The Olympics announced its second-ever esports series last week, which means that in 2023, video games will be part of the world’s most revered sporting event. Players can sign up for qualifying rounds, some of which are already underway. The series will culminate in a live event in Singapore in June, part of the first Olympics esports week, where qualifiers will compete across nine virtual sports.
This should be a huge moment that the gaming and esports worlds would both be celebrating. Instead, esports professionals have been despairing over the games that have been included. Instead of selecting well-established esports titles – the kind played in stadiums and whose top players earn six- or seven-figure prizes – the Olympics esports series has picked ones based, sometimes loosely, on real-world sports. Instead of Dota 2, Counter-Strike, Hearthstone, Valorant or Overwatch, there will be a free-to-play archery game called Tic Tac Bow, Just Dance, the VR motion-tracking game Virtual Taekwondo, and Gran Turismo.
“For the average esports fan, its inclusion in the Olympics should have been a triumphant moment representing a step forward for the community, which has grown from a few hundred gamers in the early 1980s to over half a billion this year,” says Matt Woods of the esports marketing and talent agency AFK. “Unfortunately, last week’s announcement left us feeling disappointed and, honestly, a little embarrassed. Instead of working with existing game publishers or well-established tournaments, it seems that the Olympic committee has instead decided to use this event as a marketing vehicle for brand-new, poorly thought out, unlicensed mobile games.”
I can see where Woods and his esports industry colleagues are coming from. People have been making a living playing games professionally for decades, and especially in the past 10 years, esports have grown enough to support