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. This is in contrast to multi-sport games such as Wii Sports which are not classified as Olympic video games. No genres other than sports video games have been attempted with the Olympic license.
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.
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.
From the 1988 Seoul Korea Olympics up to the London 2012 Olympics, an official Olympic tie-in game was released each summer Olympics.
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.
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.
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. 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.