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Without First-Person-Shooter Games, eSports Get a Shot at the Olympics

6 Mar, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Defying the IOC’s seemingly endless efforts to keep it out, eSports has found a way into the Games. Well, kinda-sorta. anyway.

According to Inside The Games, “While eSports will not officially be on the program at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, organizers have announced "virtual and connected" events will be organized alongside sporting competitions due to be held in the French capital.

Virtual and connected events? Oh, right – that would be, you know, eSports. Officially.

However, what is tentatively expected to be presented will not be the first-person shooter (FPS) games so despised by IOC president Thomas Bach (but wildly popular everywhere else in the world), but will instead be online versions of existing sports already on the program.

To date, the most detailed proposal has come in from World Sailing after the global governing body announced offshore racing to Paris 2024. Paris 2024 organizers have since announced discussions with other international governing bodies, with the goal of increasing engagement among fans and spectators, which would be held in the weeks leading up to the Games.

World Sailing, among all the international groups, appears to be on the leading edge when it comes to building not only a relationship, but an interface, with eSports. The organization hosted its first eSailing World Championship last year, while chief executive Andy Hunt claimed in November that "every federation should have a strategy for eSports,” adding, "It would be an amazing experience to see fans of the Olympic Games in the future being able to compete with Olympic athletes.”

eSports has already made some inroads. Intel hosted an eSports tournament, the Intel Extreme Masters, in PyeongChang just prior to the 2016 Olympics. Games presented included Blizzard Entertainment's popular StarCraft II. (A separate exhibition featuring Ubisoft's action-sports title “Steep Road to the Olympics,” the official licensed game of PyeongChang 2018, was also included.)

But while eSports fans say it’s a step in the right direction, they also caution that the most popular games worldwide are not, in fact, those based on real sports. According to a 2018 article in USA TODAY, the games with the most play are all battle-oriented: League of Legends, Dota 2, CounterStrike: Global Offensive and Overwatch. Today, players add Fortnite, another FPS game to that list.

And while Bach has expressed the hope that playing games based on traditional sports will stimulate growth as players leave their consoles behind in favor of actual physical activity, those whose experience in in the online games market say that is not going to happen.

"There’s a generation of sports fans growing with eSports as their primary sport of choice," said Whalen Rozelle, director of esports at Riot Games, the creators of League of Legendsduring an interview with USA TODAY in 2016. "They’re not dipping in and watching basketball, hockey or football. This is a generation that really focused in on this as their sport."

So while Paris 2024 has put forward skateboarding, surfing, breakdancing and competitive climbing in an attempt to attract a newer, younger audience, it may be that more action still takes place online. Expect to see a similar push as the Los Angeles 2028 Games gear up as well.

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