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The Global Appeal of Esports: Can It Compete With Traditional Sports?

In 2023, sports and gaming enthusiasts were greeted with an announcement from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In the committee's statement, IOC President Thomas Bach announced a big step for esports as the organization aims to eventually create an Olympic Esports Games. While Bach reiterates that this exploration of the relatively growing industry is in its early stages, the inaugural Olympic Esports Week held in Singapore in the same year reported over 500,000 individuals involved in online qualification.

For many, the IOC announcement is a great sign of global acceptance and standardization of esports — a formerly niche industry. However, the path for esports to reach the global appeal that its traditional counterpart has is not the easiest. For one, Bach has stated that the IOC requires esports games to abide by Olympic values, crossing out any games involving violence. This is a huge barrier to the normalization of esports, as some of the most popular esports titles, like Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Valorant, involve guns and violence.

However, as the esports industry continues to grow, we may see more standardization attempts to help the general public and sports organizations recognize esports as a fellow sport. Below, we'll look at some of the factors behind esports' rising popularity, and whether or not it can eventually compete with traditional sports:

Esports' global presence


The IOC's increasing interest in esports may not be surprising to those who have kept up with the growing scene. Aside from professional players, teams, and fans hailing from countries worldwide, many prominent esports companies are also based in various countries, lending diversity across various esports titles and gameplay. This includes US-based companies like Rockstar Games and Electronic Arts, who are in charge of some of the biggest video games in the world — the Grand Theft Auto franchise and EA SPORTS FC 24, a true-to-life soccer gaming experience.

Meanwhile, Sony Corporation, which is a Japanese multinational conglomerate, lead the charge of esports companies through their iconic PlayStation brand. Other dominant esports entities globally include NEXON from South Korea, who released KartRider and MapleStory, and BANDAI NAMCO from Japan, who owns various large gaming franchises, including Pac-Man, Dark Souls, and Tekken. The variety of esports companies available around the world also help boost constant innovation in the growing industry, as well as turn major cities worldwide into thriving esports hubs.

Betting in sports and esports

As cities around the world continue to warm up to esports, fans saw various esports tournaments across different genres and titles take place in dedicated esports venues like stadiums and arenas. This live event aspect of esports is perhaps the closest the industry comes to traditional sports. One notable difference is that esports events may be more accessible, as they are often livestreamed on online platforms like Twitch and YouTube, as opposed to being televised or requiring cable networks like traditional sports events do.

Aside from the excitement of live events, sports and esports have betting in common. Many esports fans rely on esports betting tips by watching as many tournaments as possible to practice their prediction accuracy. As mentioned above, this is easily done as most of the major esports tournaments are easily accessible online. Some esports games also have in-game features that allow players to stream esports events within the game. Sports fans, of course, are no stranger to this practice, as being able to predict match outcomes contribute heavily to making watching sports fun and exciting.

Sports integration into esports


Aside from sports and esports sharing key similarities in fan culture and engagement, many gamers and esports fans have noticed a shift in public perception towards esports. Most notably, traditional sports athletes — whether soccer, basketball, or baseball — have shown increasing interest in esports. Recently, FIFA legend Lionel Messi joined the growing list of athletes co-owning esports organizations by signing on as co-owner of Argentinian esports team, KRÜ Esports. Messi joins fellow former Argentinian teammate, Sergio Aguero, who founded the organization in late 2020 after growing an interest in esports during the Covid lockdowns in 2019.

Many traditional sports entities have also expressed interest in the esports industry. In 2017, the National Football League launched the inaugural Madden esports tournament, followed by Formula One launching the F1 Esports Series, where more than 63,000 virtual drivers competed in the qualifying stage. Similarly, in 2018, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced the NBA 2K League, which saw 17 NBA teams invest in creating esports counterparts.

So, can eSports compete with traditional sports?

Ultimately, while esports is relatively young compared to traditional sports, developments over the years have pointed to an eventual standardization and mainstream path for the niche industry. Aside from driving revenue for other industries via sponsorships and collaborations, esports can also drive engagement for traditional sports events like the Olympics, which younger generations may not be familiar with or have interest in.

Currently, there is no global governing body for esports. Still, some countries, like South Korea and China, have national bodies, and it's hard to imagine other countries can't follow suit in the near future. As esports organizations, players, and fans around the world continue to make esports more diverse and accessible, it may be easier to envision a future where esports events are as celebrated as large sports tournaments like the FIFA World Cup or the Super Bowl.

Posted: 4/17/2024 9:12:27 AM by Jordan Davis | with 0 comments
Filed under: Business, Commerce, Esports