Put more money in eSports

There has been much talk about eSports in Malaysia with more leagues mushrooming to appease the large gaming population in the country.

Yet, are brands truly leveraging on the booming industry which promises hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of eyeballs annually?

Astro’s Head of Sports Lee Choong Khay believes the eSports industry, despite its popularity, is still in its infancy and more can be done to encourage industry players to thrive.

“Honestly, eSports is still in its early days in Malaysia. Many people get excited over it but not many are putting their money in it,” said Lee.

“The problem is that they don’t understand eSports and its ecosystem. They must be exposed to the impact of eSports based on case studies and we have many to share.”

He said the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) Professional League (Malaysia & Singapore) which entered its fifth season on Feb 29, was a good example. The event – presented by Montoon, organised by eGG Network and sponsored by Malaysian digital telco Yoodo – offers a prize pool of US$100,000.

“I would say The Kuala Lumpur Major makes another good case study as it was a successful event that saw the participation of several big brands, including KFC and Monster.”

“In fact, some of these brands see the value in eSports and they keep coming back.”

The MLBB this season, which ends on April 5, features 10 top teams from Malaysia and Singapore.

Lee pointed out even Premier League teams have invested heavily in eSports, evident in the inaugural ePremier League that kicked off last year.

“Football teams like Celtic FC, Paris St-Germain and Galatasary sponsor eSports teams outside the football realm while F1 outfit McLaren organised an eSports racing talent scouting programme which attracted over 50,000 participants.”

He said those establishments are well aware of the changing viewership trends and were looking an innovative marketing methods to draw new audiences.

“By investing in eSports, these brands have further raised their profiles and fan base beyond the sports they are involved in,” Lee added.

With 600 million people and over US$2.5 trillion in GDP, economies in Southeast Asia are the fastest growing in the world. The region holds the edge in digital technology due to its youthful, digitally savvy and upwardly mobile population.

“eSports offers an alternative way for brands to engage with the young generation who view and accept content differently. It provides a gateway to a new audience, and the huge numbers of viewers and participants are indeed enticing.”

He said Astro saw the shift in trends and was in fact prompted by eSports fans, through an online petition, to carry The International 5 (Ti5), an annual Dota 2 championship. Ti5 was the first eSports event aired live on a sports channel (Astro SuperSport) in Southeast Asia.

“The feedback was so overwhelming that it was decided to introduce a dedicated 24/7 eSports channel – the eGG Network in June 2016. The channel is now aired in eight Southeast Asian nations and Australia.”

Other established broadcasters like Sky Sports, Fox and the BBC also air eSports in a bid to capture the attention of the younger generation.