man with VR headset playing tennis

SINGAPORE: Every four years, the world unites to celebrate the Olympic Games. With the rise of new forms of entertainment, such as social media, virtual reality (VR), and the metaverse, the role of eSports has been more talked about. With people anticipating, what lies ahead for eSports?

Vice-president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence and general manager of Enterprise Service Cloud, William Xiong, said: “Generally, the significance of eSports is underscored by its multifaceted impact on contemporary society, spanning diverse realms such as entertainment, economy, technology and culture. eSports, which encompasses competitive video gaming, has burgeoned into a global phenomenon that captivates audiences, stimulates economic growth, drives technological innovation and fosters vibrant communities,” The Edge Singapore reported him as saying.

Esports has not only revolutionized the gaming landscape but has also driven innovation in areas like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI). These enhance the gaming experience and provide broader applications in various industries.

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Olympic Esports Week (OEW)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized eSports as a sport in 2017, paving the way for the inaugural Olympic Esports Week (OEW), hosted in Singapore from June 23 to 25 this year. OEW offered a glimpse into the future, featuring 10 virtual games, including archery, baseball, chess, cycling, dance, motorsport, sailing, shooting, tennis, and taekwondo.

During OEW, athletes from different countries showcased their skills in virtual competitions. The cycling event, for example, saw athletes pedalling on stationary bikes while their virtual counterparts raced through digital landscapes. This event was a testament to the IOC’s commitment to embracing the potential of eSports.

The highlight of OEW was the first in-person live finals of the Olympic Esports Series 2023, a global virtual and simulated sports competition created in collaboration with international federations and game publishers. Visitors also had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the experience, with games like Capcom’s Street Fighter and Sega’s offerings being played using VR headsets.

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However, OEW faced criticism for not including more popular eSports titles like Valorant, Dota, and Mobile Legends due to their violent content. In response to this, Vincent Pereira, head of virtual sport at the IOC, acknowledged the need for greater diversity and inclusion in future iterations of the event.

OEW represents just the beginning of what’s to come. According to Vincent Pereira, discussions are already underway with various countries and cities for future event iterations, raising the question of when eSports will take the stage at the Olympics.

He said: “There are plans for virtual active sports to be included in the near future.”

As eSports continues to evolve, technology must keep pace with user demands. Virtual reality headsets and other advanced technology are crucial components of eSports. For example, Zwift, an indoor cycling and running virtual app, played a pivotal role in the OEW cycling event, providing a realistic and immersive experience for participants.

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Pereira said, “It’s just amazing what we can do now. About 10 years ago, we never thought it would be possible to do so. With technology, we are breaking barriers. We can go beyond this to encourage people to be engaged. We are creating new types of athletes.”

The global partners of OEW, including Alibaba Cloud, Bridgestone, Panasonic, and Samsung, have contributed significantly to the event’s success. Alibaba Cloud, in particular, played a pivotal role in measuring and analyzing carbon emissions from temporary construction during OEW, highlighting the importance of sustainability in future eSports events.