I must start the piece by admitting that we’ll need better naming conventions in the future when it comes to esports teams, otherwise everyone will get confused.
Team Malaysia is Malaysia’s official Overwatch Team. For comparison, Thailand’s Overwatch Team is called Thaitans, which is a name that actually stands out.
The team was originally going to represent Malaysia in the Overwatch World Cup 2019 (OWWC19), on the 1st and 2nd of November at Anaheim, California, prior to their withdrawal.
Overwatch, for those unaware, is one of the most popular team-based First Person Shooter games of this generation, developed by Blizzard.
We managed to ask Team Malaysia’s General Manager, Kenn Leandre, a few questions on what led to the team’s withdrawal from the competition.
On Team Malaysia’s Twitter, they cited a lack of funding as their main reason for their withdrawal. Kenn told us that the team needed to secure at least RM120,000 to travel to California for the competition.
In the original announcement, he mentioned they were also unable to raise sufficient funds from relevant parties. Their requests for help to national companies fell on deaf ears too.
Money Talks, Even In The World Of Games
After the announcement, Syed Saddiq took to Twitter to calm down disappointed netizens. Back in 2018, it was announced that Malaysia’s esports would be allocated RM10 million from Budget 2019.
On Tuesday, the minister tweeted that RM60,000 had been allocated to the team for OWWC.
According to Kenn, the money will only be made available in November, which is unfortunately too late for the team to travel for the competition.
Kenn then said that KBS (Kementerian Belia dan Sukan Malaysia) agreed to pledge the money to next year’s competition and to cultivate the Overwatch esports community in Malaysia.
Other Avenues Explored
Kenn told us that they approached other potential sponsors such as MAS to sponsor the team’s flight to the competition, but they were turned down. They received the same response from local telcos and esports-centric hardware brands as well.
So, they decided to try an unexplored avenue of crowdfunding via merchandising.
Fans were able to purchase team jerseys to support the team. In the end, they managed to sell 70 jerseys and it netted them a decent sum, but it wasn’t enough to send the team overseas.
Kenn said that most of the money went back to operational costs, designers, and volunteers anyway.
About The Future Of Esports In Malaysia
When asked about the newly announced RM20 million allocation in Budget 2020 going to esports, he said: “The 20 million should go to the grassroots development rather than the proposed esports league, which I think is too soon. We don’t need an esports league. Even South Korea doesn’t have one.”
“There are many esports titles out there, but in Malaysia, the policymakers and governing bodies only focus on a handful—DotA, FIFA, CS:GO and MLBB, the ‘sexy’ titles—while neglecting the rest.”
He said if a bright talent were to emerge in a different game, they might not get the chance to hit it big because everyone is focused on popular games.
He also wants to see a self-sustaining esports ecosystem that not only caters the players, but also the organisation, coaches, team managers, and so on.
For esports in the near future, he wants to see more policymakers made up of people who are interested in building up the esports scene.
He believes they should look away from extravagant plans such as an esports stadium and esports leagues, and instead look at long-term development such as proper community growth, grassroots and talent management.
As for what he would do in the future as the General Manager for the team, he said: “To start each of my conversations with every sponsor with ‘the deadline of when the funds should be released is XXXXXX in the future!’”
Personally, I think there was just some lack of readiness, not only from the management but also from the government.
The KBS was quite gung-ho about esports, yet couldn’t fund a team to tackle an international competition. We had RM10 million budgeted for esports, so surely RM120,000 out of the budget could have been given to the team.
However, we aren’t the only unlucky ones. Other national teams have also pulled out of the competition due to lack of funding. It was just a shame to not see Malaysia in action in an international competition.
With proper funding, I can’t wait to see the esports scene in Malaysia grow. I’d like to witness more local esports athletes on the world stage in the future.