We've been asking when the Olympics will recognise eSports, or if they ever will, for a long time. Today the British government announced a program to get closer than it ever has been. eGames will run in a similar pattern to the Olympics, once every four years with events in the same country as that year's host and organised with the help of the International Olympic Committee. It will be a non-profit organisation running tournaments for pride, medals and no prize money and was announced today at an event in London in association with ESL.
Which of the best PC games ever will be represented and will they all be MOBAs?
The news comes from our very own weekend reporter and eSports officianado Chris Higgins, who is attending the event and live tweeting the announcements. Here's the official logo and details on hosting:
Brazil, Britain, USA and Canada will be the first participants, each with their own 'eTeam' - their words, I'll stress - competing. The plan is to emulate the national pride and glory that is won at the Olympics, and reduce the focus on prize money that often dominates eSports discussions. What that means though, is this:
Medals, rather than prize money, to be awarded to competitors. Attempting to emulate the honour and national pride of Olympic sport #LGF2016— Chris Higgins (@higgyC) 6 April 2016
I just don't know how you can run a successful eSports event without prize money. In a perfect world all of these players are salaried, paid for their time and prize money is, as it is in other sports, secondary to the fact you've won. The only eSports where this is even close to true is League of Legends - everywhere else, prize money is the oil that runs the industry, along with unpaid passion and legions of fans. Exactly how they plan to attract high-level competition without that is anyone's guess.
However, this isn't a venture created purely by the games industry. Olympics and sporting organisations are getting involved in the planning and approval stages as well:
The international committee was advised by the IOC and UKIE and will set up 'advisory boards' in competing countries to oversee their eTeam— Chris Higgins (@higgyC) 6 April 2016
So, not a spot on the Olympics broadcast schedule for StarCraft, Dota or League, but the next best thing. If they can attract the proper talent, it could bridge the gap to mainstream more successfully than showings on ESPN2 and Sky Sports documentaries. Of course, that depends on which games are picked, how it's broadcast, how much money it's given and who pays attention. Something they haven't been too forthcoming on:
Gotta level with you, been here 30mins and not heard which games are going to be played yet #LGF2016— Chris Higgins (@higgyC) 6 April 2016
This has all been attempted before, with the World Cyber Games the most successful for a decade, but even it didn't manage to stay afloat through eSports' boom period - most fans are not interested in a multi-game event, only the biggest players in their chosen eSport playing regularly. Even the more diverse viewers prefer a weekend dedicated to CS:GO or League of Legends rather than splitting attention.
Still, not an idea I oppose, and one I hope does well. We'll keep you updated with more information as it breaks.