It may be embroiled in political controversy and concerns over pollution, but the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games is set to be the biggest sporting event of the year.
At Athens in 2004, more than 300 TV channels provided 35,000 hours of Olympic coverage to 3.9 billion people in 220 countries. In the UK alone, a peak audience of 11.7 million viewers tuned in to see Kelly Holmes go for her second gold medal in the 1,500 metres.
So it goes without saying that the Olympic Games is big business, and no one knows this better than the video game publishers in search of a summer sales boost.
The Olympic tournament can only raise awareness for both of our official Olympic titles,” explains Sega Europe's senior product manager Jo Fawell.
We launched both titles outside of the tournament and both have seen enormous success.
Awareness for the Olympics is gaining momentum, with the key event partners and licensors – such as Sega – ramping up their marketing campaigns. The Olympic Games is the key sporting event of 2008 and we know the tournament gains a huge amount of interest and support from local schools to global companies.”
Ghostlight's marketing account manager Adrian Clews agrees: The Olympics never fails to put athletics on the map and will capture the attention of the national and global media.
"Undoubtedly athletics being in the spotlight this summer will have a significant impact on sales, with children and adults taking the opportunity to relive the heroism of the Olympic athletes.”
Alongside Sega's double-helping of official licensed software, Ghostlight is gearing up to release International Athletics, Eidos is hard at work on Summer Athletics and Atari has already unleashed Asterix at the Olympic Games on Wii, DS and PlayStation 2.
And that's not to mention non-Olympic tie-ins such as Konami's New International Track and Field. And so, with such a wide-array of athletic titles on the way to shelves, could there be a risk of over-saturating the market?
There is a breaking point of course,” says Eidos' product manager Grant Tasker. Yet the current line-up of athletic titles are offering enough of a point of difference so as not to over-saturate the market.
With athletic titles set for release across all platforms over the coming weeks, the video games industry is poised to capitalise fully on the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. But then what's next for the athletic genre? What can we expect to see from the London 2012 Olympic Games tie-ins?
Following the advent of the Wii, it seems as if more immersive sports games are going to be de rigeur,” comments Konami UK's general manager Pete Stone.
But the competitive side of sport is also key. New International Track and Field sets a new standard in online play, as players can set up mini-tournaments for their mates or take on people all over the world – just like the real thing. Expanding on this will be key to advancing the athletics game genre.”
Clews concludes: Athletics titles have typically performed well at retail over the past 20 years and with the 2012 Olympics on our door step, we don't expect to see any shortage in demand anytime soon.
"The only change I expect we'll see with future athletics titles is more weird and wonderful ways to interact with the game propelled by the rapidly evolving peripherals that are coming to the market.”