With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) considering a bid to have eSports added as a demonstration event at the 2024 Summer Games in Paris, a Regina man who helps run a Western Canadian video game league says it’s time for the world to recognize gaming’s exploding popularity with young audiences.
Regina’s Dylan Edgar is one of the administrators of the SKL eSports league, formed in 2015 around the popular League of Legends online game, and since expanded to titles including Super Smash Bros. and Fortnite.
He said he wasn’t surprised to see the IOC consider eSports for the Olympic Games.
“Ironically, I think the Olympics needs eSports more than eSports needs the Olympics,” he said.
Edgar explained this was because eSports already has a lock on younger viewers.
“The average age of the Olympic viewer is increasing, whereas the average eSports viewer is under 35. In fact, it’s not even just the average — 90 per cent of the viewership is under the age of 35,” he said.
And those young viewers are bringing big dollars with them, with some 60 million people tuning in for the 2017 League of Legends finals last fall, and games like Defense of the Ancients offering prize pools in the $25 million range.
“The revenue stream for eSports, since 2012, has quadrupled from $200 million to $800 million and it’s projected that by 2019, the industry as a whole is going to hit $1.1 billion,” Edgar said.
Recognizing that many people might scoff at the idea of video games as sport, Edgar said the definition of “sport” has already come to encompass activities like darts, car racing and poker — all of which don’t call for the same level of physical exertion seen in more traditional activities.
“Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a ton of physical activity that goes into eSports and gaming, but the hand-eye co-ordination that’s required is incredible and the mental capacity that you need — there’s definitely a skill that’s required.”
If eSports can make it to the Olympics, Edgar said Canadians might have to wait a while to earn a spot on the podium.
“I think every eSports fan can agree that if it went to the Olympics, (South) Korea would probably just dominate because when it comes to a world championship in any format, South Korea has won almost all of them.”
For those looking to see if their thumbs might be quick enough to earn them a ticket to Paris in 2024, SKL eSports is holding a 24-hour tournament featuring multiple games at the Saskatoon Travelodge from Aug. 25-26.