The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has taken a lot of flak for its selection of “esports” games featured on the roster of the upcoming Olympic Esports Series held in Singapore next month. As previously covered by Interpret, as opposed to traditional esports like League of Legends or CS:GO, the Esports Week will see competition primarily in virtual representations of sports like baseball, tennis, rowing, cycling, archery, auto racing, along with the odd choice of Ubisoft’s Just Dance. In a sign that the IOC is possibly taking feedback to heart, the group has made a last-minute addition to the games roster: Fortnite. There’s a catch, however.
Competitors won’t go up against each other in the game’s battle royale mode. Instead, they’ll be trying their hands at shooting skills as they’ll be placed in a special International Shooting Sport Federation Island made in Fortnite Creative. Similar to other sport shooters, players will then be tested on target aiming accuracy.
It’s an interesting choice that leverages one of the more popular esports games on the market and blends it with more traditional Olympic-style sports competition. For viewers interested in seeing the best of the best, there could be some appeal as well, as the Fortnite participants will be 12 players from the Fortnite Champion Series (FNCS), which is the game’s top esports tier. That said, those familiar with Epic Games’ popular title also know that it’s not known for highly precise shooting mechanics, so it’ll be interesting to see if there is some fine-tuning taking place specifically for the ISSF Island. To connect with esports viewers and younger audiences as well, the IOC is streaming the whole event globally on Olympics.com and Olympics socials channels.
It’s hard to predict how successful the Fortnite event will be, but the decision by the IOC feels like a smart one, as Interpret’s New Media Measure® shows Olympic followers (consumers who report following either the Summer or Winter Games) being more interested in Fortnite than the general population. More than one-fifth of Olympic followers have watched Fortnite content in the past three months, including tournament matches, non-tournament matches, or videos about the game. And, as Interpret noted in our previous coverage, among those who reported following either the Summer or Winter Olympics, almost 40% also reported watching esports.
The IOC has been slow to adopt esports into Olympic competition, but should the Fortnite component of Esports Week go well, it could pave the way for more inclusion of other games, whether CS:GO, Valorant, or others.