Can mobile eSports ever become an Olympic sport?

With the Summer Olympic games being in the spotlight this summer, eSports fans and enthusiast alike must wonder whether eSports may one day be a part of the Olympics?  The idea is not as farfetched as you may think: in February of this year, The International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) received an official response the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the governing body of the Olympic Games.  There are a number of steps to get competitive gaming recognized as a sport, including submission of numerous documents for the recognition process, and undergoing many rounds of evaluation by the IOC (with the first evaluation scheduled for this December this year).  Once recognized as a sport, eSports can then be considered for the Olympic Games.  A recent article from Mashable explores this topic in detail, explaining the above requirements in detail, as well as the function of IeSF as an international governing body for eSports (a requirement for IOC to accept something as a sport) and some of the challenges eSports may face if it were to ever reach this goal.

Which brings us to mobile eSports, which itself is just starting to get recognition from the eSports community.  It was only a few years ago that the entire concept of mobile gaming was shunned upon by the hardcore gaming community with the argument that smartphones and tablets were not built as gaming devices (anyone trying to play games on their iPhone 4 or below can attest to that!).  Today, even traditional gaming giants such as Nintendo are finally giving in to the smartphone revolution with products such as Miitomo and of course, Pokemon Go!.  Similarly, many hardcore eSports enthusiasts current scoff at the idea that mobile titles such as Vainglory and Clash Royale should be mentioned in the same breath as League of Legends and CS:GO as eSports titles.  However, just like the variety of sports that are represented in the Olympics, not all eSports need to be hardcore team-based games.  There are sports like basketball and volleyball, but there are also sports like equestrian and golf.

One of the challenges with eSports are the games’ short life cycles: unlike traditional sports, eSports games evolve with technology, and games that are popular now may not even be around 10 years from now.  And while mobile games have even shorter life cycles than their PC or console counterparts, there have been exceptions, with the most notable being Clash of Clans.  First launched way back in the summer of 2012 (when the iPhone 4s was the most advanced smartphone in the market!), Clash of Clans is still a top grossing mobile game globally to this date with timely updates to the keep the game relevant and its players happy.  This is why I believe that Clash Royale (also developed by Supercell) will have the potential to break out as a mobile eSports title: Supercell has proven its ability to adapt and maintain their games as the technology that runs the games continue to evolve.  While Supercell has been slow in pushing out eSports-related initiatives for Clash Royale, this is likely due to the fact that they have just started hiring for a dedicated eSports person, have just recently been acquired by Tencent, and have their eyes set for the long term success of the game.

Similarly, Super Mega EvilCorp (SEMC) has now been operating it’s one and only game Vainglory for close to 3 years now.  Just like companies such as Riot and Blizzard, SEMC has been as dedicated in building the game’s competitive community as it has in the actual development and operations of the game.  Vainglory’s challenge is that it falls under the same genre as its major PC counterparts: MOBA.  If eSports are ever to be in the Olympics (or even an e-Olympics, as the IeSF annual championship is positioned to be), it probably will not feature more than one MOBA game unless there is clear differentiating factors between them.  However, Vainglory does stand out in that 1) it is played on mobile devices and 2) it is a 3-on-3 single lane MOBA rather than a 5-on-5 mulit-lane MOBA.  Just as some Olympic sports can offer many variations for athletes to earn their medals (running, swimming, and diving just to name a few), Vainglory can continue its path as an unique MOBA competitive experience and perhaps one day be selected as a game for the IeSF Championships.

Still think the idea of mobile eSports in the Olympics is too farfetched?  IeSF certainly do not think so, as they have also recently announced a partnership with World Mobile Games (WMG) on a global mobile e-Sports broadcasting platform.  Quoting IeSF President Byung Hun Jun: “So far, IeSF has researched and studied on future e-Sports. IeSF has kept interest in mobile e-Sports and IeSF saw possibility on mobile e-Sports market as mobile e-Sports platform emerged. Mobile e-Sports will be a good tool for IeSF as IeSF is pushing e-Sports for all. Starting with mobile e-Sports, IeSF will make a rough sketch of new-generation or future e-Sports.”

Whether it is with Clash Royale, Vainglory, or other mobiles games that are on its way in establishing itself as a mobile eSport (or yet to be developed!), we believe it is just a matter a time before a mobile eSports title makes a major impact in the world of eSports, and potentially the world of Olympic sports!

1 Comment

  1. Jon Smith

    What makes you think eSports deserve to be in the Olympics in the first place? There is nothing athletic about people playing video games. Even the much more phyiscally demanding motor sports such as Nascar, F1, or Indy (yes I said physically demanding, go read up on what these drivers experience during a race) aren’t even in the Olympics.

    The video game community needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Bringing video games into the Olympics is a smack in the face to all Olympic athletes. Instead of video gamers always trying and hoping to be in the Olympics, why not create thier own E-Games event.


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