eSports will never become that popular compared to other sports of the olympics on the simple basis that physical achievement is still a measure of hand-eye AND eye-total-body coordination and video games simply is a stripped down version of that in some aspects, while incorporating other "abilities" (like in dota) made possible ironically but precisely because of its stripped down nature.
(ie: its not physical because unlike sports, you're not expected to move yourself as the video game does it for you. But being that its a video game, now one button can make you into a Swedish penguin that uses a gatling gun during a 20 second ability boost, etc)
The former sees the total accomplishment of that traditional physical form of sports, whereas the latter enjoys the added perks from precisely those additional benefits achieved from its lack of physical form (ie2: virtualization)
I can't admit to be a real life sports fan at all, but not gonna lie, I have zero desire to watch other people play video games. I totally do not rag nor want eSports to stop growing. But I find it equally, if not more boring than going to a sports game, which I already find tremendously boring. I speak only as someone who's been to video game conventions but I never met people that go out of their way to play games a lot, that I find particularly interesting.
Basketball: the center position has seen a decline, but we might be due for a resurgence of the center. 3 point shooting has become a large source of points, but that’s reopened the center of the floor for centers. The physicality of the game has changed for sure, but a strong center or even a power forward with the ability to shoot three pointers, even just mediocrely, opens up the defense enough to allow him to work the paint with some dominance. We even have big men that have enough agility to float to the guard positions like Giannis! It’s a lofty prediction but I hope we see a resurgence of the big man to counter the shifting towards outside shooting that we’ve seen. Putting shaq back in the game now he’d be pretty dominant, obviously minus the free throw shooting part of his game though.
It kindda feels like a meta change though.
Don't think of yearly games like CoD. Think about games like CSGO, DotA 2 or LoL, games that have been around since almost the beginning of the 2010s. Those have mostly remained unchanged. CSGO has mostly the same map pool since the the beginning, with the same maps rotating in and out of the pool with some minor reworks here and there. On LoL, new Champions are added every season sure but the enviroment the are induced into is the mostly the same already existing, and the change they bring won't make it a different gam. Sure look a LoL's latest patch and the 2011 counterpart, and you'd hardly believe is the same game, but same can be said about other sports, on much larger scale (time wise). Look at the steering wheel of an F1 car from 60 years ago, then one from 15 years ago, and the current ones then will look like space exploration level tech (which is not to far from the truth tbh).
The meta shift in physical sports is much slower than eSports though. Someone will probably have a good idea of how a sport is played if it's been around for decades or hundreds of years with little changes. As someone who started playing LoL first season it is hard to keep track of what is going on between item changes, new champs, champ reworks, jungle changes, etc. unless I actively keep up. The rule changes that physical sports make are probably better compared to cd/scaling/base damage balance changes.
Of course sports change. You can't change physics, but you can easily change the rules of the game.
American Football didn't used to have downs (this resulted in some really, really boring games, since you could basically waste time til the end of the half). Mass formations like the flying V used to be common (this resulted in a lot of deaths). You used to have to be 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage to pass. At one point the NFL even literally moved the goal posts, to make it more difficult to score a field goal. Much like in video games, the core mechanics are left alone but they're always editing the rules.
And of course sports get replaced. Boxing and horse races used to be two of the most popular professional sports in America. Now they're fairly niche.
To piggy back on this comment the enduring nature of sports culture creates an identity feedback loop; People associate themselves with their favorite teams, invest in related merchandise. I haven’t played Overwatch in a minute but the first league has a vastly different “Meta” than the current league. The skills I picked up back when I played the game would need to be vastly tweaked to be relevant in today’s game. Whereas the sports I played in school haven’t changed all that much, I can more readily identify my own experience with a baseball game broadcast before my time as well as one played today than I could with a game that has new characters or maps. There’s a continued investment in having to continually relearn an esports game that doesn’t match the effort required to follow traditional sports.
Late 1800s baseball looks nothing like baseball today.
There are very few sports which have become popular within the last 20 years, perhaps MMA is the one that comes to mind. Though you can argue that even MMA has existed for many decades and was refined somewhat before it became further refined by the UFC.
So changing and evolving to find a format that works and attracts audiences is something that sports have had to do, just like esports are doing.
Also, I think many video games were not designed with large audiences in mind. I love to play Civ or WoW, but I don't want to watch other people play them for hours on end. Some people do, but they're not designed with audiences in mind, they're designed with a single player playing or multiple people playing together. They are not spectator activities, they're participatory.
In the physical world, hiking is a great participatory activity, but it doesn't make for much of a spectator activity.
2) There are many more sports which do not attract large audiences than those that do.
In the United States (where I live, it varies by country), very few people tune in to watch curling, kayaking, horseshoes, badminton, dodgeball, volleyball, polo, water polo, archery, sailing, weightlifting, lacrosse, rugby, ultimate, or skiing. Some of those sports have professional leagues here, but attendance and pay are minimal. Some of them get watched every 4 years during the Olympics but that's it.
Now think about games. Hardly anyone watches chess, backgammon, bowling, darts, go, scrabble, or crossword puzzle competitions on TV.
The number of sports and games that are watched by large audiences is far smaller than the number of sports and games that are not watched much at all.
I think that esports will be popular if the game is designed from the beginning with spectators in mind. Hardly anyone watches chess on TV these days, but millions watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. In order to be popular, something has to be designed for spectators.
One major reason is likely that traditional sports teams, etc have roots in physical towns, regions and a such the whole culture of those towns and regions. Your local team becomes part of your identity which is reinforced by all of your neighbors and family and friends also supporting that team and thereby the sport as a result. When you go to a game or the bar you are surrounded by fellow fans and you feel supported, accepted, and part of something bigger. Support therefore stems from a lot more than just pure entertainment, but has much deeper emotional roots, you actually feel a proper sense of love, elation and pride as if it were your own when your team scores, as opposed to just being interested in the strategy or technicality like esports fans may be. Even if they do feel that, it isn’t as engrained as traditional sports are, where there are thousands of people who feel that way about football for every one or two who support DOTA for instance. Viewers therefore reinforce each other to keep viewing to a much greater extent, and are much less likely to get bored, because it’s almost more about that emotional aspect than the actual plays, etc.
Well, that’s at least part of the answer
Edit: Not saying this couldn’t become the case for esports, or isn’t the case in some places, but rather that the physical presence of so many more fellow fans as a result of regional fanfare and this spanning across generations in traditional sports and this becoming part of family and community identity is part of the reason for the more unfaltering support of traditional sports.
This is spot on. Changes in eSports teams happen literally all the time. Your favourite team gets rebranded and half the players are swapped - so technically your favourite team doesn't exist anymore. Players and organisations get moved around constantly, so you can't really build a connection with a team that can keep you watching.
In traditional sports, Real Madrid won't become Futbol Allstars in an year, and won't have all your favourite players swapped out by then. In eSports there's like 2 organisations that keep their brand consistent and coincidentally they actually have a fanbase (besides bandwagoners who root for the whoever's winning at the current moment).
It's not all of the reasons, but is surely one of the important ones.
Because in live sports things change constantly because they are grounded in the real world. Things that happen are happening in a real and dynamic environment, so even when they are trying to do things mechanically identically, the fact that they're in the real world means it's still different every time. When all of the real world differences are stripped away by the computer, a person clicking in the same pattern a few times is identical on the screen.
The bigger reason is that you can't follow esports easily of you don't play the game, whereas you can understand the gist of most sports just because it is humans doing the things on the screen. Everyone knows what throwing a ball looks like, and what it looks like when it's done impressively. Nobody who hasn't played Dota or watched lots of it knows what a dragon slave is or looks like.
This means that love sports can constantly refresh their audience with new members, whereas to get new esports watchers you basically need new esports players. The changes to the game are to get people to play, not to watch.
With video games it's inherent shelf life is part of the point. The next version, sequel, patch, update, console, etc is always just around the corner so the companies can sell more stuff. Each version is supposedly better than the last and there are thousands of games to attract attention.
With sports, tradition is valued and changes are made gradually if at all and are usually not drastic. The players are the things that have a shelf life not the game itself. Football or tennis is interesting because of the new athletes and strategies in a familiar setting. They don't need to make a new sport or super tennis modern racket attack 3 to keep up with new basketball 5.0 remix every few years.