Tech giant Intel has pledged to use the success of a recent esports tournament, held alongside the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, as a launchpad for a lobbying campaign to make video gaming an Olympic sport.
The Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) event featured StarCraft II, an esport with 20 years of history and one of the most popular esports in South Korea.
Now Intel and its esports event production partner ESL are confident that the International Olympic Committee is a step closer to being convinced that esports could have a place in medal competition.
The recent tournament resulted in a final that saw the most successful Korean player of all-time, Yoo Jin "sOs" Kim, defeated by Canadian, Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn.
IEM PyeongChang was not directly associated with the Olympics, but the event was broadcast on official Olympics channels and, according to IEM organisers, it was used as an opportunity to showcase esports for Olympics representatives.
"The Olympic Committee was there the whole time," Intel's Vice-President and General Manager for esports and gaming John Bonini told The Australian Financial Review.
"We're really happy with that first step. It's going to take several steps and several years, I think, to figure out where we'll end up, but so far we've been making some progress."
"The Olympic Committee has acknowledged it's a sporting activity, and I think that helped open the door for some testing."
In his keynote speech at the recent Global Esports Forum in Katowice, Poland, Mr Bonini said he was eager for Intel to be the "Switzerland" in bringing the esports industry together with the Olympics movement.
Intel became a technology partner to the Olympics in 2017, with a commitment to the partnership running until at least 2024.
Ralf Reichert, CEO of ESL, the world's biggest esports event producer, suggested the IEM PyeongChang event was less about delivering an event to fans than it was about demonstrating esports in front of an influential future partner.
"In 2007 we ran the first Intel Extreme Master's final in a small pavilion at CeBIT, the biggest IT trade fair in the world," Mr Reichert said.
"We did it there to show off and educate industry executives out of the tech industry that [esports] is real. It wasn't really a consumer event, what it's ultimately supposed to be, it was really more a B2B event."
Mr Reichert suggested that, 12 years on, the success of IEM events around the world, with hundreds of thousands of live attendees and millions watching online, had shown how well esports have been embraced.
"The tournament in Korea had a very similar purpose," he said.
"We spoke to a lot of people from the sports industry, from the Olympics, everyone involved. It was an educational tournament. I would be surprised if we don't see the same effect we've seen since [tech industry event] CeBIT, from Pyeongchang to wherever we might be in 12 years."
On more than one occasion during 2017, IOC President Thomas Bach pointed to the violent themes of many video games as a reason they would not fit in at the Olympics.
However Mr Bonini said he was confident that this position had softened as the Olympic Committee had learned more about the nature of esports.
"Of course, we don't want violent games – that's not consistent with the Olympic charter. But I still think there's a lot of other opportunities," he said.
"When they talk about trying to bring different cultures together to peaceful promotion of mankind, certainly esports can create that kind of opportunity. There is also a practical side for the Olympics. They see the young demographic, they see the growth. How do we help deliver the next growth of phase for your base?"
The writer traveled to Katowice, Poland as a guest of Intel.
This article was published and provided by the Australian Financial Review.