Electronic sports, better known as eSports, are hugely popular around the world. Gaining traction among investors are actual teams. Scheduled to be featured as a demonstration sport at the Asian Games in 2018, could it be included as a medal sport at the next Olympics?
As the popularity of eSports grows significantly, enthusiasts are hoping to be recognised professionally, build solid teams and possibly be considered an official medal event at future Olympic games. Although there has been controversy over eSports being classified a sport on the same scale as traditional competitive sports, the industry is starting to receive international recognition and build its own ecosystem.
Recently, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) announced that it would showcase eSports as a demonstration sport at the upcoming Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta and will be included as a medal sport at the Asian Games 2022 in Hangzhou, China.
The Indonesian government and tech companies here support the development of eSports. President Joko Widodo has said he would like to eSports to be included as an option in vocational education in the future.
Indonesia’s eSports teams, such as Recca eSport, BOOM ID, and team NXL often win championships and tournaments both nationally and at the international level. Several Indonesian eSports athletes are registered with the ieSPA (Indonesia eSport Association) which is currently still based on the organisation, FORMI (Federasi Olahraga Masyarakat Indonesia). Despite eSport still developing in the country, ieSPA is committed to enhancing local players’ ability and skill to grow the eSports industry in the region.
In the United States and in many European countries, eSport athletes are recognised professionally and are often well-paid. According to the recent studies “Virtual(ly) Athletes: Where eSports Fit Within the Deﬁnition of Sports (2016) by R. Douglas Manning, Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh was the ﬁrst university to recognise eSports as a varsity/collegiate sport supported by the athletics department and oﬀer gaming scholarships up to USD 500,000.
Unlike conventional athletes, eSports does not have strict physical standards, allowing anyone to join the competition including people with disabilities. However, athletes are known to undertake mental and physical training in order to successfully manage their on-screen avatar.
Esports athletes see themselves as professionals and rely on skills, knowledge, and strategic thinking to be able to win the game. Even though players are seated, they need to be mentally and physically prepared for the games’ challenges.
Happy Walters of Catalyst Sports & Media and Chad Faulkner of Sports Academy say that athletes’ physical health is vital and have put together a training regimen crafted specifically for their needs. Players need to have a strong core, perfect posture, hand-eye coordination, and strong forearms, hands, wrists and fingers. Additionally, professional gamers should perform cardiovascular exercises, focus on nutrition and undertake cryotherapy treatments.
Team Red Bull eSports also provides training for their athletes in a manner similar to traditional athletes through the Red Bull high performance bootcamp, which is based on four pillars - Nutrition, Recovery, Psychological and Physical well-being.
The Promised Land
In Indonesia, around 43.7 million gamers spend USD 880 million to play games, placing the country 16th among those with the biggest revenue from the world’s largest game. On an international level, Asia and North America are the biggest contributors to the eSports market revenue in 2017, with a total of USD 798 million.
According to the statistics portal Statista, the eSports market revenue is predicted to reach USD 1,650 million worldwide in 2021 (USD 655 million in 2017). Last year, Riot Games “League of Legends” was a leader based on 100 million eSports players, including female gamers. Esports is indeed profitable not only for the industry but also for individual players such as American professional Dota 2 player Saahil Arora. Arora is also well known as “UNiVeRsE” and broke records in his gaming career by earning USD 2.72 million.
The most popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games such as “Defense of the Ancients” (DOTA), and “Warcraft” have several online players worldwide, and have contributed to the surge in the eSports industry. Players can now find established teams, team owners and big team sponsors—and advertisers.
Game developers release new games and update real-time strategy (RTS) games to trigger the different competitions such as Breakaway and Quake Champion which are expected to make headlines in eSports circles. The smartphone game Mobile Legends has helped the mobile phone industry as well as the hardware companies which have benefited from PC based eSport games.
The game publishers also collaborate with media outlets to provide information related to upcoming tournaments and latest news. South Korea, Japan and China are expected to build a stadium just for eSports games.
A variety of tournaments broadly extend the industry to competition with prize money—often up to USD 2 Million in Dota 2— is motivation enough for gamers to become professional eSports players. Similar to the conventional sports teams such as football’s Real Madrid and Manchester United, eSports creates multiple benefits for industry titans and fans, as marketing teams work on monetising new forms of tech-based competitive gaming.
eSports’ popularity can be seen from team merchandise, as well as in the investment by venture capitalists. Numerous tournaments are held in the country, including GESC Indonesia Minor 2018, MPL Mobile Legends, CS: GO, and Electronic Sport League (ESL) Indonesia Overwatch League players earn at least USD 50,000 a year, and as of now Dota 2 League is valued at almost USD 24 million.
This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine April 2018 issue “Money and Finance”. Available at selected bookstore or SUBSCRIBE here.