Is It Time for eSports to Hit the Olympics?

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Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Is It Time for eSports to Hit the Olympics?

When the Rio Olympics finally came to a close, a little something unexpected happened that might have been better suited to a video game convention. Japan's own Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, emerged from a familiar-style pipe, dressed as a certain iconic plumber, an Italian gent by the name of Mario. Abe then closed with an open invitation to Japan to see the next Olympic games--set for Tokyo in 2020--and that got some wondering. Specifically, whether or not eSports should be part of the Olympic games. There are actually some good reasons to make that particular concept happen.

One, we're going to Tokyo. Tokyo is one of the world's gaming capitals--if not the capital outright--and video games are part of the culture out there in a way that isn't even seen here in the United States. To not have video gaming represented in some way at the event is almost an insult to Japanese culture, and as Olympic hosts, that's hardly a net positive.

Two, eSports are being taken seriously, professionally, so it's not as though it's a sport engaged in by basement-dwellers. Many eSports figures make more than some Olympic athletes, though admittedly there's a matter of regional comparisons to consider. With events like the International and others, though, it's easy to say that eSports are getting more play than shotput, discus, or the Men's High Hurdles. If those events can get in--though they've been in since the beginning, pretty much--who's to say that eSports can't?

Three, it's a plain smart idea. Look at the ratings breakdown from the Rio Olympics. Television audiences were a catastrophe. About the only saving grace NBC could pull out of the wreckage were the digital streaming figures, where around 100 million unique users streamed a combined total of 3.3 billion minutes of the games. That is a lot of streaming, and that suggests who's actually watching the games. It's an increasing likelihood that "Olympic viewers" and "eSports viewers" are doing a whole lot of crossing over, and when the center of a Venn diagram looks as big as this one does, you fail to follow up at your own risk.

Finally, the 2020 Olympics are almost exactly four years away. Considering the gains the field has made in the four years prior to now, the next four years are likely to be bigger still. That means a real opportunity for the Games to connect with today's youth, and ensure the next generation of viewers.

Only time will tell if the Olympics of the future feature DOTA or the like. It may be, however, that the Olympics of the future may have some new and unexpected events, events that will pull in some viewers previously not interested.

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