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Video game Olympics announced for Rio

BBC News BBC News 8/04/2016 By Chris Foxx
eSport tournament: eSports tournaments draw big crowds © Getty Images eSports tournaments draw big crowds

A new eGames international gaming tournament will make its debut in Rio during this summer's Olympic Games.

The event, launched as part of this week's London Games Festival, offers medals and national pride rather than cash prizes for the winners.

The competition, backed by the UK government, will be run by the new International eGames Committee (IEGC).

Britain, Canada, Brazil and the USA are the only confirmed entrants so far with more expected to follow.

In Olympic years, both summer and winter, the eGames will take place in the host cities - with future tournaments planned for Pyeongchang in 2018 and Tokyo in 2020.

During other years, national qualifiers will be held domestically to produce teams for the next competition.

Competing countries will send mixed-sex squads of professional video gamers, aged over 18, to play in tournaments held in large venues.

This summer's inaugural event will be a two-day pop-up tournament in Brazil "to showcase the eGames to the world of competitive gaming and attract further partners", according to the official eGames website.

Competitive gaming, known as eSports, is a big business and professional tournaments offer thousands of pounds in prize money.

Top players are thought to earn upwards of £1m a year.

There has been a mixed reaction to the news, with games journalist Pao Bago writing on Twitter: "When will new organisers learn that best teams respond to the best incentives?

"Last night's eSports Olympics announcement was great and all but giving shiny medals and zero money is suspect."

Chester King, chief marketing officer for non-profit organisation the IEGC, said: "In line with other globally established sporting events, the eGames will be a medal only competition, with no prize money, but the opportunity to take home gold for your country."

"Potential sponsors and players will be reassured that a major government is backing the event and that will help with getting the funding and exposure the event will need to succeed," analyst Edward Barton at Ovum told the BBC.

'International showcase'

"The eGames promises to be an exciting venture that will give eSports competitors across the UK even more opportunities to showcase their talents on an international stage," said Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture.

The IEGC has not yet announced which video games will be played at the event, but promised a diverse mix of competitions.

"There will be a mix of PC and console games, maybe mobile," said Mr King.

"Currently most competitions are single games like Call Of Duty or Fifa so we will try to emulate the magic of an Olympics by having legends/champions from various eSports all in the same location."

Players for eTeam Britain will be chosen in national qualifying rounds.

"There will be an eGames Association set up in each country which will organise the national qualifying, which will have open heats and finals," said Mr King.

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