eSports: Redefining Athletes

eSports: Redefining Athletes

Singapore gaming hardware manufacturer Razer, announced in November that it will be the official eSports partner of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games 2019), an eleven-country international sporting event where eSports will be recognized as a medal sport for the first time in its history, spanning almost six decades.

Razer co-founder and CEO Min-Liang Tan has led the rally to elevate esports to a recognized medal event at SEA Games 2019. A Razer delegation led by Tan met with the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PhilSGOC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) on multiple occasions to work towards this goal.

The SEA Games organiser and Razer on Wednesday announced it signed on the first game partner – Moonton – and the director revealed the first confirmed title is popular mobile multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), Mobile Legends: Bang Bang should next year’s tournament take place.

Today, esports is the entertainment of choice and an aspiration for youth and millennials. There are more than 2.3 billion gamers worldwide, and 71 percent of millennials are proud to call themselves gamers. The global eSports audience is projected to reach 276 million by 2022, and eSports itself is projected to be a billion-dollar industry by next year.

In fact, eSports has seen 65 different professional gamers become millionaires purely through their earnings from tournaments.

Defense of the Ancients 2 (DoTA 2) professional KuroKy from Team Liquid sits on top of the list for professional earnings, surpassing USD$4 million at the age of 26. Out of 65 of the ‘self-gamed’ millionaires, 62 are from competing in DoTA, whereas three others are from Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and League of Legends (LoL).

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Image by Valve

Bear in mind that these are purely just winnings from tournaments. There are other forms of revenue such as salary, streaming, and sponsorships. The numbers? Astounding.

Romain Bigeard, who has recently left his role as General Manager of OpTic Gaming was quoted saying, “”The average player salary went from 150k/year in 2017 to 327k/year in 2018”.

Former professional League of Legends player turned entrepreneur Andy ‘Reginald’ Dinh, who owns the organisation Team SoloMid, has evolved the culture in gaming into a business model after setting up a first-of-its-kind website and services. Early this year, the SoloMid Corporation has agreed to terms of a pending contractual agreement that will see it receive $25 million in investment from Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners, skyrocketing its value.

Only recently, Nike announced that will partner with the League of Legends Pro League (LPL) to become the official apparel and footwear partner of the league. The China-based league will be provided apparel and footwear for all 16 teams. As part of the agreement, Nike will continue to explore new ways to serve eSports athletes through research and customized physical training programs. LPL athletes will be equipped with an all-new team kit ahead of the 2019 World Championships.

Nike also signed its first ever endorsement deal with an eSports athlete through a partnership with Chinese League of Legends player Jian ‘Uzi’ Zihao. The collaboration will see Zihao, who represents the Royal Never Give Up (RNG) as their AD Carry, star alongside NBA’s LeBron James to promote the ‘Dribble &’ marketing campaign to support his upcoming ‘Shut up and dribble’ Showtime series.

RNG in recent times has been one of the more marketable teams, striking deals with German automobile manufacturers Mercedes-Benz as well as global fast-food chain KFC.

The eSports hype train has gotten so much attention that professional sports teams and celebrities have started aligning themselves or signing major teams under their parent club.

Former Los Angeles Lakers small forward Rick Fox, who won three titles with the purple and gold, is the owner of Echo Fox, after buying out Gravity Gaming in 2015. The team has since much success in League of Legends among other competitive games to warrant an equity investment from the New York Yankees.

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Image by Rick Fox

Currently, in the North American League of Legends Championship series, four teams are affiliated or linked to an NBA team. Golden State Warriors with the Golden Guardians, Houston Rockets with Clutch Gaming, Cleveland Cavaliers with 100 Thieves and Milwaukee Bucks with FlyQuest.

Football team Paris St Germain who has immense success in the Ligue 1 Conforama after winning the league five times in the last six season, also boast an eSports team of similar traits. DoTA 2’s PSG.LGD is currently at the time of writing, ranked first in the world despite their loss in The International 8 which saw them come second after a five-match thriller finals against OG eSports.

Singapore has some home-grown talents which took the initial leap to professional gaming, namely Daryl “iceiceice” Koh, Wong “Chawy” Xing Lei, and Ho ‘Xian’ Kun Xian. Locally, we already have an eSports academy (SCOGA) as well as a Diploma offered for eSports and game-design.

iceiceice is a familiar name in the DoTA 2 scene after stints with Vici Gaming and Mineski, bagging over $1.3 million dollars in earnings through his 11-year career.

Chawy was the first Singaporean League of Legends player to move overseas to develop as a player and since has matured his career path to take on the mantle as coach of a professional team.

Xian however, put eSports on the map for Singapore. He might have earned a little less than $100,000 throughout his life, but the professional fighting games player won the Super Street Fighter IV at EVO 2013, equivalent to the World Cup of fighting games. That major win cemented him as one of the greatest of all time and gained national recognition, also earning him a salaried contract with Razer.

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Image by Mark Teo

Playing video games potentially earns more than a regular 9-5 desk job? Sign me up.




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