Just Dance, Gran Turismo, and mobile games are now Olympic esports

The official Olympic Esports Series will see competition in virtual analogs of real sports, featuring Just Dance, Gran Turismo, and more.
Olympic Esports Series Just Dance Gran Turismo

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has launched the inaugural Olympic Esports Series, an event that comprises various digital versions of real-world sporting activities, and seeks to find the best competitors from across the globe in a number of disciplines. While Ubisoft’s Just Dance and Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo 7 are the most recognisable names in the categories (they stand in for ‘Dance’ and ‘Motor sport’ respectively), several other virtual training applications and mobile games join them.

The main event will be held in Singapore from 22-25 June 2023, with qualifiers occurring at various stages up until that time. Some of the events are will have open entry and qualification rounds – which include Archery, Baseball, Chess, Sailing, Tennis, and Motorsport. Others like Taekwondo and Dance will be invitation only, and others will require qualification in other official events.

The categories are as follows:

  • Archery – Represented by the mobile archery game Tic Tac Bow, a competitive game where players compete in a game of traditional Tic-Tac-Toe with bows and arrows, and need to account for factors like distance and wind speed.
  • Baseball – Represented by WBSC eBASEBALL: POWER PROS, a long-running baseball game featuring cute characters, developed by Konami
  • Chess – Represented by the online Chess platform, Chess.com
  • Cycling – Represented by Zwift, an indoor cycling app that also features MMO elements, and actually requires physical cycling to participate.
  • Dance – Represented by Just Dance, Ubisoft’s lighthearted but competitive dancing game that uses your smartphone or motion controllers to detect the accuracy of your movements.
  • Motorsport – Represented by Gran Turismo 7, the realistic and detailed-oriented simulation racing game from Polyphony Digital and PlayStation Studios
  • Sailing – Represented by Virtual Regatta, a realistic sailing simulator that is primarily played on mobile devices.
  • Tennis – Represented by Tennis Clash, a mobile competitive tennis game that only utilises simple swipe controls, but purports to have a high depth of strategy at high tiers.
  • Taekwondo – Represented by Virtual Taekwondo a competitive game that requires the use of full-body motion sensors, and actual taekwondo ability.

In attempting to mirror the events of the actual Olympics, the Esports Series is an interesting mix of events that actually require physical fitness versus those that rely more on strategic thinking with minimal physical input.

But in a world where the idea of people professionally competing in video games is still a difficult idea for many to overcome, using games to represent real-world sporting analogs is a smart one. For those with at least some knowledge of the physical sports they represent, the Olympic Esports Series has a good chance of communicating the fact that many of the same kinds of mindsets and aptitudes are required to compete at a high level, even if the format is different.

The IOC has also been vocal in the past about straying away from games that involve violent combat, such as Counter-Strike GO or Call of Duty.

At the 2022 Commonwealth Games, an Esports Championship featured games like eFootball, Dota 2, and Rocket League. While the latter two titles can still be exciting to watch for a casual spectator, understanding the nuances are far more difficult.

For more information on qualifying conditions and dates, visit the Olympic Esports Series website.

Edmond was the founding managing editor of GamesHub. He was also previously at GameSpot for 13 years, where he was the Australian Editor and an award-winning video producer. You can follow him @EdmondTran