Late last week, German parliament officially recognised Germany’s eSports as sports. With international sporting implications in mind, Germany has become the first country to officially recognise eSports as sport. They also become one of four countries, behind South Korea, Japan and the Philippines, to treat eSports with legitimacy. The decision was made after the new coalition concluded that “eSport train important skills that are not just important in the digital world” and as a result they “fully recognize and endorse eSports as a separate sport with association and association rights, and support the creation of an Olympic perspective”. This is an important step in the legitimising all the eSports industry.
The decision follows a successful 2017 for eSports, generating over one and a half billion USD in revenue. Germany has taken a first and important step in legitimising an internationally growing industry. Once a market localised within Asia, eSports has grown internationally through digital streaming like Twitch and YouTube. With advertisers and investors contributing to 85% of revenue and western companies like Activision, Blizzard, Riot Games and Valve continuing to support their flagship titles, like Overwatch, CounterStrike and League of Legends, eSports have finally broken into the mainstream audience. It would seem like only a matter of time before other countries either follow suit or bring the discussion forward.
Who lead the charge and why?
The eSports-Bund Deutschland (ESBD, or “eSports Association of Germany”), founded in November of 2017, led the push for this recognition. The ESBD is the first national eSports body to have all major teams signed and aligned with them, setting a new precedent for eSports conglomerates. ESBD Vice President Niklas Timmermann states that their aims were “to secure ‘sports’ status for eSports and thereby enable players to access the benefits that come along with it, like public funding, assistance with their travel, and so on.” An official recognition as a sport allows for eSports to gain many of the institutional benefits that sports like football receive. This includes public funding to help facilitate better training, more organisation for registered clubs through official leagues, and support for both contracted professional players and amateurs.
What does an “Olympic Perspective” mean internationally?
The international sporting implications of eSports were also a factor in the decision. ESports leagues like the Overwatch League and their 2017 Overwatch World Cup have bridged the gap between traditional sports and eSports in international competition. Germany has committed to an “Olympic perspective” through the formation of the ESBD, grouping independent teams under a national umbrella. Through this decision, Germany can facilitate an international sporting presence for their teams and players with travel and advertisement benefits for internationally touring players. This comes at a crucial time as Japan is currently working with the Paris organisers to introduce eSports into the 2024 Summer Olympics.
With Germany’s official recognition of eSports and the growing international interest of the ‘sport’, Germany is the first country in an international movement to legitimise eSports on a global scale. The decision will not be finalised until the new German government is sworn into cabinet.