and runs the risk of becoming irrelevant to the exact audience segment that the IOC would seek to attract by including it in the first place.”
Mike Vorhaus, an executive of Magid Associates, also noted that competitive gaming is doing just fine on its own.
“I think someday, when the Olympics does start to include esports, they’re going to find that it helps them to reach out to the younger generation and being more relevant,” Vorhaus told AListDaily. “I don’t think esports needs the Olympics to be important.”