Online game

First Olympic Online Gaming Event Held Before Tokyo Games


A view of virtual baseball. / Mayu Yoshida

A view of virtual baseball. / Mayu Yoshida

Electronic sports, or competitive video games, could be on the verge of becoming an official Olympic sport after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hosted its first online gaming event before the Tokyo Games with the aim of reach a new and younger audience.

Hundreds of thousands of participants from over 100 countries and regions took part in the Olympic Virtual Series (OVS), which featured five virtual sports: baseball, car racing, cycling, rowing and sailing.

The event took place between May 13 and June 23, exactly one month before the Summer Games kicked off on July 23. OVS is not a medal-winning event, but it is the first IOC licensed Olympic esports competition.

Esports is a billion dollar industry with a rapidly growing audience expected to reach over $ 500 million by 2024, according to Newzoo. Strict lockdowns across the world have also boosted the popularity of video games, with global console sales reaching a record high of $ 56 billion in 2020.

Virtual Series Olympic Baseball Tournament. / Mayu Yoshida

Virtual Series Olympic Baseball Tournament. / Mayu Yoshida

In the past, the IOC has criticized many games as being too violent and not in line with its values. Now, the IOC is working with global sports federations and game publishers to tap into younger markets and as traditional viewers age.

“That they may one day be taken into account for the Olympic program, the answer is yes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said at a press conference in early 2020. “It depends on the date of this day.”

At OVS, unlike traditional games, players do not necessarily represent their country.

Taku, esports player. / Mayu Yoshida

Taku, esports player. / Mayu Yoshida

Taku is a Japanese virtual baseball player. He came in second in the Powerful Pro Baseball 2020 from Konami Holdings Corporation representing the Australian team.

“Unless you’re a professional athlete, it’s impossible to relate to the Olympics themselves so I’m flattered. I think a younger audience will increase once video games get involved.” , did he declare.

For sports federations, virtual games are a way to attract new fans. The World Baseball and Softball Confederation is hoping online sports games will expand its fan base as it pushes for the Olympic return of physical games in 2028 in Los Angeles. Baseball and softball were added to Tokyo 2020 but dropped from Paris 2024.