- The Kuala Lumpur Major was the largest and most prestigious Dota 2 tournament to date.
- The tournament was organised by the Astro-owned eGG Network alongside international organisers PGL.
- We spoke with Astro’s Chief Of Sports Lee Choong Khay about bringing the tournament to Malaysia and the development of the esports scene locally.
For Malaysian fans of esports, the recent weekend was one for the history books. Over three days full of non-stop action and excitement, the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil played host to arguably the biggest esports event to ever be held on local soil.
The Kuala Lumpur Major hosted 16 teams from around the globe, and the main event that ended just last weekend saw encouraging response at the 16,000 capacity Axiata Arena, with Virtus Pro—the champions of the tournament—taking home a US$350,000 slice from the US$1 million total prize pool.
The tournament was hosted as a joint effort betwen Astro’s esports focused eGG Network and PGL—the Romanian organisers that also had a hand in organising the globally popular The International Dota 2 tournament and other major esports events around the world.
At the event, we had the opportunity to speak to Astro’s Chief of Sports Lee Choong Khay (also known as CK) about eGG Network’s journey from being a broadcaster of esports to becoming hosts of an internationally important esports event.
On Getting Into Esports
Starting with their origin story, CK revealed that Astro’s decision to tap into the esports segment came at a time where the team at their sports division noticed strong viewership and demand for competitive gaming.
They initially began airing esports events as additional content on their main sports channels, but following encouraging ratings from events like the League of Legends World Championships, they figured that it would be opportune for them to dedicate more resources to the rapidly growing segment and thus created the eGG Network.
“There was also so much content, and the hours in esports were very long,” he said. “And we found it challenging trying to schedule it on our regular sports channels.”
“So we thought why not create a dedicated channel for esports?”
At the same time, Astro also saw that regionally there was a gap—where there was demand for a dedicated esports content, there wasn’t a dedicated producer to match the need. Seeing this, they took advantage and have now ended up in eight different countries around the region including Australia, Singapore, and Brunei.
Then it was a natural progression from broadcasting esports content to actually organising events. Some notable events under their name including the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang SEA Cup, and the Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) Minor Championship Asia that had a US$200,000 prize pool.
Bringing In The Major
On organising the Kuala Lumpur Major, CK revealed that it was a very close relationship with The International organisers PGL that helped Malaysia secure the bid to bring it to local soil.
Having worked with them on multiple events prior to this one such as the Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) in Johor last year, the groundwork was already in place for the giant tournament to take place in Malaysia.
“It was always our aspiration to bring a Major to Kuala Lumpur, and finally it’s here,” CK said. “Having a big partnership with PGL was a big help, and it was also a big help to receive support from all these other companies (sponsors such as Acer Predator, Intel, Monster) who are like-minded in trying to grow the esports ecosystem together.”
“Of course, all this wouldn’t have been possible without the support and demand created by the fans.”
Then CK also attributed strong support from the government as a factor that played a part in making the KL Major a success.
“It helps that there are a few key members in the government that are also passionate about the esports scene,” he said. “They have provided us support directly and indirectly through connections and jurisdiction.”
“Even if not monetary, the help they’ve given us is valuable in a way that even money cannot buy.”
In attendance at the event was Minister of Youth and Sports Syed Saddiq—himself an ardent Dota fan—who addressed topics regarding the stability and viability of esports locally and encouraged all those in attendance to continue to be loud in the face of esports skeptics and naysayers.
“Esports brings money into Malaysia—it has a thriving multiracial community, and on top of that, the drive to love IT and advancement in technology and to look towards the future is also humongous,” said Syed Saddiq at the official event press conference.
“In the future, five to ten years from now, when the benefits become a lot clearer, the sceptics will be proven wrong and our efforts today will be realised.”
Planning For The Endgame
We also asked CK about his views on the growth of the scene and its prospects for the everyday Malaysian, and he explained that beyond looking at esports as something just for the players, there was also a glut of opportunities available for the rest of the community—in production, marketing, and even the creation of the games themselves.
Here he talked about ACE (the Alliance of Campus eSports), eGG’s initiative to spread esports awareness in colleges and universities around Malaysia and their many endeavours to help foster the growth of the scene at a grassroots level. These include workshops, tournaments, and other relevant activities that expose youngsters to the scene.
“There are many opportunities in esports throughout all the tiers of the scene, people who want to get into esports don’t only have to become players to do it,” he said. “At ACE, we educate people on things like casting, to production, to marketing—all around the ecosystem.”
“Even when we started eGG, we didn’t have the relevant skillsets,” he said. “But slowly we learned, and now we’re trying to transfer the skills and knowledge to others out there who want to have a career in esports, not necessarily as esports athletes, but in other positions in the ecosystem.”
Finally, CK also talked about elevating the esports scene in Malaysia and said that in order to reach the next level, it was vital that businesses and corporations provided their support to the still nascent industry by sponsoring tournaments, prize money, and showing an interest in developing the scene further
“We need a lot more support from corporate Malaysia,” he said. “Companies like Astro who believe and invest in esports—we need more like them to come in and help improve the ecosystem from a monetary perspective and a sporting perspective.”
- If you’re curious to know more about esports and how it all works, check out this beginner-friendly guide to watching competitive gaming.