Olympic video games are a subgenre of sport video games officially licensed by the International Olympic Committee. These games have more than one event and/or several sports, and have an Olympic theme.

They are one of the older video game genres, having first appeared with the 1983 arcade classic Track & Field. Since then, numerous titles have been released, usually in the immediate run up to the Olympic Games each game is intended to cover. Official IOC licenses became a norm since the first official game, Olympic Gold, was released in time for the 1992 Summer Olympics.

This is unrelated to the discussion surrounding having video games be included as an Olympic sport.[1][2]

Evolution and criticism

Companies like Epyx, Accolade, U.S. Gold and Konami developed many of the early games. The genre is often overlooked by the gaming industry and considered little more than a novelty or memorabilia attached to the event, with some considering it as purely an exercise in licensing and merchandise. Gameplay is the common target for detractors, since it usually consists of the 'button mashing' formula used in Track & Field or 'joystick waggling' as used in Daley Thompson's Decathlon.

However, since they are released at regular intervals, they can be used as a way to compare how graphics in computer games have changed over time: from the CGA graphics of the first Epyx titles to the ever-evolving 3D graphics of more modern titles such as Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, and London 2012. Forbes argued that while the genre doesn't evolve, they would like to see how the various sports are rendered on next generation consoles.[3]

From the 1988 Seoul Olympics up to the London 2012 Olympics, an official Olympic tie-in game was released to coincide with each Olympic Games.[3] The games of Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 did not have accompanying console video games. The accompanying console video game returned for the PyeongChang 2018 games under the release of Steep. In 2019, an exclusive console Olympic video game has already been released for Tokyo 2020 in Japan.

Kotaku argues that the 4-year cycle nature of such games results in each release being on a new console, becoming a first-adopter decision for Olympic video game fans. In addition, the site noted that these games never have an overarching sense of narrative, which essentially turns them into a series of minigames. Thirdly, many of the Olympic sports already have dedicated titles out there which would appeal to fans more than these minigame collections which contain simplified gameplay versions of their sports. The games also lack a career mode, which is common in many of their sports video game counterparts.[4]

Vice argues that prominently having successful Olympic sportspeople on the cover of Olympic games builds their public brand profile by introducing them to gamers. The site likened this to how some music-related video games can introduce gamers to new bands, or some media tie-ins can encourage gamers to explore the expanded universe.[5]

List of games

Official

Game Developer Year Type Platform Events Score
Hyper Olympic '84 Konami 1984 S Arcade (Official Olympic license in Japan only) 7
Olympic Gold Tiertex 1992 S Sega Game Gear, Sega Genesis, Sega Master System 7
Winter Olympics 1993 W Amiga, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, SNES, Sega Game Gear, MS-DOS, Sega Master System 10
Olympic Summer Games 1996 S SNES, Game Boy, PlayStation, Sega Genesis, 3DO 10
Nagano Winter Olympics '98 Konami 1997 W Arcade, PlayStation, Nintendo 64 16 49
Sydney 2000 Attention to Detail 2000 S PlayStation, Windows, Dreamcast 12 57
Salt Lake 2002 2002 W Windows, PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance 6 55
Athens 2004 Eurocom 2004 S PlayStation 2, Windows 25 61
Torino 2006 49Games 2006 W Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox 11 39
Beijing 2008 Eurocom 2008 S PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows 38 60
Vancouver 2010 2010 W 14 57
London 2012 Sega 2012 S 31 66
Steep: Road to the Winter Olympics Ubisoft 2017 W PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows 12 72
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - The Official Video Game Sega 2019 S PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows 19 71

Mario & Sonic


Unofficial

Games on other genres with another Olympic related license

Critical reception

Slate argued that Olympic video games are generally forgotten quickly like the Olympic games they are based on, and thought the genre had remained stagnant from 1983's Track & Field up to 2K Sports' Torino 2006.[7] Kotaku noted that the Olympic brand is so huge that these video games are often non-entities by comparison while the event is happening. And once the event is over the game becomes obsolete too.[4]

References

  1. ^ "Video Games May Be a Part of the 2024 Olympics". Fortune. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  2. ^ Moosa, Tauriq (2017-08-11). "eSports are real sports. It's time for the Olympic video games | Tauriq Moosa". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  3. ^ a b Mazique, Brian. "Sports Video Games We Wish Existed: 'Rio 2016'". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  4. ^ a b "The Problem(s) With Olympic Video Games". Kotaku Australia. 2010-01-24. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  5. ^ "Why Is There No 'Proper' Olympics Video Game in 2016?". Vice. 2016-07-29. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  6. ^ a b c d "The Weirdest Olympic Events in Video Games". Maxim. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  7. ^ Pollack, Neal (2006-02-17). "Olympic Video Games". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2017-12-26.