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Damir Kaletovic

Damir Kaletovic

Writer, Safehaven.com

Damir Kaletovic is an award-winning investigative journalist, documentary filmmaker and expert on Southeastern Europe whose work appears on behalf of Divergente Research.

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Billion-Dollar Esports Niche Could Be In The 2024 Olympics

Esports

Where will obese America be when “playing” sports becomes an exercise in virtual reality? High schools apparently aren’t concerned with this looming disaster as schools in eight U.S. states rule that competitive video gaming is now a certified varsity sport.

Welcome to the world of e-sports, where you don’t have to move a muscle; nevermind that high school physical education requirements were about health and exercise, not sportsmanship.

Just like soccer, football and basketball, esports now have their own regular season, which begins in April. It’s also got playoffs and finals, which start in May.

And there’s one more parallel, too--even if it’s not at the high school level: esports are a huge business, just like physical professional sports. One can imagine there was considerable industry lobbying to get high school to recognize video gaming as an actual varsity sport.

Nor are university sports scholarships just about physical athletics these days, either; now, they’re offering video game scholarships. And the best players can go on to make an actual profession out of this. From high school to college, to pro.

"The current pipeline for esports is: Kid is interested in a video game, kid starts playing video game, kid gets good at video game, kid gets paid. It's a hobby that they're passionate about and we want to encourage that and give them a pathway to a career in the future, whether that's as a professional video game player or in a STEM career that helps to develop future games," said Brian Prokes, director at the city's newest esports arena in Atlanta.

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But this debate isn’t necessarily open and closed, even if esports is winning in school.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, for one, is preparing to make a final decision on a future of esports in Michigan’s schools.

“You can’t just put the word ‘sports’ at the end of 'e' and call it a sport. There has to be some cardiovascular activity involved, some type of physical fitness. It’s not a case of giving a letter to a student who plays video games. We give letters to our students participating in clubs,” Terry Hessbrook, Ithaca athletic director and football coach, told Mlive.com.

So, what it comes down to is whether clicking can be considered a sport and whether sitting in front of a big screen for endless hours while you play god on a battlefield or virtual sports field should be considered real life sports.

But whether high schools get on board with virtual reality as varsity accomplishment, there’s not stopping the forward march of this massive business. Universities have already embraced the idea because they go where the industry takes them, and high school surely have to follow suit.

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This will be a decisive year on that front. According to Newzoo research company, this year marks a “major milestone” for the global esports market. For the first time ever, it will exceed the billion-dollar revenue market.

“In fact, revenues will reach an impressive $1.1 billion in 2019, a year-on-year growth of +26.7%,” the company said in their annual report.  

According to Newzoo, the esports audience will reach an estimated 454 million people this year.

So, clearly, it’s gotten too big to ignore. The best confirmation of that comes from the International Olympic Committee, which has already started discussing esports as a potential Olympic sport for the 2024 Games in Paris.

By Damir Kaletovic for Safehaven.com

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