IOC taking eSports to PyeongChang with Intel
eSports competitions will be held in PyeongChang ahead of nest year’s winter Olympic Games in the Korean city as part of a tie-up between the International Olympic Committee and TOP sponsor Intel, the computer chip giant.
The IOC is to take two eSports events to PyeongChang in Intel’s Extreme Masters, organised by promoters ESL, and a separate exhibition event featuring the official PyeongChang 2018 video game, developed by French publishers Ubisoft.
The Intel Extreme Masters PyeongChang will be based on Blizzard Entertainment’s Star Craft II game and will begin with global online qualifiers this month.
A live event featuring the top two qualifiers in China will take place in Beijing in December, and be followed by a final in PyeongChang in the lead-up to the winter games.
Coverage of the competition will be available on the IOC’s Olympic Channel.
In addition, Intel will deliver interactive gaming experiences and demonstrations of the PyeongChang video game at the Olympic Village.
In June, Intel was revealed as the newest TOP sponsor of the IOC in a deal that runs until 2024.
Timo Lumme, managing director of IOC television and marketing services, said today: “We are proud to have our Worldwide TOP Partner Intel bring this competition to PyeongChang in the lead-up to the Olympic Winter Games 2018. Following on from the Olympic Summit last week, the IOC will now explore esports’ relationship with the Olympic Movement further. This is just the start of an exciting future and we’re interested to see how this experience will play out.”
The IOC’s latest eSports move comes days after an Olympic Summit, comprising ‘leading representatives of the Olympic Movement’, declared that competitive video gaming could be regarded as a sporting activity.
The summit concluded: “Competitive ‘eSports’ could be considered as a sporting activity, and the players involved prepare and train with an intensity which may be comparable to athletes in traditional sports.
“In order to be recognised by the IOC as a sport, the content of 'eSports' must not infringe on the Olympic values.
“A further requirement for recognition by the IOC must be the existence of an organisation guaranteeing compliance with the rules and regulations of the Olympic Movement (anti-doping, betting, manipulation, etc.).”
Tony Estanguet, the co-chair of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, recently said that he would not rule out eSports featuring on the programme of events when the French city hosts the games, albeit the IOC will have the final say on any additions.
Intel's PyeongChang venture comes as it was also unveiled as a sponsor of the Overwatch League, the highly-anticipated franchise-based eSports competition, alongside fellow computer hardware firm HP.
Both companies have struck multi-year deals with Blizzard Entertainment, the game’s developer.
Intel’s deal includes sponsorship of future Overwatch events, as well as the new league.
As part of the agreements, players will be equipped with gaming hardware from both HP and Intel.
HP’s gaming computers and displays and Intel’s Core i7 processors will be exclusive suppliers to the Overwatch League.
Neither company is new to eSports with Intel having lent its name to the Intel Extreme Masters competition, run by ESL, since 2007, and HP having previously sponsored Blizzard events through its Omen brand, which has been the desktop supplier to the Overwatch World Cup and BlizzCon gaming convention.
Blizzard has this week unveiled the names and logos of the 12 city-based teams that will compete in the first edition of the Overwatch League, which will run from January to June 2018.
Team backers include Robert Kraft, owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, which is presently a majority shareholder in teams including English soccer's Arsenal, NFL's Los Angeles Rams, NBA’s Denver Nuggets and NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, and Comcast, the US media giant.
The cost of acquiring a franchise in Blizzard’s new league was understood to be a minimum of $20 million, with no immediate financial return guaranteed, as a revenue-sharing model is not expected to be in place until 2021.
By comparison, Riot Games’ North American League of Legends competition is charging around $10 million per franchise.