Raising the bar for eSports

  • Massive fan base, international competitions with rich prize pools raise the profile of eSports
  • Possibility of eSports being recognised as an Olympic sport


Raising the bar for eSports


MALAYSIA has aspirations to raise its eSports game to even greater heights. But in order to achieve this, it needs to develop the local scene and nurture the best players.

“It is not so strange to find people playing games these days. In fact, there are as many as 14 million gamers in Malaysia, that makes it four out of ten Malaysians calling themselves gamers,” explained Esports Malaysia (ESM) secretary general Rinie Ramli (pic, above).

 On a broader scale, there are 108 million gamers in Southeast Asia, making it a sizable market. It also helps that international eSports tournaments like Dota 2’s The International have gained prominence in recent years.

To put in perspective just how big eSports is, the prize pool from last year’s The International was a whopping US$20 million. That is two times the prize pool of the biggest golf tournament in the world, The Masters.

eSports has a ready audience of gamers and non-gamers who are passionate. In matured eSports markets like South Korea, the League of Legends world championship sold out an Olympic-sized stadium of 20,000 seats in just half an hour.

Malaysia, let alone South-east Asia, is of course not at that stage of maturity but steps are being taken to nurture the market and the professional gamers who play.

“We are now experiencing the second generation of eSports which is being led by games like Dota 2 which has raised awareness all over the world about the sport,” said Rinie, detailing eSports’ journey from the early 2000s as a niche sport played in cyber cafes to the stadium filling phenomenon that it is today.

A former professional gamer himself, Rinie played FIFA professionally and even represented Malaysia at the world level in the World Cyber Games between 2003 to 2013.

Today eSports is officially recognised by the Malaysian government as a form of sport thanks to associations like Esports Malaysia. The local eSports scene is also buzzing, with tournaments being held almost every other week.

It helps that big tournament are also making their way into Malaysia. The recently concluded ESL One in Genting was one such international tournament that made waves in the local eSports scene.

Malaysia’s team Fnatic also helped raised awareness of the sport when they placed fourth at The International 2016, bagging a princely sum of US$1.4 million.

Raising your game

From the sound of it, being a professional eSports player is the best job in the world. After all, who doesn’t want to play games all day long, travel to faraway locations for tournaments and win prizes?

Speaking during the KDU Gaming Symposium at its Ultropolis campus, Rinie shed some light on what it takes to be a professional eSports gamer.

Rinie speaks from experience, having been a professional gamer himself playing and representing Malaysia in the game FIFA, from 2003 until his retirement in 2013.

“To be a professional gamer means you need to change your lifestyle. It is something that is similar to a sports athlete though the methods may be different. You still need to live a disciplined life, devoting hours of your time to perfecting your skills,” he said.

Probably, the scariest part of being a professional gamer is how risky it is betting your time and money to train to be the best. There would be thousands of players who devote their time to train but only one will emerge as the champion.

“It is definitely not a career choice that is for everyone. I have seen those who lost tournaments break down and some choose early retirement because it really is that difficult,” he said.

The journey to be a champion is really not that easy said Rinie, explaining how it took him four years just to win his first tournament.

The good news is, that with the growth of eSports, the massive prize pool trickles down not just to the top three players or teams but even those who place 16th. While that’s good news for players, peoplewill only remember the top team and the rest of the pack, so players still need to perform their best.

Rinie talked of how ESM is in talks with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to recognise eSports as an Olympic event.

If that becomes a reality, it would take professional gaming to a whole different level.

While professional gamers may not be the most physically fit, they have the mentality of an athlete. Perhaps within five to ten years, being a professional gamer may not be that uncommon after all.


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