Some excellent news out of China this week as the Olympic Council of Asia made a very welcome announcement. ESports will be included in the 2022 Asian Games, which will be hosted by the city of Hangzhou in China.
The OCA is teaming up with Alisports, a Chinese online retail sports firm, to offer medals in a number of eSports. So far, the eSports category includes sports, such as FIFA, strategy (Starcraft) and multiplayer online battle arena games like League of Legends.
After announcing the decision, the OCA went on to explain that the presence of eSports at the 19th edition of the Games reflected the growing development and exploding popularity of this form of sport, particularly among youths.
Data shows that some 40% of Chinese adults participate in both online and virtual gaming in an international live environment. 51% of eSports viewers come from the Asia Pacific region, with Europe and the rest of the world coming in second place with 18% and North America contributing 13% of viewing numbers.
Last year, eSports in Asia brought in a whopping $ 132 million in revenue through sponsorships, advertising, merchandise, media rights and publisher fees combined. This number is expected to grow further by the time the next edition of the Asian Games rolls around.
Estimates suggest that some 300 million people follow eSports worldwide. In 2016, the League of Legends World Championship Final brought in an audience of 43 million unique viewers. Newzoo suggests that South East Asian viewers could number 40 million by 2019.
The fact of the matter is that eSports is no longer regarded as solely the realm of geeks and those not physically able to participate in ‘real’ sport. This kind of entertainment has spawned a new breed of professional, respected as much as any football or basketball player and receiving similar remuneration.
While there has been some criticism of the move to include eSports, based mostly on the fact that other sports like surfing, body building and dragon boat racing have not been included in the game schedule, the overall reception has been positive.
For many, the inclusion of an eSports category in the Asian Games means that they are only a step away from being included in the next edition of the Summer Olympics.
The team behind the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid has already expressed interest in replicating the success of the League of Legends Championships, using cutting-edge technology to bring this exciting entertainment to viewers all of the world.