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Odds on the Next eSports League & Olympic Inclusion

Trevor Dueck

by Trevor Dueck in eSports

Updated Jun 5, 2018 · 9:48 AM PDT

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Photo by Microsoft
  • Which 2018 video games have the most potential to develop into eSports leagues?
  • Could we eventually see eSports become an official Olympic event?
  • If so, would the IOC opt for mainstream games?

A growing number of people are familiar with the more mainstream eSports hits like League of Legends and Dota 2. But there are actually over 50 video games across many platforms that have professionally-organized leagues and tournaments, offering millions of dollars in prize money.

The most well-known eSports games this year boil down to a select few genres, with many other games all trying to get a piece of the lucrative pie. You can’t blame them, according to the latest SuperData report, the eSports industry currently values at $1.5 billion. Many developers are now designing diverse games with the intention of building out a future competitive scene.

This year there are a few titles that are dropping that could contend with being the next big eSports phenom with the likes of Overwatch, and EA’s FIFA Soccer. The sky is the limit but how big could the competitive gaming scene get? Could we see eSports as a medalled event in the Olympics?

Below we mash some buttons and provide five big gaming titles that are coming out in 2018 along with the odds they will be adopted by enough players to become a lucrative eSports league.

What about those Olympic Games? Will the International Olympic Committee endorse eSports as an Olympic event? We have the Over/Under on how long it could take.

Will 2018 Games Lead to eSports Leagues?

Best intentions from developers to make their title eSports ready doesn’t always materialize into competitive gaming success. Not only do players need to adopt the game but there has to be enough going on in the game itself to promote staying power. Below are five highly anticipated titles that are coming out in 2018 that have the best shot at eSports glory along with the odds of them forming a successful competitive league.

 PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds 3/17
Quake Champions 3/7
Dragon Ball FighterZ  2/3
 Gwent: The Witcher Game  9/1
SoulCalibur VI 9/1

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Release Date: December 20, 2017 (Early Access)
Gaming System: Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Android, iOS

YouTube video

PUBG has all the potential in the world to be one of the top eSports titles even rivaling the likes of League of Legends and CS:GO. We got a glimpse of its competitive gaming future at this year’s Gamescom Invitational and IEM Oakland – but a few bugs still need to be worked out. For instance, some RNG elements in the game are difficult to mitigate through skill alone not to mention the rules and overall spectator controls will need fine-tuning. But once the wrinkles are ironed out it’s just a matter of time before this game becomes a big eSports player.

Quake Champions

Release Date: TBA 2018 (Early Access on Steam)
Gaming System: Microsoft Windows

YouTube video

In some ways, the original Quake games from back in the day paved the way for where eSports currently sits today. It appears the future of eSports could be looking to the past in Quake Champions. The game was built from the ground up to be eSports-friendly, but whether this shooter can attract new fans away from the influx of MOBAs and other modern-day team shooters like Counter-Strike or Overwatch remains to be seen. The game has a ton of playable characters, kick-ass weaponry, and gory frag action that it should be more than enough to blast itself into the eSports arena. There are already plans in place for a Quake Champions competition with a USD 1-million cash prize.

Dragon Ball FighterZ

Release Date: January 26, 2018
Gaming System: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

YouTube video

Move over Marvel vs. Capcom, there is a new fighting game that’s looking to Kamehameha it’s way into the eSports spotlight. Dragon Ball FighterZ has already made its mark in the genre with over-the-top moves, abilities and a plethora of favorite Dragon Ball Z characters at one’s disposal. Arc Systems Works created this 2D fighting game with competitive gaming in mind. The graphics and settings are vibrant, and the gameplay is simple enough that it won’t scare away newcomers. With Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite getting complaints of being too simplistic, now is the time for Dragon Ball FighterZ to attack and conquer.

Gwent: The Witcher Card Game

Release Date: TBD 2018
Gaming System: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

YouTube video

Hearthstone has monopolized the digital eSports card game genre for so long that you knew it would be a matter of time before something would come along to challenge it. Could The Witcher card game Gwent be the one to give fans something different? Gwent brings a lot of unique traits to the formula like having separate rows for each unit. While other card games have tried to find a niche in this particular eSports realm, Gwent could be the fun and highly-strategic game that takes the genre to a new level.

SoulCalibur VI

Release Date: TBD 2018
Gaming System: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

YouTube video

It’s been six years since we’ve seen a SoulCalibur game. It appears the 3D fighter will be returning with everything we loved about the series – crazy 16th century weapons and vicious battles. Bandai Namco says the game will be out in 2018, but there has been no official announcement of when. With how popular the earlier games were and it’s overall brand recognition, SoulCalibur should be able to carve out some space in the eSports dojo.

Will eSports Become an Official Olympic Event?

League of Legends North American LCS.
League of Legends North American LCS. Photo by Gabriel Gagne (CC License)
Over/Under on when eSports will be recognized as an official Olympic event 6.5

In case you didn’t notice, a few days before this year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Canadian Sasha Hostyn became the first woman to win a major international eSports competition at the Intel Extreme Masters for Starcraft II. It was also the first eSports event tied to the Olympic Games. Although not an official event, the tournament did air on the Olympic Channel and had partial support from the International Olympic Committee.

“We want to promote nondiscrimination, nonviolence, and peace among people. This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions, and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line.” – IOC President Thomas Bach

We say “partial” because there were a few naysayers in the IOC who felt that certain games should not be allowed to participate. “We want to promote nondiscrimination, nonviolence, and peace among people,” IOC President Thomas Bach told the South China Morning Post. “This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions, and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line.”

Well, that narrows it down.

That sentiment seems to bar the most popular eSports from Olympic consideration. League of Legends, Dota 2, Call of Duty, Counter-StrikeOverwatch, and arguably Starcraft would not be allowed to participate in the Olympics despite millions of fans and well-organized competitive scenes.

The IOC President did suggest that games that simulate real-world sports such as EA’s sports titles and 2K Sports’ NBA2K series would be considered. Those games would also need an international third-party governing body, separate from the game publishers, that the IOC could trust for drug testing, gambling, match fixing etc… The fear though is, by excluding the most popular games it would prohibit many countries from taking part.

If those hurdles could be overcome, we could theoretically see some sort of eSports medalled event at the 2024 Paris games.

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