Esports is finally coming to this summer’s Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced the launch of the Olympic Virtual Series (OVS) as a unique digital experience to boost audience engagement. The OVS will consist of five competitions – baseball, cycling, rowing, sailing, and motorsports.
For the baseball competition, the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) and Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd. have signed a formal partnership. Konami’s “eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020” will be the official platform for the OVS baseball competition. An online qualifying tournament will run for a week from May 24, followed by the final tournament on June 23, which will be streamed on the official Olympic Channel. The game will be played on both PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) will collaborate with Zwift for the cycling part of the event. Zwift’s “Union Cycliste Internationale” game will be used for the competition. The online fitness platform has users in more than 190 countries around the world. “The OVS aims to bring the broader cycling and sporting communities together for four exciting weeks of mass participation focused on inclusion and sharing of the Olympic values and spirit, ” says David Lappartient, UCI President and head of the IOC’s Esports and Gaming Liaison Group. ” Cyclists all over the world are eligible to participate in the competition for 4 weeks from June 1st.
The Olympic Virtual Series for rowing will take place from May 31st to June 23rd. Participants will have access to the World Rowing Federation’s open platform during the period of three weeks.
In the competition of Sailing, participants will compete on Virtual Regatta’s platform “World Sailing’. The platform has been in use for multiple tournaments prior to this event, such as the eSailing World Championship, America’s Cup and SailGP. The sailing part of the OVS will run from May to June 23.
It is the first time for motorsports to be featured in the Olympics while the above four (baseball, cycling, rowing and sailing) are existing licensed competitions in real-life Olympic sports. Polyphony Digital’s “Gran Turismo” will be played for the OVS motorsports’ competition. Gran Turismo has been used for multiple world championships organized by Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). Most recently, the game was selected for the 2021 national esports championship in Japan.
Esports growth accelerates in Asia
The Tokyo Games clearly embraced the appeal of esports, witnessing the unstoppable boom of esports in neighboring Asian countries. In recent years, the growth of the esports market particularly in Asia has been massive thanks to a young generation of avid gamers. In parallel with the massive growth of esports viewership, esports betting is emerging as another entertainment for Asian gaming fans as bookies like William Hill offer live odds for regional tournaments.
No one probably expected Tokyo to host the inaugural Olympic licensed esports event a year ago when the summer 2020 Olympics was canceled. Thanks to the covid-19 situation, the Tokyo Games has opened its first door to the esports community. The Olympic Virtual Series allows people from all over the world to take part in and bring enthusiasm to the upcoming Olympics.