THIS could be the year esports and gaming go from novelty to mainstream success.
Although the industry is still in its infancy here in Malaysia, its impressive growth has caught the attention of both the corporate and public sectors.
Two of the largest media companies in the country — Media Prima Bhd and Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd — have already signalled their interest in esports, which, given the backing of traditional mainstream media along with a planned national league, could yield significant returns.
“We think it’s one of the fastest-growing segments in Malaysia,” Media Prima Digital CEO Rafiq Razali tells The Edge in an exclusive interview.
“We view it as a form of lifestyle sports, on a par with other lifestyle sports in the market at the moment. We’ve seen quite good traction based on what we have done over the past 12 months or so. The numbers that we have seen are very encouraging.”
Astro chief of sports Lee Choong Kay believes Malaysia can replicate the level of esports success seen in Japan, South Korea, China, Europe and even the US.
He highlights the year-on-year increase in global viewers, revenue, tournament prize pool and live event spectators in an email interview.
“Global audience, for example, grew almost 14% year on year to about 400 million last year and is estimated to increase to over 550 million in 2021.
Another huge success was the 2018 Kuala Lumpur Major. A Dota 2 tournament hosted by eGG Network in partnership with international esports companies, it saw Stadium Axiata Arena filled for three days with fans happy to camp there for hours on end, easily exceeding 12 hours a day. That the merchandise was sold out is yet another telling point.
Even so, a number of gaming analysts are very circumspect, concerned that the industry has peaked as video game revenue appears to be headed for its first decline since 1995.