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2022 Asian Games adds eSports as medal sport

Professional gaming will also feature in next year's event in Indonesia

The eSports sector has recieved a major boost this week as it has been confirmed professional gaming will be an official medal sport in the 2022 Asian Games.

The Olympic Council of Asia has already been working with Alisports, part of Chinese online retail giant Alibaba, to include competitive gaming in this September's 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan, as well as next year's 18th Asian Games in Indonesia - both times as demonstration sports.

When the 19th Asian Games come to Hangzhou, China in 2022, they will be an official medal sport in order to reflect "the rapid development and popularity of this new form of sports participation among the youth", according to an official statement.

"The Olympic Council of Asia has constantly been committed to the heritage, development and improvement of Asian sports," said president Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah. "We look forward to further collaboration with Alispots in regards to digital sports concepts along with sporting events."

The Asian Games are the second largest multi-sports event in the world after the Olympics, and are recognised by the International Olympics Committee, The Guardian reports. The most recent saw 10,000 athletes from 45 countries take part.

It perhaps comes as little surprise that eSports are being included in major Asian sporting events given how popular the industry has become in the sector, but it is remarkable that competitive gaming is being recognised as a medal sport.

Some industry figureheads believe this to be inevitable - back in 2012, Riot Games co-founder Brandon Beck claimed eSports would become an Olympic event within his lifetime, although he called for more effort on the industry's part.

"It's important for companies to not just say they're excited about e-sports, but to actually make commitments: from a development standpoint and from a financial standpoint," he told GamesIndustry.biz at the time. "These players have to make a massive commitment to become pro-athletes, so there has to be a viable career path for that to grow into anything."

Conversely, a roundtable discussion held back in December saw British eSports Association CEO Chester King dispute that such recognition would ever be practical. While King himself arranged an eSports competition during last year's Rio Olympics, he claimed that it could never become a regular fixture.

"I don't think you'll ever see eSports at the Olympics, because which title do you choose?" he argued. "You could be looking at more than 35 titles, all big commercial products. No one owns football, no one owns golf. But if the Olympics ran a Counter-Strike tournament, their sales would go through the roof."

No specific titles have been confirmed for the 2022 Asian Games yet. However, this September's Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games will see nations competiting in FIFA 2017 tournaments, as well as matches in unnamed MOBA and "real time attack" games.

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