January 16, 2018
By Haresh Deol
IAN Porter dropped out of college to play video games for a living.
His parents freaked out and Porter confidently told them, as quoted by AdAge: “I want to make more money than you guys next year”.
In 2014, the former University of Washington student who was then 23 earned close to US$200,000 by competing in video game competitions.
And according to AdAge’s report ‘Are you game?’ (http://adage.com/article/news/e-sports/308447/), the money continues to roll in for Porter.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, eSports is huge – both the following and funds.
Those in their 50s and 60s play golf on the pretext of socialising and networking but they too admit the number of golfers at the golf courses has reduced significantly.
In fact, eSports could very well soon replace golf as an avenue to ‘network’ judging by what Tobian Sherman, global head of eSports at WME-IMG told AdAge: “If you are a CMO and you are not in eSports in 2017, you are going to risk getting fired.”
The Business Insider, had on Jan 12 reported the eSports market is approximately valued at US$900 million currently. The figure is expected to rise over the next 11 months and set to break the US1 billion barrier in 2019.
Major brands like Intel, Coca Cola, T-Mobile, Mobil 1, Audi and Airbus are investing heavily in the scene.
Even Premier League football teams are investing in eSports. In 2016, Manchester City signed up professional FIFA (video game) player Kieran ‘Kez’ Brown. The then 18-year-old was to represent the English club in FIFA tournaments and create videos of his experiences.
eSports is not new. The ESL (Electronic Sports League), which started in 2006, is the longest running eSports competition.
However, eSports has been largely ignored by the traditionalists who believe playing computer or video games is not a sporting activity. Parlour games like ten-pin bowling, billiards and snooker and skateboarding suffered a similar stigma in the past.
Over the years, these sports garnered a huge following which saw ten-pin bowling and cue sports contested in the Asian Games while skateboarding will feature in the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), had in April last year, announced that eSports will be a demonstration sport in the upcoming Asian Games and turned into a medal event at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games.
And eSports is now doing other sports a favour.
Formula One bosses are considering using eSports to evaluate potential regulation changes, including the way the grid forms up before the start of a grand prix.
As for football, the younger generation grew up playing games like FIFA and Winning Eleven. Their interest towards football differs from that of their fathers and grandfathers.
To the younger generation, football is not confined to the 90 minutes of action during match day. It continues through their computers and gadgets. This allows clubs to reach out to a newer and bigger audience.
In Malaysia, eSports is huge as almost every child with access to a computer or video game has played Counter Strike, FIFA or Dota 2.
Games publisher Garena Malaysia, had in a statement to A+M, said it approached eSports as an investment rather than a revenue opportunity.
Resorts World Genting and Red Bull, had last year, hosted and organised the ESL One Genting.
In 2016, Astro became the first broadcaster in Southeast Asia to launch a dedicated 24/7 eSports channel (eGG channel 808).
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, during the launch of the Malaysia Cyber Games 2018 at Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur on Jan 14; said: “I was told cyber games will feature at the Asian Games in Indonesia this year. Perhaps this sport can go up until the Olympics.”
“Embracing it as a new industry will promise a variety of opportunities, and not just entertainment and lifestyle. However, we must prepare our people to become the generators, the suppliers and active players in cyber games.”
For the record, the National Sports Council is in the midst of setting up an eSports unit.
There are those who continue to scoff at eSports. They argue video games are addictive and contribute to a sedentary lifestyle.
This, they say, will hurt development of other sports like football, badminton and hockey as promoting eSports would only encourage children to spend most of their time indoors instead of sweating it out on the courts or on the fields.
The critics fear social repercussions as being glued to computer or television screens would turn our children into social retards.
As Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tunku Imran Ja’afar summed it up:
“I would consider myself a traditionalist. (Tan Sri) Dr P.S. Nathan once told me ten-pin bowling was going to be big and I told him how can a parlour game be huge. He proved me and many people wrong.”
“I have learnt that you cannot ignore such things … in fact, ignoring it (new sports) could be dangerous. It’s all about having a good system and ensuring it is done properly.”
Like it or not, eSports is set to dominate the world.
NOTE: US$1 = RM3.96
Haresh Deol is a multi-award winning journalist.