Here’s Your Noob-Friendly Guide To Watching The RM2.72 Billion E-Sports Industry
Dale John Wong
The e-sports scene can be unfriendly to new spectators.
For beginners (especially in Malaysia), games to look out for include Dota 2, CS:GO, Overwatch, and PUBG. Most e-sports tournaments can be watched online on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming.
Malaysia has a strong local contingent of cyberathletes, especially in Dota 2.
With each passing day, the e-sports industry continues to grow at a pace unmatched by any other spectator sport; while the scene may still be dwarfed by the likes of football, basketball, and tennis, none of these are expected to nearly double their revenue within the next two years.
E-sports is currently valued at around US$700 million (around RM2.72 billion), and is on target to double that amount to US$1.5 billion by 2020.
For those already familiar with the scene, these numbers and figures are unsurprising. Massive gaming tournaments with multimillion dollar prize pools and global appeal have been around for a good half decade at least, and it is only expected that such tournaments will continue to grow in scale and reach as time passes.
But for the uninitiated, being introduced to the world of e-sports can be akin to diving headlong into rocket science. With so many things to consider, we’ve come up with a list of things to consider for those of you looking to begin watching e-sports—with a Malaysian edge, of course.
1. The Games
The e-sports scene at its current stage is a huge jumble of individual game titles with their own respective tournaments, much like how football is separate from basketball, rugby, and so on and so forth.
For the beginner, things can get confusing. But if you’re trying to get your feet wet, consider starting off with these games:
Dota 2: As possibly Malaysia’s number one competitive videogame both watched and played, Dota 2 is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game with a top-down view that pits two teams of five against each other on a map.
Both teams are given the objective to destroy a structure that is located in the heart of the opponents’ base, and whoever completes this objective first wins.
Similar Titles: League Of Legends, Smite, Heroes Of The Storm.Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO): A First Person Shooter (FPS) with a huge e-sports pedigree, CSGO pits two teams of five against each other, with one team given an objective to complete, and the opposing team tasked to prevent that from happening.
Guns, bombs, and knives abound, and games try to mimic real-world terrorist and counter-terrorist engagements such as bomb threats and hostage situations. From a spectator standpoint, CS:GO is one of the more accessible e-sports titles to enter due to its straightforward gameplay and mechanics.
Similar Titles: Call of Duty, Halo.Overwatch: Another FPS title, Overwatch adds a role-playing element to its gameplay mechanics. Similar to CS:GO, Overwatch pits two teams against each other with one given an objective to complete, and the other to try and prevent them from doing so.
However, in Overwatch, player roles are far more specialised, with each player taking control of a character with unique abilities.
This imbues the traditional gameplay mechanics of the FPS with a bit of a tactical nuance found in MOBAs. With a proper league system in place, Overwatch is one of a few e-sports titles to implement a fully regulated competitive season much like other sports like the NBA for basketball and the BPL for football.
Similar Titles: Paladins.PUBG: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (or PUBG for short) is a newer title that brands itself as a Battle Royale game. Exactly 100 players are dropped into a vast map to fight it out with guns, knives, bombs, and various other military paraphernalia to see who can be the last one standing (or in the case of e-sports, last team of four).
The gameplay is as simple as it sounds, and the genre has gained a significant following since its beta release in 2017.
Similar Titles: Fortnite.
Honorary mentions go to arcade-style fighting games such as Street Fighter V, Tekken 7 and Smash Bros, sports games such as FIFA 18, and competitive virtual card games such as Hearthstone and Gwent.
2. Where Can I Watch?
With the exception of Chinese-language broadcast services, Twitch is by far the most popular broadcast platform when it comes to videogames and e-sports, and the one we recommend looking into.
Having established themselves as the go-to streaming service, Twitch now broadcasts tournaments for games including Dota 2, CS:GO, and League Of Legends.
Other alternatives to Twitch include YouTube Gaming, Facebook Live, Smashcast and the multitude of Chinese-language streaming platforms such as Huomao TV and Douyu.
Local audiences who are subscribed to Astro also have the option to watch on the MEASAT-owned eGG Network—a channel dedicated to the coverage of e-sports that also serves other countries in the SEA region.
3. Who To Support?
As a Dota 2-loving nation, it’s no surprise that our presence in e-sports also features heavily in that game, with personalities such as Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung, Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng, and Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin all having already made a name for themselves globally.
It’s worth noting however, that the volatile nature of team and player contracts (unlike strict regulations in football and basketball) means that teammates are seldom together for extended periods of time, and that teams with a full roster of individuals from the same country are not too common.
We often see various teams switching players in between tournaments all in an attempt to get the perfect fit and team chemistry.
Due to the unpredictability of it all, newer spectators should be wary of their favourite players leaving their favourite teams at a moment’s notice should things not be going smoothly in the results department.
Currently Malaysians who are looking for a team to root for should consider backing teams such as Mineski (featuring Malaysia’s Mushi and Moon) in Dota 2 and Fire Dragoon (an all-Malaysian team) in CS:GO.
4. What Tournaments Should I Focus On?
Unlike traditional sports, the e-sports pro scene sees a yearly cycle of various tournaments that are mostly unstructured and scattered throughout, save for only the largest and most lucrative events of the year, such as Dota 2’s The International and League Of Legend’s World Championships.
What this means is that most of the smaller tournaments surrounding the larger ones are usually planned on a seasonal basis. Unlike football with its various leagues that have fixed seasons with set start and end dates, most e-sports tournaments are only announced months in advance, meaning that no tournament is guaranteed to happen yearly except for the biggest ones mentioned previously.
So for Malaysians in particular, the best way to know if a tournament is happening within our locale is to stay close to e-sports news sources (see the next point).
*Two e-sports tournament on an international scale that took place in Malaysia was the recently concluded ESL One Genting, where China’s Newbee secured the grand prize, and the Malaysia Cyber Games 2018 that took place at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur. And in August this year, e-sports will be featured at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta as a demonstration run before becoming a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games in China.
5. I Want To Go Deeper
A number of online resources are available for those looking to delve deeper into the e-sports scene include:
Gosugamers.com: An online portal for e-sports news and tournament scores and schedules that covers various popular titles including Dota 2, Starcraft 2, and PUBG.
Liquipedia: A Wikipedia for e-sports that details various team and player profiles, and tournament formats for various titles.
The Score: An e-sports news portal that also has its own smartphone app with a score-ticker so you can keep track of your favourite teams, players, and tournaments as they happen.
Reddit Esports: The official Reddit e-sports discussion thread where topics regarding the industry as a whole are discussed. There are also focused Subreddits for specific titles should you want to focus on just one game in particular (such as Dota 2, League of Legends, and Overwatch).
There are many more online resources dedicated to the coverage of e-sports, but for now, the few mentioned above will hold you in good stead.
The world of e-sports is a tricky landscape to negotiate, what with all its various titles, terminologies and other intricacies. But we hope that this short guide will at least help you find your footing, and ultimately help you on your way to discovering a new form of entertainment that is ultimately fun and rewarding, should you decide to stick with it.