E-sports In The Olympics? Rob Pardo Says Yes, We're Not So Sure

Jason Winter
Jason Winter December 29, 2014

eolympics_feat

Former Blizzard CCO Rob Pardo spoke to the BBC last week, saying that e-sports should be featured in the Olympics:

“There's a very good argument for e-sports being in the Olympics. I think the way that you look at e-sports is that it's a very competitive skillset and you look at these professional gamers and the reflexes are lightning quick and they're having to make very quick decisions on the fly. When you look at their 'actions per minute,' they're clearing over 300.”

While my first impulse is to chalk this up in the “never gonna happen” category, let's take a closer look. While “fully mental” games are competed for at very high levels – think chess, poker, and various board games – they all lack the visual appeal of video games. And don't underestimate the International Olympic Committee's – on paper, a non-profit organization – desire for profitability in its endeavors. If e-sports grew too big and too lucrative to be ignored, the IOC might eventually give in to public pressure.

All that being said, there are plenty of reasons to believe that we'll never see e-sports added to the Olympic spectacle. First and foremost is the question as to whether public perception could ever shift to all e-sports to be classified as “sports,” alongside basketball, track and field, swimming, and so on. I won't delve too deeply into that argument, other than to state that it exists and would be the foremost hurdle for e-sports to overcome in the public consciousness.

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Another issue is the games themselves. Nobody “owns” basketball or the 100-meter dash. On the other hand, Riot owns League of Legends, Valve owns Dota 2, and so on. Adding a video game to the Olympics would probably be seen as far too much of a crass commercial move. For these and probably many more reasons, I think the chances of e-sports making it to the Olympics are slim to none, with a heavy emphasis on “none.”

But who needs the “real” Olympics? Could e-sports themselves band together and create their own Olympic-style extravaganza?

Yes, most of the big games already have their own world championships, but the same could be said of many Olympic sports. Soccer/football has its own leagues, the World Cup, and various continental championships, in addition to the Olympics. Why couldn't the same be done for e-sports?

A big hurdle in the establishment of this kind of event would be, I think, the willingness of all the involved companies – Riot, Valve, Hi-Rez Studios, Blizzard, etc. – to come together support the event as a whole rather than just view it as another way to promote their own brands. That's not how for-profit companies typically think, but promoting the event and the prestige of winning the “E-Olympic” (a lousy title, and I welcome suggestions for a better one) championship should be a major goal.

There's also the question of whether such a spectacle would even be necessary. The modern Olympic games came about during a period when the world was mostly starved for sports, especially international competition. Today's major professional sports leagues were still in their infancy, and there was no radio or television, much less Internet, to keep you up to date with the latest happenings. The Olympics filled a void that no longer exists; if you tried to start them up today, they'd probably be a semi-interesting sideshow, but would have great difficulty establishing prominence with all the spectator sporting options we currently have available at our fingertips.

next-esports-pic-smite

In the modern world, e-sports would seem to need this kind of exposure even less. Nearly 30 million people watched the 2014 League of Legends World Championships; what would Riot gain from having essentially another World Championship? More than likely, smaller games would try to latch on to the publicity surrounding the event and ride on the big boys' coattails, which doesn't serve those larger companies at all.

All in all, I'd put the chances of e-sports making the Olympics at effectively nil, with the chances of an E-Olympics coming into existence at slight, but not totally zero. Maybe the smaller e-sports companies will find a way to band together and make the event happen, and – if they have the patience and the funds – grow it large enough that the bigger companies will want to be a part of it.

The question is, would they give out real gold medals or would you just get a gold medal tag to use on the game's forums?

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About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (37)

Andante 6 years ago
E-sports will NEVER be in the Olympics. You can not compare them to sports. It's literally apples and oranges. The sports you see not just promote good mentality, but also good health. The Olympics has always been about a show of strength, in all things etc from each country. E-sports does NOT promote good health. It does NOT show strength in all things.

However, the most important factor is sports have stood the test of time. E-sports will NEVER stand with the test of time. A few years from now, LoL may be around, but people will have moved on to better games. Games always evolve, and people will always move on to things with better graphics, etc. Unlike video games, sports will always be there. Soccer, Equestrian, etc have existed for decades, centuries even.

By the way, if you think Sports isn't mentally AND physically taxing, you really need to get out more...

Simkis 6 years ago
As some people said, the best thing would be special e-olympics. Like there's summer olympics, winter olympics, olympics for disabled people, there can be e-olympics. I never watch how other people play but there are many people that likes this, so why don't creating another olympics?
Another aspect, "Nobody “owns” basketball or the 100-meter dash. On the other hand, Riot owns League of Legends, Valve owns Dota 2, and so on.". There's stupid suggestion but if there will be league or olympics for computer games, why don't create independent moba game, combining some elements of most famous moba games and creating official moba game that no one owns (or it owns organisation that won't do p2w or p2p). What do you think about that?

View 1 reply
nilnil 6 years ago
-- Nobody “owns” basketball or the 100-meter dash.

sure nobody can own sports nor the idea of sport . but there will always be someone in the background who knocks profit out of everything which has to do whit sports and has the right to do so no matter what (money talks). valve ows dota, riot owns league of legends. yeah sure we know that fact and sure its obvious that they make money with it. but really cmon. someone is making the real big deal money out of sports but the greedy ones who are acting in the background will always be in disguise.

imo there is no niche in the typical oplympics and will never be accepted and i dont want to see it there. because a lot of people dislike the idea of gaming becoming a sport or dont and will never accept the idea of "gaming" becomes more and more popular in ways of competitive sports.

i think e-sports will grow stong but will never cross its way with the typical olympics. it will become its own "highlight" for younger generations.

e-sports or ... e-olympics deserves its own platform.

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Android 6 years ago
faking jew company want even more cash

Adrian87 6 years ago
Lots of comment and i agree with them that games being in the Olympics is bad idea and it will not happen. The points some use to back this opinion on the other hand, not so good.
Imo the best points that games should and will not be in the Olympics, have been mentioned in the editorial by Jason: , We as gamers do not see e-sports at the same level as physical sports, non-gamers will never do.

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DanceForMeFools 6 years ago
E-Sports would fit right in with the special olympics.

Zoren 6 years ago
Before answering this question you should ask, do I really enjoy watching someone else play a game I can play myself and does the rest of the world want to do the same?

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Padsoldier 6 years ago
I don't believe we could make e-sports work as a part of the Olympics, there wouldn't be enough time for that. Physical sports are a lot faster than most video games: a 400m swimming takes 4-5 minutes and that's already a fairly long distance in one of the slower sports. In a time-based sports you do your best to achieve a good time, there is no need to go another round. In "PvP" sports (football, tennis, basketball, etc, where the competitors can influence the result of the opponent) the only advantage you get is in scores, there is no need for a rematch (unless extending the time period would make it too long to play).

In video games a single match on average takes quite long compared to most sports - a game of Hearthstone is about 8-10 minutes (longer with control decks, slightly shorter with aggro and one-sided card draws), 20-30 minutes in Starcraft2 (have seen a 75 minute match as well), same for DotA2 or League. That's one game, and one game does not give you a real result in most cases: the opponent can try something cheesy or catch you off-guard and win, dropping out due to something like that would be extremely frustrating and not really interesting to watch either, you need Best of 3 from at least round 16 on (at least Bo5 for an RNG-based game like Hearthstone), at least Best of 5 for the first 4 places (including loser's match for 3rd/4th place) and Bo7 for the finals.

The point I'm getting to? Unless you featured just one game (which would be an extreme advertisement for that game) you needed to take a really long time for each game to be played out, you probably want to watch every match from the round of 16 (or even 32) so they can't overlap, and you might want to watch multiple games (so not just Hearthstone for example but also Dota), so those games can't overlap either. You probably don't want to watch the same game a day for 8+ hours (that's also extremely tiring for the players as well), but then it stretches out for days.

Some numbers: R16 with Bo3: 2.5 games on average (SC2 or ARTS), 25 minutes each: 62 minutes to decide who advances, about 70 with breaks, you have 8 of those + 4 in the Round of 8, that's 12 * 70 = 840 minutes = 14 hours.
R4 with Bo5: 4 games on average, 25min games: 100 minutes, 110 with breaks, 2 of these: 220 minutes = 3.6 hours, + another of this for the 3rd place: 5.5 hours (330 minutes).
Finals: Bo7, 5.5 games on average, 25min each: 137 minutes, about 150 with breaks (2.5 hours).
Total: 840 + 150 + 330 = 1320 minutes, that's 22 hours, and that's just one game after having your top 16 players with really generous match-times. You have at least 2 such games to play, that's already 44 hours, you can't play more than 8 hours a day (that's 4 for one game which is still quite a lot for the commentators), so that'd add at least 4 days to the Olympics in itself, I don't think that this is affordable.

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daWanted 6 years ago
i agree on E-Olympics just do not mix things...

Olympics = physical effort

E-Olympics = mental effort

both requires athletes

Winsanity 6 years ago
I don't personally think it's such a bad idea. If you look at some sports that are actually in the olympics there's a lot that focus more on hand eye coordination and less on who can run the fastest or what have you. I think a lot of it is that the public perception of a "professional gamer" is some fat slob sitting in his basement pissing in gatorade bottles, but the games that are generally in the e-sport category require twitch fast reflexes. Plus with fewer and fewer people actually watching the Olympics nowadays (especially in the younger generation) I think adding e-sports would give a huge boost to ratings.

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Eddy 6 years ago
No way. I may not know a lot about sports, but I sure as hell know how much those athletes train in order to compete on a worldwide level. If the gaming community wants to make their own version of the olympics then by all means go ahead, but leave it out of the actual Olympics.

Anonymous 6 years ago
Having pro gamers in the Olympics would be embarrassing.

If we look at the 3 sports that was mentioned -- basketball, track and field, and swimming -- we think of LeBron James, Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. So what, we put Faker's name on that list? That would be silly.

Esport is just a competition hobby, like yo-yos, RC racing, cup stacking, etc.

Shanex 6 years ago
I don't see the need for video games to be in the Olympics. My Favorite event is the Winter Olympics women's free skate, would I really want to watch some guys play LoL when I can play it too.

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Razer 6 years ago
E-sports. That term still makes me laugh. It's like calling a Poker champion an "athlete". I think I can feel my arteries harden just from thinking about it.

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Lol, fukkin nerds 6 years ago
Yeah cause I'm so sure putting a fukkin videogame in the olympics would raise those basement dwelling nerds to the same status as world class athletes who train and exert themselves physically and mentally all year. What a joke. If videogame nerds are athletes then I'm Arnold Schwarzenegger.

View 2 replies

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