Is Esports a Sport?

Overview Industry leaders in the sports tech space provide their insights about whether esports is a sport.

According to four-time Olympian and CEO of Sports Innovation Lab Angela Ruggiero, esports will eventually become part of the Olympic Games.

“People huddle around a TV and they watch football and they don’t participate, but they just love watching,” Ruggiero said in an interview with The Aspen Institute.

“Kids might do the same thing with esports. You can’t deny the numbers.”

Here are what industry leaders in the sports tech arena had to add to the discussion about whether esports is a sport.

Dean Takahashi, Lead Writer, GamesBeat

Yes, esports qualifies as a real sport, just as video games qualify as real entertainment and art. Esports has much of the same emotional impact that physical sports have.

It brings people together socially — bridging both the jocks and the nerds — through shared competition. It gives players a sense of accomplishment, belonging, camaraderie, and an appreciation for hard work. Esports also has spectators, often many more than at physical sports events.

Yes, esports isn't just hype. It produces real-world impacts: The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. And it is on its way to being a bigger business than traditional sports.

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Sarah Iooss, Head of Sales, Twitch

At Twitch, esports is in our DNA, and we have always believed that watching people compete in video games is no different than watching the New York Giants take on the Philadelphia Eagles in football. People enjoy watching others who are highly skilled or entertaining at what they do.

In the last decade, esports has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, with studies suggesting that it will have more viewers that most major professional sports leagues by 2021. Mirroring traditional sports, professional esports leagues have cropped up in Overwatch, League of Legends and others, led by some of the most talented gamers across the globe and household brands including Coca-Cola, Red Bull and Honda are getting involved.

We're seeing the same kinds of fandom and emotion that brands have successfully connected into the traditional sports sector for years with esports: It's an industry rife with opportunities for amazing storytelling. And personally, I'm excited to see women continue to rise in esports.

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Bryan de Zayas, Global Marketing Director, Dell and Alienware

Yes, esports is sports. Professional esports and traditional sports athletes share many of the same characteristics, which are required of them, to be the best in their profession. These athletes exhibit traits such as a commitment to excellence, perseverance and a passion for their sport which fuels the rigors necessary to compete at the highest levels of competition.

Additionally, they both experience the physical and mental challenges of fine-tuning their athletic skills through countless hours of training. Esports and traditional sports athletes embody similar qualities in order to compete against the best players in the world.

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Matt Roberts, Director of Research and Analytics, Formula 1

Though people might say “no” because they believe that esports players don’t need to be trained, esports athletes do in fact train and hone a skill. They need dedication and they work hard, in much the same way that traditionally classed athletes do.

It’s like darts or snooker, which are both classified as sports; people make careers out of them and there are sports world championships around them, though they are not known to be as physically taxing as traditional sports like basketball.

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Michelle Mckenna, CIO, National Football League

Yes, esports should be considered a sport. They are rooted in competition, involve athletic and strong mental ability, requires practice and now even take place in stadiums, cheered on by diehard fans, so in my view esports checks all of the required boxes to be a sport!

It also brings the joy and thrill of on field athletic competition to people from all walks of life who would otherwise never be able to play the live sport!

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Learn more about how industry experts see esports evolving and engaging fans by watching session from the CES 2020 Gaming and Esports conference program.

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