Esports: Bracing for business boom

Cheong says the esports industry needs more people, particularly on the production side. — Photos: ANDREW CHEONG

Physical esports events are back with a bang, with the next big tournament – ESL One 2022 – taking place from Aug 26 to 28 at the Arena of Stars in Genting Highlands, Pahang.

The Defense Of The Ancients 2 (Dota 2) competition will feature 12 teams from South-East Asia and Europe competing for a share of the US$400,000 (RM1.76mil) prize pool.

Last month saw Malaysia host two major esports tournaments: PUBG Mobile Pro League SEA Championship Spring, in which Team D’Xavier from Vietnam emerged champion and claimed the prize of US$31,500 (RM138,650), and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Southeast Asia Cup 2022, which was won by Team RSG Philippines, netting US$140,000 (RM616,700).

As more esports competitions make their way to Malaysia, people involved in the industry expect greater employment opportunities and exposure.

Cheong was a caster at the recently-concluded PUBG Mobile Pro League SEA Championship Spring in KL.Cheong was a caster at the recently-concluded PUBG Mobile Pro League SEA Championship Spring in KL.

But esports commentator Andrew Cheong, also known as “Sir Cloud”, says that there isn’t enough manpower.

“Based on conversations I’ve had with people in the sector, everyone is excited that the industry is growing at a rapid rate.

“As multiple events are taking place at the same time, we need more people to help with events, especially on the production side,” he says.

Cheong explains that when people look at career opportunities in esports, they are only focused on gaming professionally.

“Players are part of the ecosystem,” he says, “but we need more camerapersons, producers, game marshals, referees and even social media teams to post updates.

“Today’s biggest esports events have to be run like an entertainment programme or sports show.”

Esports events take place almost every month, but they may not be as large as the recently concluded PUBG tournament in KL, in which he participated as a caster.

The burgeoning esports industry offers more profitable prospects than most people realise. — ValveThe burgeoning esports industry offers more profitable prospects than most people realise. — Valve

“I could feel the earth tremble because the fans just went crazy!” he says, adding that an event of this magnitude would normally require up to 20 marshals and 10 camerapersons.

Cheong has been in the esports industry since 2019, first as a content creator and then as a caster.

Gaming knowledge is essential for breaking into the sector – for example, being able to spot cheaters and ensure fair play is a highly valued skill.

“As for those wanting to be involved in production, you’ll need to be able to spotlight the right feed at crucial moments,” he says.

However, he hopes to dispel the myth that working in the esports industry is “all fun and games” and consists solely of playing video games.

“I’ve seen a lot of people joining the industry and leaving because they felt it was too stressful.

“For example, if you feed a visual that doesn’t match the caster’s commentary, you’re going to be screamed at by the producer.

“Some couldn’t cope with such high-pressure situations,” he says.

For Malaysia to position itself as a hub for esports in the region, Cheong says more training opportunities have to be provided to upskill manpower and improvements have to be made to the existing infrastructure.

Cheong cites Singapore, which has hosted many globally recognised tournaments, including Free Fire World Series 2021, which had a US$2mil (RM9.7mil) prize pool, and it will be playing host to The International 10, the world’s biggest esports tournament, which is expected to offer a prize pool of US$40mil (RM176mil).

“We are seeing more of our manpower leaving for the island nation. Perhaps, they have policies that are more flexible and attractive for organisers to host events.

“I think that’s something Malaysia can look into and perhaps emulate if we want to see more esports events being hosted here,” says Cheong, who plans to publish a book on esports.

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