Wrestling, Badminton, Archery, Video Gaming? Yes. Video Gaming – e-Sport for professionals can now get you a college scholarship, prize money, endorsements. May be an Asian Games medal, a spot in the Olympics.
A sport that was growing as an industry, will soon be contested for continental and Olympic medals. There is not going to be just a single date for E-Sports with the Olympic movement. There is a bigger business sense involved. The Chinese investment giant Alibaba has invested $150 million in the E-Sports, which include $ 5.5m investment in tournaments. Alibaba is also funding Olympics movement through a $800m (assumed) sponsorship till 2028. The market forces see this as a strong connect between Olympics, Asian Games and e-Sports.
Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) announced that eSports will feature in next year’s 18th Asian Games, Indonesia, as a demonstration sport to start with. By the time of the 19th Asian Games in 2022, however, eSports will become an official medal sport – reflecting the rapid development and popularity of this computer-age and computer driven competitive sport.
International E-Sports Federation is seeing the entry into the Olympic fold as a shot in the arm. There are competitors, there is money, there is a structure in place. The Olympic fold recognition will make it all more organized with a single governing body. Unlike, various groups registered as companies and run like business houses, now.
Challenges ahead are big. To bring the sport under Olympic fold, the biggest task will be to create a federal structure for the sport in the country. How and who will represent India at the 2018 Asian Games? The key lies with the Indian Olympic Association. What will be the criterion for the team selection. Challenges are bigger and joy to be short-lived.
The ‘patrons’ of the game have numbers on their side. “The year 2017 is becoming a Woodstock moment of eSports. Indian Gaming community is around 206 million out of which 10 million is the approx size of the athletes (gamers) involved in eSports and it is bound to grow. India has the largest youth population. ESFI is already in discussions with various stakeholders to take this sports forward,” says Mr Lokesh Suji, Director, E-Sports Federation of India, a full member of the International E-Sports Federation and Asian E-Sports Federation.
According to website esportsearnings.com, the total prize money in eSports in 2016 was over $93 million and average player earned $6,962. Consultancy Deloitte expected eSports to generate global revenues of $500 million in 2016, up 25% from $400 million the previous year.
Ronnie Screwala’s Nazara Technologies has announced a Rs 132-crore investment for a gaming league in India. “We are excited about the possibilities which eSports offer and we are committed to ecosystem development of eSports in India as we see this as mid-term play with time horizon of 3-5 years for this to achieve scale. We believe that Indian players and teams should become globally competitive and India should be able to compete with global teams as and when eSports become a Olympic sports,” says the Nazara Technologies CMS, Mr Manish Agarwal.