The Olympic Summit has ruled that esports can be considered a sporting activity ©Getty Images

A meeting of leading stakeholders from the Olympic Movement has concluded that competitive esports "could be considered as a sporting activity".

This is because the "players involved play with an intensity which may be comparable to athletes in traditional sports". 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Global Association of International Sports Federations will now enter a "dialogue" with the gaming industry and players to explore the area further.

They will report to Olympic Movement stakeholders "in due course".

In order to be fully recognised by the IOC, however, they must ensure that esports do not "infringe on the Olympic values".

They must also set up a governing body "guaranteeing compliance with the rules and regulations of the Olympic Movement", including on areas such as anti-doping and match fixing.

The statement, made today following a meeting of the Olympic Summit chaired by IOC President Thomas Bach, does not set any sort of timeline for the formal integration of esports with a view to eventual inclusion on the Olympic programme.

But the sheer fact it has been discussed and announced publicly shows it is being taken seriously.

An esports competition taking place during the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat ©Ashgabat 2017
An esports competition taking place during the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat ©Ashgabat 2017

In April, Bach himself voiced reservations about whether esports can be considered a pursuit worthy of serious consideration for a place on the Olympic programme but, at the same time, promised to "watch" its development following a call for a more organised governing body.

Esports featured as a demonstration event at last month's Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat and it is hoped that it will feature on the full Asian Games programme in Hangzhou in 2022.

This is being organised through a partnership between the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and Alisports, a division of Alibaba, announced as an IOC TOP sponsor in January.

Developing esports has never been stated as a specific aim of this cooperation.

A newly formed Asian Electronic Sports Federation Board unveiled last month includes Kuwait’s Sheikh Fahad Al-Sabah, the son of OCA and Association of National Olympic Committees President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah.

Sheikh Ahmad, present at today's meeting, has claimed that the growth in popularity of esports cannot be ignored and needs to be accommodated to help keep the world's youth engaged.

Also in attendance today was United States Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst, the chairman of video game publisher Electronic Arts, whose products include the hugely successful FIFA game.

Research firm Newzoo has predicted that global audiences for esports could reach 385.5 million this year.