According to a report by statistics firm Newzoo, global revenue generated from eSports in 2017 hit US$655 million (S$858.6 million), a 33% year-over-year growth from 2016.
The report also predicted a 14% year-over-year audience growth rate over the next few years, eventually reaching over 500 million occasional viewers by 2021.
Over 50% of eSports enthusiasts in 2018 were also projected to come from Asia-Pacific.
In Singapore, we’ve also seen an increasing interest in eSports – in fact, it’s estimated that there are around 500,000 gamers here, and that number is growing.
2018 also marks the year that we’re going to be the host of the first-ever inaugural ASEAN eSports tournament.
Announced by Minister Baey Yam Keng (Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth) in Parliament, the tournament will be held over the first weekend in August, as part of the SHINE Festival for Youth and GetActive! Singapore.
As a highly popular and trending activity among youth, eSports has tremendous potential, as an innovative means of engagement, to connect ASEAN youth through shared experiences of competition, sportsmanship and fun.
However, while countries like China, South Korea, United States, and Sweden have topped the list for earnings from eSports, Singapore is still seen to have some way to go before being seen as an eSports ‘superpower’.
But one team has just proven that Singapore’s potential in eSports should not be overlooked.
Singapore’s First-Ever Gold Medal For An eSports Team
The three-man Singapore team beat out crowd favourites like South Korea, China, and Thailand to clinch the gold medal and US$108,000 cash.
With its victory, Team Flash will be representing Singapore at the FIFA E-World cup later in June, which will have a prize pool of at least US$300,000.
Team Singapore was represented by Amraan Gani “Amraan” Musa Bakar (23), Joseph “Zarate” Yeo (24) and China’s FIFA eSports player of the year, Si Jun “WeyuwenC” Li (26).
If you’re wondering why there’s a Chinese player in the mix, it’s because new rules this season allowed one foreign player on each team, and Team Flash recruited Li into the Singapore lineup.
“It felt surreal winning the entire tournament for Singapore,” shared Amraan.
With success in this competition, it shows that Singapore can challenge the best in the world.
Singapore’s previous best-placed finish at EACC was in 2016, when the team won 3rd place and US$60,000 in cash.
The Bright Future Of eSports In SEA
We talked to Terence Ting, founder of Team Flash, and found out more about how team members are being groomed into professionals, and literally playing games for living.
There are 11 full-time pro gamers employed by Team Flash – are they paid salaries and have HR benefits like employees in other industries?
Yes, we pay them monthly salaries that are in line with the current market standards set in eSports.
They also get the huge benefit of a full-time, 24/7 training incubator – where they eat, sleep and train with a regimented schedule.
This ensures that we remain competitive and continue to develop our gamers holistically.
We also make sure our players are insured before they travel, and are looking to up the ante of benefits in the long-term.
They are also granted at least 7 days of annual leave a year, usually with 1 off-day a week where they are allowed to visit friends and family.
Which countries are these full-time gamers from, and what games do they play?
Currently, we have invested into two eSports incubators where our athletes are allowed to develop into full-time professionals.
Our incubators are currently based in Vietnam (Hanoi) and Malaysia (Johor Bahru), with 6 full-time players in Vietnam for Arena of Valor and 5 full-time players in Malaysia for Dota 2.
What about those who aren’t employed by Team Flash? How do their contracts work?
A good example would be our FIFA team, who currently resides in Singapore but is not required to train under a daily regiment.
Instead, we focus on bootcamping before major tournaments in our Malaysian incubator.
We also pay them a monthly salary, but the market conditions are different as Singapore eSports is early stage and still taking off. This was also why we decided to invest into the SEA region as a whole to increase exposure and opportunities.
That said, we will continue to look into full-time opportunities for our part-time players – who are also contracted to Team Flash albeit with different levels of commitment and set of obligations.
This is also based on the road-map we draw up with our individual athletes on where they want to go, and how we can take them there in terms of talent management.
What’s an average day like for a Team Flash gamer?
We usually plan an early schedule for our gamers unless there is late night training and tournaments the day before.
Our Malaysian and Vietnam teams have slightly different schedules, but it is typically a minimum of 3 arranged matches a day (or what we call Scrims) with other competitive teams throughout Asia.
We also schedule regular exercise for the team, to ensure we have a balanced and healthy regiment.
How are the gamers recruited?
Unfortunately we do not have any open applications at the moment. However, we are looking at more ways we can engage the community, especially at grassroots level.
We do not rule out having an open try-out one day, or what is more popularly known as a Sports Combine in the NBA leagues.
We first narrow it down to the individual eSports market/s which we are interested in, and then look for the top 5% of gamers in that particular vertical.
From there, we conduct comprehensive market research before selecting our shortlisted athletes – eventually doing a series of interviews to ensure they are the right fit for our organisation both values and skill wise.
Once they have passed this due diligence process, we proceed to sign them onto our organisation which can range anywhere from 6 months to 1 year.
In the future, we are also looking at working with our best athletes over a longer period – potentially stretching 2 to 4 years for our best athletes.
Are there special qualities that you look out for when recruiting?
Firstly, we gravitate towards players who have that fierce desire to compete and win.
They won’t settle for anything less than first, and that’s the mindset of a winner which we love.
Having the baseline level of talent is important, but a winner’s mentality ensures that our athletes will go further than the rest of the competition.
Secondly, we look for a team player who is willing to sacrifice individual success for the greater good of the team.
Like they say in football, what matters most is not the name at the back, but the team and country you are representing at the front of the jersey.
Hence, we branded ourselves as Team Flash and the reason why we put the team before anything else.
Lastly, we value integrity as the foundation of our work, and it is the same for our gamers.
Without integrity, nothing works.
What’s next for Team Flash?
We have several big milestones coming up in 2018.
From a competitive standpoint, we are having a great season so far with our latest gold medal for Singapore top of the list.
Our next target would be qualifying for the Arena of Valor World Cup in Los Angeles later this year, with our mobile gaming team currently the best in Vietnam and ranked top 4 in the world.
From a business perspective, we are also looking to raise our first investment round later this year and are currently talking to a few institutional funds.
Even though we look like a huge organisation having invested in our athletes and operations, my co-founder Samson Oh and I are still largely boot-strapping until we raise more money and expand our teams. We also have some huge partnerships to announce at the end of this month!
What do you wish for with Team Flash’s victory?
We hope to not only inspire gamers throughout Singapore and Southeast Asia, but anyone who has a dream to go after it relentlessly.
We also want to prove that eSports can be a viable career path today – be it as a professional gamer, content creator, team manager, YouTube streamer, and so on.
This will set the path for generations to follow in the future, especially with the increasing popularity of gaming on a global level.
We also want to provide a safe entry for brands who are looking to invest more marketing dollars into Southeast Asia’s eSports scene.