PARIS (Reuters) - Esports are not just a passing fad like Pokemon and are here to stay, a major organiser has told Reuters.
Jan Pommer, the head of Team and Federation relations at Electronic Sports League, said esports were played by over 400 million people worldwide.
According to Pommer, the competitive side of gaming is a deeply rooted in the culture of younger generations and traditional media outlets are now covering it.
“It is not a hype or something that goes away after two or three years like Pokemon,” Pommer said ahead of the FIFA eClub World Cup, which takes place in Paris this weekend.
“Pokemon obviously is still around but it has only been a phenomenon for a small period of time,” he added, referring to the popular media franchise spanning video games, animated television shows and movies, comic books and toys.
The International Olympic Committee said last October that competitive esports could be considered a sporting activity.
Esports will also be part of the 2022 Asian Games, while many professional sports teams have also set up their own ‘e-teams’ competing for national and international titles.
While some critics say competitive gaming is not sport, Pommer says the debate is irrelevant to most gamers.
“It is called esport but most esport athletes do not care how you call it. They are having fun and they just do it,” Pommer said.
“It’s not up to anybody to state whether it is a sport or not, not the International Olympic Committee, not a government.”
Yet Pommer said there were similarities with sports.
“You need good eye and hand coordination,” he said.
“It’s somehow similar to pistol shooting or chess as the brain is important. There are good reasons to call it sports.”
Pommer said that about 150 million people were playing esports at a high level and 2.2 billion were ‘gaming’. The average age of the gaming community also meant that the popularity of esports was likely to grow.
“The number of esport enthusiasts is growing by 10 percent every year,” he said.
“About 80 percent of people following esport or playing are younger than 35. It’s something for the younger generations.
“You can follow it on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and most importantly on Twitch (the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers).
“At the same time, more and more TV stations, like ESPN, are embracing it because they understand that it is one way to gain those young people who don’t use the TV on a daily basis.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis