Over the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected people across geographies and professions. The world of sport has been no different, with historic events being canceled or postponed. This has resulted in skyrocketing growth of the esports and video gaming industries which was least affected by lockdowns and in-person attendance of audience.
Taking note of the growing role and importance of esports, the International Olympic Committee has formally recognized the field of virtual sports and has launched the Olympic Virtual Series.
The Olympic Virtual Series is the first-ever Olympic licensed event for physical and non-physical virtual sports, which is held as a precursor to the Summer Olympics in July. The Olympic Committee in collaboration with five international sports federations will hold the first-ever Virtual Series this year from May 13th to June 23rd.
The Impact of Olympic Virtual Series
This move by the Olympic Committee is part of its Digital Strategy to encourage the development of virtual sports and ensure inclusivity and participation among the masses.
The Virtual Series will help highlight the importance of sport and promote the Olympic values. It will also help in augmenting engagement by allowing individuals and players to participate in the events from the comfort of their homes or training centers. The Olympic Committee is confident this will help capture new young viewers and further boost the viewership of the upcoming Summer Olympics.
An Opportunity for India
With an estimate of 300 million online gamers by 2021, India can benefit highly from the Olympic Virtual Series.
The main driving force behind India’s numbers is the participation of more than 60% of individuals under the age of 25 in gaming and esports. With over 365 million people in India’s gaming database as per KPMG’s Media and Entertainment Report, the online gaming sector will be a major revenue-generating industry in the future and will enable further growth of esports in India. The idea of the Olympics Virtual Series to further catalyze the growth of the Indian esports and gaming industry should be embraced by the esports fraternity.
The Indian government also plays a vital role in enabling the creation and growth of esports. The Indian esports ecosystem is currently in urgent need of a strong governing framework that enables innovation and growth in the sector for the game developers while also setting up a mechanism to identify games that qualify as esports. A regulatory framework that formulates the guidelines for player contracts, a robust redressal mechanism, appropriate training, financial aid for participation in tournaments, etc, is also need of the hour.
Developing such a complex framework should also involve the active collaboration of the government and players in the industry to effectively address the needs of the sector. Major industry platforms, investors, and other stakeholders should be called together to help guide the policy discourse and enable the creation of an ecosystem that promotes the development of esports and game development.
Aside from governing mechanisms, it is also important to focus on the emergence of industries such as game development and game design, which will help generate employment and maximizing India’s engineering and design talent pool to make India an international player in the gaming industry.