2021 in Review: Olympic Virtual Series success indicates baseball/softball has bright digital future in eSports

2021 in Review: Olympic Virtual Series success indicates baseball/softball has bright digital future in eSports
The WBSC Executive Board included eSports as a discipline of baseball/softball on 12 December 2020. The success of the baseball's popularity in the Olympic Virtual Series showed that virtual baseball/softball has an exciting future ahead.

"The WBSC looks forward to more progressive innovation in the dynamic and youth-focused space of eSports and eGames, which will potentially expand the reach of our sport to millions of gamers and fans."

WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari used these words after the WBSC Executive Board approved on 12 December 2020 the inclusion of eSports as a discipline of baseball/softball.

The integration of eSports into the WBSC Statutes will be put forward for approval to the WBSC Congress in 2022. The virtual version of baseball/softball has already made its debut internationally.

The International Olympic Committee announced the launch of the first-ever Olympic Virtual Series (OVS) in April.

"The Olympic Virtual Series will mobilise virtual sport, esports and gaming enthusiasts all around the world in order to reach new Olympic audiences, while also encouraging the development of physical and non-physical forms of sports in line with the recommendations of the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020+5," stated a press release by the IOC.

The WBSC was one of five International Federations involved in the project and partnered with Konami Digital Entertainment to deliver the baseball event at the inaugural OVS. Konami's eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020 served as the official platform.

The baseball event of the first OVS opened on 24 May. Access to the platform was limited to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan residents.

The event featured the PlayStation4 and the Nintendo Switch Divisions

A total of 19 gamers competed in the finals on 23 June, Olympic Day, 11 in the PlayStation4 Division, eight in the Nintendo Switch Division.

Syohei Osaka (Pome) won the Nintendo Switch Home Run Derby, while Syoma Mori (SHORA) earned the eBaseball Tournament title.

The grand finale of the Olympic Virtual Series baseball event was broadcast worldwide across major Olympic channels, including olympics.com, Facebook, YouTube and NBC's dedicated Twitch Channel.

"I congratulate the IOC and President Thomas Bach on the innovative creation of the Olympic Virtual Series," said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari. "Following the IOC's lead and building off our successful debut at the Olympic Virtual Series, the WBSC will look to expand its presence in the eSports space, helping to unite, develop and serve a global community of potentially millions of baseball and softball gamers. It was a tremendous honour to be a part of the first edition, and WBSC hopes to be back at Olympic Virtual Series II."

Fraccari added: "On behalf of the WBSC, I would also like to thank KONAMI for providing a great platform that provided an exciting digital experience and competition."

You might also be interested in:
- WBSC approves eSports as new discipline
- WBSC, Konami partner to deliver baseball event at Olympic Virtual Series
- First Olympic Virtual Series enjoys great success

The WBSC will now base its eSport approach on a three-pillar strategy: mass participation through mobile gaming, high-level online competitions, and eSport virtual through physical simulators, virtual reality.

The WBSC has already started developing its mobile game based on WBSC Baseball World Cups. As the OVS demonstrated, the high-level competition has the potential to bring new audiences, players, revenues and stakeholders into the sport. The WBSC is talking with market leaders to discuss a partnership framework for physical simulators and virtual reality with an aim to expanding the baseball/softball community and providing further opportunities for people to engage with baseball and softball around the world.