The efforts of the promoters of the eSports to consider them as Olympic sports continues, but the support of great sponsors and their growing popularization augurs a great future to this discipline , with or without Games.
The recent meeting of Scott Gillingham, head of gaming and eSports of Intel in the United Kingdom, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on the possibility of bringing electronic sports to the Olympic Games has stoked hope among the promoters of eSports.
Adidas, Mercedes and BMW are other major multinationals that have signed up for eSports , while McDonald’s left its sponsorship of the German national football team to focus on electronic sports.
The Legends Pro League , the official competition in China of the League of Legends, has 14 regional divisions and its teams have their own stadiums. The game also has an annual world championship .
Starting next year, professional players will be fully dressed in Nike brand clothing , just like any other football, basketball or baseball team.
The eSport “are already popular worldwide for a couple of years,” Philip So, who runs the League of Legends development campaign for the giant Riot Games, told AFP during the March celebration of the Sportel convention in Macao.
But the announcement of Nike’s sponsorship “generated a great reaction among our supporters , even from Nike’s point of view, and I think it surprised everyone the enormous impact that (the news) generated.”
A report by Goldman Sachs last October noted that eSports will reach 300 million followers in 2022, a number similar to that of the American Football League (NFL).
‘The NBA does not need the Games’
Some already wonder if it is not the Games that need the eSports more than the other way around, at times when the Olympic competition, with more than 100 years of history, has difficulties attracting the younger audience.
“I think it would be fantastic for the Olympic program to have the eSports because they are able to attract the attention of a new audience that would otherwise disappear,” Sportel Maurizio Barbieri, responsible for Twitter in Southeast Asia, said during Sportel.
How would the Games help the eSports ?
“The NBA does not need the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to be the first basketball league in the world,” defends Barbieri.
The eSports will not be part of the Games until at least Los Angeles-2028 once they have already been discarded for Paris-2024, which will include in their program other disciplines ‘for young people’ such as breakdance, surfing, skateboarding and climbing.
Philip So defends that the audience of eSports , invited sport in the Asian Games last year, surpassed those of traditional sports, although they were not broadcast on television.
People who play video games , he added, are now proud to identify themselves as ” gamers “, highlighting the rise of this movement from the ground up.
“It’s a complete paradigm shift, it’s time for the ‘ gamers ‘ to come in. It’s the revenge of the gamers,” says So.
Much of the opposition to eSports is related to the concern about the time spent in front of the screen young people , in addition to the inactivity caused by video games , but also due to ignorance and lack of understanding of this discipline.
China has been particularly cautious and last year announced that it would temporarily limit the emergence of new online games , which led to the collapse of the shares of Tencent, the parent company of Riot Games.
But So ensures that the Chinese Sports Ministry continues to support eSports , especially those that are organized in a professional manner and are followed in a massive way through online platforms.
“I do not think the eSports make the government very nervous, I really do not think so,” he said.
“We work closely with them and the growth of the sport is also part of their agenda and interest ,” he added.
However, So could not predict if the eSports will be part of the future of the Games program, a road full of obstacles.
In addition to concerns about the lack of physical activity that eSports cause, the global scene is deeply fragmented, with many companies competing with different games .
There is also an international federation to be formed, a condition demanded by the IOC.
“I honestly do not know, I wish I had the answer,” So answered when asked what is the way to keep eSports in the Olympic race.
“How would an entity that brings together all eSports work? It would be very curious to know,” he concluded.