Tap­ing the po­ten­tial of es­ports

The Borneo Post - - HOME - Pe­ter Boon By re­[email protected]­bor­neo­post.com

OR­GAN­ISED es­ports com­pe­ti­tions where play­ers or ‘ath­letes’ face off in a mul­ti­player video games en­vi­ron­ment are now a global phe­nom­e­non.

Al­ready, es­ports is gain­ing much in­ter­na­tional trac­tion with its in­clu­sion in the 2022 Asian Games while the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee is con­sid­er­ing adding it to the 2024 Olympics in France.

Not­ing the po­ten­tial of es­ports and how it can stim­u­late the dig­i­tal econ­omy, which Sarawak is fo­cus­ing on, lo­cal en­tre­pre­neur Dato An­drew Wong Kee Yew sees the need for a pro­fes­sion­ally run es­ports cen­tre in the state.

“That’s our ul­ti­mate plan for next year — we’re still in dis­cus­sion with the man­age­ment of the shop­ping cen­tre (Swan Square) in Sibu to put up an es­ports cen­tre and it’s go­ing to be big. You’re look­ing at some­thing like 25,000 sq ft of floor space,” the for­mer Sibu Mu­nic­i­pal Coun­cil (SMC) deputy chair­man told

the­sun­day­post.

“I be­lieve we’ve a lot of tal­ents to cre­ate our own es­ports team. It’s just that we don’t have a proper venue. And that’s what we are aim­ing to change” added Wong, owner of Toy Uni­verse, the only ac­tion edi­tion col­lectibles mu­seum here.

Toy Uni­verse is housed in Swan Square at Ling Kai Cheng Road, Sibu.

“It’s go­ing to be a proper es­ports cen­tre with a proper league and a proper tour­na­ment. We’re still try­ing to en­cour­age more brand aware­ness which is a good start­ing point.

“We’ll be one of the first es­ports cen­tres in Sarawak. In Kuala Lumpur, they have very good ones — I have vis­ited them,” he said.

Def­i­ni­tion and po­ten­tial

Ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia, es­ports (also known as elec­tronic sports, e-sports or eS­ports) is a form of com­pe­ti­tion, us­ing video games. Most com­monly, es­ports takes the form of or­gan­ised, mul­ti­player video game com­pe­ti­tion, par­tic­u­larly among pro­fes­sional play­ers.

More­over, ac­cord­ing to The Busi­ness Times, the rise of es­ports or com­pet­i­tive video gam­ing in re­cent years has been noth­ing short of me­te­oric where top gross­ing games like Over­watch, Counter-strike and League of Leg­ends have hit over a bil­lion dol­lars in in-game sales.

Big names in the soc­cer world — Manch­ester City, Paris St Ger­main and Ajax — are among more than 20 Euro­pean foot­ball clubs that have cre­ated es­ports teams for in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments in the foot­ball sim­u­la­tor game — Fifa 18.

The on­line re­port — The Startup — medium stated that in 2016, world­wide rev­enues gen­er­ated in the es­ports mar­ket amounted to US$492.7 mil­lion. By 2020, the mar­ket is ex­pected to gen­er­ate over US$1.48 bil­lion in rev­enues, in­di­cat­ing a com­pound an­nual growth rate of 32 per cent.

In fact, Youth and Sports Min­is­ter Syed Sad­diq Syed Ab­dul Rah­man has pledged to trans­form Malaysia into an es­ports pow­er­house, not only in Asean, but also Asia.

He is also aim­ing to tap into the bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try and ex­pand its growth in Malaysia to aid the coun­try’s youth devel­op­ment.

Sarawak Es­ports As­so­ci­a­tion (SESA) founder and pres­i­dent Afiq Fad­hil Narawi re­cently said there were now 1.8 mil­lion es­ports en­thu­si­asts in Malaysia and 35 per cent of es­ports play­ers in the coun­try were aged be­tween 21 and 35.

On this, Wong said: “I think es­ports is gain­ing much mo­men­tum nowa­days. Our young Youth and Sports Min­is­ter is very much be­hind it. But what are lack­ing in Sarawak, es­pe­cially, are pro­fes­sion­ally run es­ports cen­tres. I be­lieve as long as par­ents see es­ports cen­tres as safe, se­cure and clean en­vi­ron­ments, then, it’s work­able.”

Es­ports and dig­i­tal econ­omy

He be­lieved with the state gov­ern­ment’s em­pha­sis on dig­i­tal econ­omy, this was a way to make the younger gen­er­a­tion re­alise the im­por­tance of hav­ing such an econ­omy.

“Peo­ple don’t as­so­ciate es­ports with dig­i­tal econ­omy although it’s one part of it. Games are a huge part of dig­i­tal econ­omy,” he noted.

Cit­ing the ex­am­ple of China’s Ten­cent, the world’s largest gam­ing and so­cial me­dia com­pany, he added: “Hope­fully, we can stim­u­late dig­i­tal econ­omy by look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture.

“Buy­ing and selling goods on­line is just one part of dig­i­tal econ­omy. In fact, dig­i­tal econ­omy en­com­passes a lot of things and es­ports is part of it.

“So, that’s what we want to in­tro­duce here. Gam­ing is a huge thing when you talk about get­ting in­volved in the dig­i­tal plat­form. These are the things we can do to com­ple­ment the state gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts in de­vel­op­ing a dig­i­tal econ­omy. These are for the young peo­ple — some­where to start from. That’s what we en­vi­sion.”

A re­cent study showed in 2017, the num­ber of fre­quent es­ports view­ers and en­thu­si­asts amounted to 143 mil­lion. This is pro­jected to reach 250 mil­lion in 2021, thus cre­at­ing the po­ten­tial for dig­i­tal busi­nesses. Sin­ga­pore raises the bar With es­ports as part of the 2022 Asian Games and video gam­ing on track for Olympic recog­ni­tion, Sin­ga­pore has come up with its first-ever diploma in es­ports and game de­sign.

A re­cent news ar­ti­cle re­ported that the In­for­mat­ics Academy had launched the diploma pro­gramme (eight months for full-timers and 12 for part-timers) aimed at equip­ping stu­dents with skills in game devel­op­ment, es­ports knowl­edge, team man­age­ment, live-stream­ing of tour­na­ments, game de­sign the­o­ries and pro­gram­ming.

There­fore, given a well-

con­nected and tech-savvy pop­u­la­tion, it does not come as a sur­prise if Sin­ga­pore de­vel­ops a global league, and per­haps even builds one of the world’s lead­ing in­ter­na­tional es­ports teams.

Wong noted Sibu is very far be­hind in es­ports com­pared to Sin­ga­pore or even the penin­sula.

“Es­ports pop­u­lar­ity and the dig­i­tal econ­omy take-off in Sin­ga­pore are partly due to the city state’s own ef­forts to pro­mote re­spon­si­ble gam­ing.

“But here, we’re very much be­hind in in­fra­struc­ture and player devel­op­ment. I think the main thing is par­ents’ per­cep­tion of cy­ber cafes and this game.

“Lack of ex­po­sure and non-ex­is­tent in­fra­struc­ture make them very wor­ried. So, if we want to make it a re­al­ity, we have to en­sure our es­ports cen­tres are safe for kids. I be­lieve we have the po­ten­tial to do that.”

He said there had to be a start­ing point some­where, adding: “We’re just pro­vid­ing an al­ter­na­tive for the young peo­ple here. We al­ready have tra­di­tional sports and we need some dig­i­tal sports to come in.” Se­ri­ous money Wong ar­gued that en­gag­ing in es­ports was not a waste of time, point­ing out that the low­est earn­ing for a pro­fes­sional es­ports player in Malaysia hov­ered be­tween RM30,000 and RM50,000 a year, just play­ing tour­na­ments.

Ac­cord­ing to es­port­searn­ings. com, the top 25 play­ers in the world make more than US$1 mil­lion each this year.

Sin­ga­pore’s Daryl Koh Pei Xiang, go­ing by ‘ice­i­ce­ice’ as his on­line moniker, is 23rd on the in­ter­na­tional earn­ings list, mak­ing nearly US$1.1 mil­lion, mostly from Dota 2.

Wong ex­pressed op­ti­mism that if their es­ports cen­tre could be recog­nised by es­ports Malaysia or the fed­eral gov­ern­ment as one of the places for tour­na­ments on the Malaysian cir­cuit, then it would have a huge po­ten­tial.

“Es­ports play­ers come from ev­ery­where just to com­pete. It’s so dif­fer­ent from tra­di­tional sports where you have to bring lots of equip­ment. This one — you just bring your joy­stick.

“So, to them, the cost of com­pet­ing is very low and the re­turns are high. For tourism, you’re go­ing to bring many younger peo­ple to Sibu,” he an­tic­i­pated. Toy Uni­verse Ac­cord­ing to Wong, this toy mu­seum, tak­ing up a floor space of about 4,000 sq feet, is about bring­ing some­thing new to Sibu folk.

To him, it’s like a cat­a­lyst that puts the older gen­er­a­tion in the loop as to what pique the in­ter­ests of the younger gen­er­a­tion.

It’s an­tic­i­pated to gal­vanise the young peo­ple in Sibu who have a cer­tain tal­ent to dis­play their works of art.

“That’s be­cause Toy Uni­verse isn’t about just toys. In the fu­ture, we’re go­ing to gather peo­ple good in arts, cul­tures and me­chan­i­cal things such as build­ing bikes and sculp­tures.

“It’s a place for them to dis­play their spe­cial skills.

“So like I say, it’s a way for the older gen­er­a­tion to know what cap­ti­vate the younger gen­er­a­tion and un­der­stand that this isn’t a waste of time,” he ex­plained.

The ul­ti­mate aim, he pointed out, was to have an es­ports cen­tre in Sibu but be­fore that could hap­pen, the older gen­er­a­tion had to un­der­stand the in­ter­ests of the younger gen­er­a­tion.

Wong likened Toy Uni­verse to a plat­form for par­ents to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of es­ports — that play­ing these games is safe and not a waste of time.

“As far as I know, all es­ports gamers started from col­lect­ing toys of ac­tion char­ac­ters. Then they started re­lat­ing more closely to the char­ac­ters. That’s how their in­ter­ests in es­ports de­vel­oped.” The fu­ture He said the gov­ern­ment could help with reg­u­la­tions, poli­cies and pos­i­tive promotions, adding that Syed Sad­diq did a good job in pro­mot­ing es­ports.

“Our hope is that in the fu­ture, if we have an es­ports cen­tre here, some­one will set up es­ports cen­tres of sim­i­lar stan­dard and qual­ity in other places.

“So, we’ll have our own league in Sarawak — that’s our hope, es­pe­cially when you al­ready have a univer­sity here. A lot of young kids who play are from col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. I be­lieve in places like Miri, Bin­tulu or Kuching there’s a mar­ket for this type of thing,” he said.

That’s our ul­ti­mate plan for next year — we’re still in dis­cus­sion with the man­age­ment of the shop­ping cen­tre (Swan Square) in Sibu to put up an es­ports cen­tre and it’s go­ing to be big. You’re look­ing at some­thing like 25,000 sq ft of floor space. — Dato An­drew Wong Kee Yew, for­mer Sibu Mu­nic­i­pal Coun­cil (SMC) deputy chair­man

The frontage of Toy Uni­verse at Swan Square, Ling Kai Cheng Road, Sibu.

Iron Man, a hit with many kids and adults.

The life­sized fig­ures of the In­cred­i­ble Hulk and Hulk­buster.

The stat­ues of the Ninja Tur­tles.

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