There is eSports competition happening in Brazil August 15 and 16, but it’s not officially part of the Olympic Games. The Rio 2016 eGames Showcase takes place at British House in the historic Parque Lage in Rio De Janeiro. It’s part of a new push by the International eGames Committee (IEGC) to award medals to the best eSports players and teams across multiple eSports games. The competition will be livestreamed on Twitch and ESL helped set up the matches.
The competition this year will include some of the top SMITE teams from Brazil through partnerships with Hi-Rez Studios and Level Up. Nintendo is also on board with some of the top Super Smash Bros. players from around the world, including reigning EVO Champion Ally (from Canada), the winner of Smash Factor 5, Leo (from Mexico), and Larry Lurr (from the US) and J. Miller (from Great Britain). Casters Keitaro and juiceDoom will call the action.
Chester King, CEO of the IEGC, has watched his two teenage boys live and breathe eSports since 2005. He’s seen first-hand that eSports, in moderation and as part of a balanced life, can deliver great benefits. But with recent tournaments like The International awarding over $20 million in prizes, he didn’t want eSports to become all about the money. So IEGC was born. King explains his vision for the eGames in this exclusive interview.
Can you explain how the eGames came about and what role the British government has in this organization?
With over 20 years working in “traditional” sports, I realized that a medal-only competition was missing, so approached the British Government and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about my plans to create a new international eSports competition—The eGames.
My uncle represented Great Britain in two Olympics and he always talked about the magic of them—as all the superstars from the various sports were in the same place at the same time. What we want to do is recreate that magic with the eGames, bringing together the best players from across to the globe to participate in a minimum of 20 titles across PC, console and mobile.
Originally, we wanted to call it the “elympics,” but the IOC suggested the eGames instead (please note, we are fully independent have no association with the IOC). I then contacted a group of like-minded people in the eSports industry to support the eGames vision who created the International eGames Committee, a not-for-profit organization. The British Government was supportive of our aims and have helped with the launch in April and also with the Rio eGames showcase. They are not involved financially.
Who is involved when it comes to advisors and members of the IEGC?
We have had a lot of help from most of the eSports industry, but in particular, World Gaming from Canada. The members of International eGames Committee’s International Advisory Board are all non-paid and their role is to advise the eGames in various aspects, but not with the title selection or team selection. They sit on the Advisory Board for 12 months, and the current members are Dr. Jo Twist (CEO of Ukie, the UK’s largest trade body), Jude Ower (experienced in global charities in gaming), Andrew Smith (Pinewood Studios), Andy Payne (20 year gaming veteran), Daniel Cossi (Brazilian representative for IESF who has helped the eGames in Rio) and Veronique Lallier (VP European Publishing at Hi-Rez).
How did you choose which eSports titles to focus on for this event?
We had a few restrictions. The British Government was sensitive about first-person shooter titles, and due to the physical space with British House, we were limited on the number of people we could have gaming. But we wanted to show a couple of titles to give a real flavor of what competitive video gaming is about.
How have you worked with Hi-Rez and Nintendo on this event?
Hi-Rez helped source some of the best players in Brazil and Nintendo UK helped us contact a few of the players who are participating, but there is no financial arrangement with either.
Was there interest from larger eSports companies such as Riot, Valve or Blizzard for this type of competition?
Yes, in particular, Activision Blizzard, but due to the size of the room we were limited on the titles we could have.
How are you tapping into the global media presence in Rio for the Olympics to connect them with the eSports phenomenon?
The team at British House have helped us in this regard, but we already had great interest from mainstream media such as ESPN, CNBC, Sky Broadcasting and The LA Times, among others.
What does livestreaming open up to this type of competition in reaching gamers?
The current gaming audience does not watch TV, so working with Twitch is the best way to do so.
Are there any sponsors or brands involved in this Rio showcase?
No, we wanted it to be as “pure” as possible—we like the Wimbledon look of presenting tennis, and so wanted something similar.
In general, how does your organization work with sponsors and brands around eSports?
We are in discussions with various brands about being an eTeam sponsor per country for the national qualifiers 2017 and the inaugural eGames in 2018.
Do you see this competition becoming a regular eGames event at both future Summer and Winter Games?
No. Our showcase in Rio happens to be the same time, but in 2018 and 2020, it will be after their games. The IOC is aware of our aims, but there is no association.
What potential do you see for the IOC adding eSports to the Olympics in the future?
While we share the premise of competing for medals and national pride as opposed to prize money, we didn’t establish the eGames with future inclusion in mind. I think it would be logistically difficult to have the number of arenas required and eSports athletes housed at the same time.
The International eSports Federation (Ie-SF) from South Korea is trying to push for IOC recognition, but they are a separate organization.