STATISTICS by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation show there are 14 million gamers in the country – close to half the population, an indication that many e-sports talents are waiting to be discovered.
According to ESports Malaysia (ESM) president Datuk Ananth S. Nathan, the inclusion of e-sports in the 2019 SEA Games is undoubtedly a step in the right direction as it will correct misconceptions about the sport.
To get the ball rolling, ESM recently organised a pre-boot camp to select potential medal- winning prospects as preparations for the Games goes into high gear.
Teams have around three months to prepare for the Games which takes place in the Philippines from Nov 30 to Dec 11, and there will be six e-sports categories – Dota 2 (Defense Of The Ancients 2), Starcraft II, Hearth-stone, Tekken 7, Arena of Valor and Mobile Legends Bang Bang.
“During the pre-boot camp, we tried to select those who can really perform.
“The names of shortlisted teams or individuals will be submitted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia for approval. Once the candidates are approved, they will attend a boot camp, ” said Ananth.
ESM, he said, was targeting two gold for Dota 2 and Hearthstone, a silver for Tekken 7 and three bronze medals for the other categories.
“It is difficult to choose the best for the SEA Games as Malaysia has a lot of competitive gamers who are highly talented.
“Our players do well in both Dota 2 and Hearthstone, but we expect strong competition from the Philippines, especially in the former.
“After all, we will be playing with a slight handicap as the Filipinos are on home ground.
“Next would be Indonesia, but we have to be wary of other countries as well because they will be bringing their A-game to this competition, ” he told StarMetro in an interview after ESM’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM) held at the Youth and Sports Ministry in Putrajaya.
Team manager Firdaus Hashim said ESM had reached out to the managers of five professional Dota 2 players in hopes that they would participate in the Games.
“They are focusing on The Inter-national (TI) 9 Dota 2 tournament, which is being held this month.
“Our winning chances will be better if they agree to participate as we expect the team representing the Philippines will also rope in their professional players.”
TI is an annual Dota 2 world championship tournament, which is being held in Shanghai, China.
Firdaus said a team of five would represent Malaysia in each team game, namely Dota 2, Arena of Valor and Mobile Legends Bang Bang, while two people would represent the country in the remaining games.
Now that it has become a medal sport in the SEA Games, Ananth hoped this would make more people receptive to e-sports.
“The main challenge is the often negative perception of e-sports.
“At one point in time, parents thought sitting in front of the screen all the time was unhealthy.
“But now that it has been accepted in the SEA Games, this is no longer the case.
“It has now become one of the highest-paying professions in the world, ” he said, adding that this clearly distinguished e-sports and gaming.
Several e-sports tournaments have become multi-million dollar championships.
For example, TI9 has a current total prize pool of over US$33mil (RM138.27mil) and growing – making it one of the largest prize pools at a single e-sports event ever.
The champions will take away 45.5% of the total, amounting to about US$15mil (RM62.85mil).
Similarly, Starcraft 2 World Championship Series last year had a prize pool of US$700,000 (RM2.93mil)
Another e-sports tournament, the Fortnite World Cup, which took place from July 26 to 28, saw players vying for a share of the US$30mil prize pool.
“The pool prize is just one of the reasons people should consider e-sports as a valid career.
“E-sports athletes are just like other athletes who go through the same training regimen.
“We should embrace it as a
professional sport as athletes do not only spend time practising
but also follow a healthy lifestyle by exercising and ensuring they have proper nutrition, ” Ananth said.
During the EGM, a decision was made to rename the body to Malaysia eSports Federation (MESF), subject to approval by the Sports Commissioner
“MSEF will welcome all the state affiliates as members of the national body, ” said Ananth.
“We are moving aggressively on this to empower the federation to work effectively.
“Through MESF, we would be able to standardise guidelines that are different in each state.”
He added that the e-sports scene in South-East Asia would only become more competitive as a result of the SEA Games.
“Let the medals speak for themselves. As a Malaysian, I am confident that our athletes will win, ” he concluded.