Esports and Paris 2024
It was announced last week that Tony Estanguet, the Co-President of the Paris Olympic Committee, is considering proposing esports be included as an official Olympic program of the 2024 Games to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
If the momentum in esports continues, as it shows no signs of abating, the process of deciding which “new” games are accepted for inclusion as an Olympic sport will be challenging. Esports does not have a governing body as other Olympic sports do. Further, the esports community as a whole is currently controlled by game publishers and privately run by multi-national teams. Moreover, the 2024 Olympic schedule directly conflicts with the current championships in some of the most popular games like League of Legends, Dota 2 and Street Fighter V. The planning for the 2024 Olympic games will not take shape until 2019, with final decisions coming after the Tokyo Games of 2020.
The esports community needs to be up to the task of continuing to positively influence the mindset of the IOC decision makers to better understand and appreciate what accomplished esports competitors actually do on a day-to-day basis, and why they are indeed athletes in every sense of the term. All of us involved in esports recognize the extraordinary dexterity, mental toughness and conditioning demonstrated by world class esports combatants. Yet IOC President, Thomas Bach, has downplayed the degree of physical activity and dexterity required of those who aspire to be the best of the best, and therefore, has questioned whether video games ought to be considered a sport. However, Curling and Skeet Shooting, to name a few, are recognized as Olympic Sports, so we ask: Is there really a difference between shooting a shotgun at a moving clay target or at Tracer in Overwatch?
It is a good sign that video game publishers have begun to develop titles that have an esports focus. While this bodes well for the continued growth of the sport, more must be done to build an awareness of what all sports athletes have in common and why esports ought to find its rightful place in IOC competitions. We all know the Olympic Games have had a long history of adding and dropping various sports. For example, drawing, music, and architecture were included until 1952 – each time rationalizing its actions as done for the betterment of the “Olympic Spirit.” That said, part of the consideration should also be who the participants are that engage in the sport and comprise its fan base. The Rio games showed a 30% drop in the 18-34 year old demographic. As a result, the IOC has become focused on appealing to a younger audience in order to “maximize the Games general popularity.” If this is truly a focus for the 2020 games, where 3 v 3 Basketball, Skateboarding, and Surfing have been added, then esports should also receive a serious boost, on top of the previously described gaming skills, inasmuch as more than half of esports fans are millennials.
Esports has already been added to the 2022 Asian Games, touted as the second largest sporting event in the world (second only to the Olympics), with 10,000 athletes. This is a start.
NFL Announces New $400,000 Madden NFL Club Championship
The NFL is partnering with EA Sports to launch the Madden NFL Club Championship which will include all 32 NFL teams and a $400,000 prize pool. The tournament will take on a grassroots approach, with any Madden gamer eligible to qualify through online play. Top online players will be invited to live tournaments at NFL stadiums which will trim the field to the top 32 players, one representing each NFL team. The championship will take place at the Pro Bowl in Orlando and Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis.
This event will join the Madden Classic and Madden Challenge as the third Madden NFL Major.
It is not surprising that the NFL is bolstering its’ esports offering as youth football participation has been plummeting in recent years as the violent nature of the game continues to be exposed. Esports offers the NFL a platform to engage younger demographics and build team and player affinity at an early age with the end goal of hoping to drive viewership. Additionally, given the average NFL stadium is only used for 8 home games a year, these live tournaments provide additional programming for these assets (although I wouldn’t expect robust attendance, at least initially).
In the last year we have seen a rapid development of the traditional sports games esports scene, specifically with Madden, FIFA, and NBA 2K. The FIFA ecosystem consists of the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship and the FIFA Interactive World Cup while the NBA most recently announced the launch of the NBA 2K league.
It will be interesting to see the level of involvement at the NFL team level, as participation almost seems mandatory since every team is included as compared to the NBA 2K league where 17 of the 30 teams opted to join in, a big jump from the original estimate of 8-12.
Overall, it has become clear that if you’re a major sports league and you do not have an esports strategy, you are missing out on a big opportunity to engage your fans and lower your average fan age. This is most apparent for the MLB (whose average fan is 55 years old) and their title game, MLB The Show, that currently has no established esports scene.
Microsoft Stores Across World to Host Weekly LOL Tournaments
Microsoft recently announced that they are partnering with ASUS ROG and HyperX to host weekly LAN League of Legends tournaments across the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Australia. Players can sign up for free as an individual or with 4 friends as a team to compete in tournament brackets for in-game currency as well as swag from ASUS. There is currently no skill restrictions for participation, and tournaments will be played exclusively on ASUS supplied gaming laptops with HyperX peripherals.
At a glance, this is a great way to get people into Microsoft stores and to promote ASUS and HyperX products. The ease of entry and lack of registration fees make the events welcoming to everybody. The ability to sign up as a team or as an individual is also enticing, as it allows the players to be as competitive as they want. This is a huge push towards making esports a recognized term in households across the world, and we welcome the exposure that these events provide the industry. The absence of skill restrictions may enable amateur gamers to portray these events as a way of gaining game knowledge and meeting other players with the same hobby in the real world, helping dispel the image of video game players as shut-ins.