Chinese internet giant Alibaba has partnered with the Olympic Council of Asia in a bid to bring esports to the 2018 and 2022 Asian Games.
The Asian Games, known as Asiad, are the second largest multi-sports event after the Olympic Games, and so the partnership between the OCA and Alibaba, announced in a launch ceremony yesterday, is big news.
Alibaba is investing via their sports off-shoot Alisports, and is planning to invest $150m into esports over the coming years. They’ve already partnered with the International e-Sports Federation, known as the IESF, and are known as the hosts of the World Electronic Sports Games, which is a multi-game tournament that pays out $5.5m in prize money.
However, the Asian Games are a step closer to worldwide recognition, as the International Olympic Committee achknowledges the Asian Games.
Could this be a significant step towards getting esports into the olympics? It remains to be seen, but the idea is contentious, with many arguing that the increased profile from having esports as part of an olympic event is good for broader recognition, but could damage esports unique appeal.
Whether it leads to an Olympic effort or not, if AliBaba deliver on their promise of an $150m investment, this could create big waves for an industry that many analysts are currently measuring between $500m and $1b globally. Even if this investment drips out over a couple of years, it could create momentous changes in the industry.