Competitive video games, or eSports, is all set to be added as a medal sport for the first time at the 2022 Asian Games in China.
The pending addition as a medal sport in the Asian Games is a bold step forward for eSports, which is slowly gaining recognition in the mainstream as a legitimate sport. Will it someday make a scene in the Olympics?
eSports At 2022 Asian Games
In a press release, the Olympic Council of Asia announced that eSports will be introduced as a medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games.
The OCA entered into a strategic partnership with Alisports, which was established in 2015 by Chinese conglomerate Alibaba Group, to bring eSports into the Asian Games. Alisports will work with the OCA to develop the marketing initiatives concerning eSports for the council's sporting events.
Before making its debut at the 2022 Asian Games, eSports will first appear as a demonstration sport in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games this September in Turkmenistan. The games that will be featured at the event include soccer simulator FIFA 2017, as well as unnamed MOBA and RTS titles. Possible MOBA games include DOTA 2 and League of Legends, while possible RTS games include StarCraft II.
eSports will also be a demonstration sport at the 2018 Asian Games, which will be held in Indonesia.
The Rise Of eSports
The OCA adding eSports to the 2022 Asian Games as a medal sport is significant and should not be understated. Similar to the Pan-American Games, the Asian Games features multiple sports, and is said to be second only to the Olympics in size. In 2014, 45 countries and 10,000 athletes participated in that year's Asian Games, held in South Korea.
Last year, eSports generated revenue of nearly $500 million and attracted a global audience of 320 million viewers. Revenue is expected to increase to just below $700 million this year, with 15 percent of that figure coming from China. The League of Legends World Championship was the largest eSports event in 2016, and it awarded $1 million in prize money to the winning team. Developer Riot Games is now looking to take League of Legends to a new level, with a plan to share more of the revenue accumulated from eSports to professional players.
In addition to the lucrative revenue and prize money, eSports has also risen in popularity as a spectator sport. While most competitive video game tournaments can be viewed through livestreams, the events also usually attract tens of thousands of fans.
Colleges have also started offering scholarships to eSports players, with the first one coming from Robert Morris University in Chicago.
With eSports now set to be added as a medal sport in the Asian Games, will it soon also be featured at the Olympics? While there is no official word on the matter from the International Olympic Committee, the inclusion of eSports in the Asian Games and its continued ascension in popularity should at the very least make the committee consider bringing League of Legends into the sporting spectacle.