Competitive gaming, otherwise known as esports, has proved that it is not going away anytime soon. That’s why Intel has announced an initiative to bring a new esports experience to Pyeongchang, the South Korean city home to the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Intel will extend their popular Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) tournament series to Pyeongchang, as well as offer a completely unique experience involving the official game of the Olympics, called “Steep: Road to the Olympics.” The new South Korean IEM will also involve one of the most storied esports games ever, Blizzard Entertainment’s Starcraft II. Steep is an action-sports title whereas Starcraft II is a real-time strategy game.
This new esports endeavour will be supported by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and act as an extension of Intel’s World Olympic Partner position.
“We are proud to have our Worldwide TOP Partner Intel bring this competition to PyeongChang in the lead up to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games,” said Timo Lumme, managing director of IOC television and marketing services. “The IOC will now explore esports’ relationship with the Olympic Movement further. This is the start of an exciting future and we’re interested to see how this experience will play out.”
Intel also released an announcement trailer for this new initiatve. The trailer, embedded below, looks to compare video games to more traditional sports.
The main thing to glean from the announcement is that IEM will head to Pyeongchang right as the Olympics come into town, perhaps as a showcase to how popular esports has become and how it can possibly inject life into the gradually declining Olympic ecosystem. There has been a lot of discussion around whether competitive gaming deserves to be in the Olympics, and late last month the IOC even laid down stipulations revolving around what esports might look like in if they were included.
Those stipulations included some ambiguous statements such as the rule that esports “must not infringe on the Olympic values.” That came from an official IOC statement that also pointed to esports as a growing platform for engagement, especially among youth.
IEM is a hugely popular tournament series that draws in tens of thousands of physical viewers, with close to millions more online. IEM is developed in partnership with one of the largest esports organizations in the world, ESL, which formerly stood for Electronic Sports League.
“As one of the fastest growing segments of media and entertainment, we are honored to help further the esports industry by helping to facilitate the Intel Extreme Masters Pyeongchang tournament,” said Ralf Reichert, CEO of ESL. “Esports already reaches a global fan base so this event in Pyeongchang naturally aligns with this audience.”
The audience, in this case, is quite large. According to NBC, the average prime-time viewership for the 2014 Winter Olympics was 21.4 million. League of Legends, the most popular video game in the world, had 14.7 million viewers for its 2016 finals, and rumors of over 20 million viewers for its recently aired 2017 finals.
However it is broken down, this partnership seems like a prime opportunity for Intel to promote its esports involvement while the IOC tries to attract younger viewers. It may be a step in the right direction to one day see someone wearing a gold medal after playing a video game, but only time will tell.