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Our definition of sports will change as video and real-life play converge.

Last year, Robert Morris University in Illinois offered 45 athletic scholarships to League of Legends video game players. Yes, athletic scholarships for joystick jockeys. It turns out that when gamers stop playing against the computer and instead play against other real people, videogames take on the human drama of sports. E-sports are here to stay.

One challenge for the sports industry: making sure kids keep playing sports titles rather than other genres. One leg up: Sports are a universal language, easy to get grounded in and understand. Drop into a basketball video game for the first time, and you intuitively have a sense of what to do — get the ball in the hoop, or go for a rebound. Drop into League of Legends, and the average rookie would be totally lost. This is sports’ massive initial advantage — which it needs to press forward on immediately while this market emerges.

Game technology is advancing beyond the current realm of recreation into player training, improvement, and comprehensive metric feedback. NASCAR is out to an early lead, using their racing simulator iRace not just to give fans their most realistic chance at driving a stock car, but also to train professionals — including motorsports legend Dale Earnhardt Jr.


Industry leader EA Sports has consistently advanced the in-home stadium experience. Soccer title FIFA 15 bathes gamers in authentic stadium cheers, chants, and reactions — each soundscape unique to one of the 20 Premier League stadiums. Ignite, EA’s new game engine, features player-specific movement that depends on weight, momentum, and center of gravity. Even clothing stretches, billows, and affects a player just as it would in real life.

Predicting the Future

1-5 Years

Talent Ecosystem Emerges

Fans will find it increasingly easy to “play” against their idols. Not only will individual gamers become famous, but teams leagues, and franchises will also coalesce. EA has invested heavily in FIFA Pro Clubs, which allow for up to 11 players on one team to face off against opponents online. A talent ecosystem will emerge, including coaches, high school and college teams, ranked amateurs, farm clubs, semipro and full-time professional players. As with sports, scouts will evaluate and offer contracts to younger and younger players.

5-10 Years

Better Controllers

It’s no longer about thumbs hitting controller buttons. Game-play sensors descended from the Wii and Microsoft Kinect make handheld controllers a quaint memory. A language of game control involving every limb and facial expression emerges, physical shorthand for larger movements in the video sport.

10-25 Years

Indistinguishable Remote and In-Person Gameplay

Remote and in-person gameplay will be all but indistinguishable thanks to the combination of tactile feedback interfaces with virtual and augmented reality. As offline sports and online sports adapt to players’ locations and abilities, participation in sports — a definition that now implicitly includes e-sports — will soar to include a higher percentage of humanity than at any other time.

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