Asian influence on esports business set to explode as new players come on board

ESPORTS: The scheduled launch of DreamHack Mumbai in December, at the same time as other regional tournaments like WESG (pictured) in China are expanding, sees Asia carve out a distinctive place on the global esports landscape.

DreamHack, a competitive-gaming events organiser belonging to Nordic media-and-entertainment conglomerate MTG (on the NASDAQ Nordic stock exchange), has so far focused its popular tournaments in Western Europe and North America.

DreamHack Mumbai, which takes place during 21-23 December, looks set to be the first major DreamHack esports competition in Asia.

DreamHack is licensing the event to Viacom18, the India-based joint venture of NASDAQ-listed US media giant Viacom and Indian broadcast-TV corporation Network18 Media & Investments, which trades on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India.

Viacom18 has joined forces with Nodwin Gaming, the Indian esports-events specialist and subsidiary of games publisher Nazara Technologies, to host the inaugural DreamHack Mumbai.

The involvement of a broadcast-TV venture like Viacom18 signals the potential advances being made to take esports to a mainstream audience in India.

And India is not the only Asian market embracing esports as decision makers will learn at industry events like Asia Esports Forum, which is taking place in Taiwan’s capital Taipei in November.

Its speakers include Asia-based senior executives from Riot Games and Philippines-based Mineski. Also scheduled to participate will be ESL Gaming, Alisports and investment firms Ambrasia Group, Pinnacle, Sustainergy Capital, and Guinevere Capital Esports & Entertainment.

Early this year, Japan moved to relax its ultra-strict gambling rules that had made it almost impossible for gamers in a country famous for its video-games innovation to go professional in esports.

Japan’s Nintendo, the firm that created the iconic Pokémon, Mario and The Legend of Zelda video games and the popular Nintendo line of consoles, is reported to be incorporating esports into its future strategy.

Japanese broadcaster Nippon TV has launched AX Entertainment, a dedicated esports division that includes AXIZ, its first esports team, and eGG (Esports Good Game), its first esports TV show.

Like Viacom, Nippon is another TV venture set to make esports, which started decades ago as an underground pastime for fanatical gamers, mass-market friendly.

Another move to expand esports into the field of general entertainment in Asia was taken by Riot Games, maker of the hit League of Legends multiplayer online game and a pioneering esports organisation, in August.

It joined forces with youth-centric TV network MTV Asia (part of the Viacom empire) to launch Hyperplay, a Singapore-based festival that melded an esports tournament with live concerts. Guest of honour Teo Chee Hean, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, officially opened the event. And the music acts performing included Korean star CL (pictured, left) and Singapore band The Sam Willows (pictured, below).

In China, Alisports, a subsidiary of e-commerce goliath Alibaba Group Holding (New York Stock Exchange), operates WESG, the country’s biggest competitive-gaming tournament. And it is expanding internationally.

Streaming platform Huya Inc (NYSE), private conglomerate Nenking Group, and NASDAQ-listed video-sharing platform Bilibili are all Chinese companies that have paid for franchises in the Overwatch League, the esports tournament belonging to video-games publisher Blizzard Entertainment. Blizzard is a subsidiary of US video-games publisher Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ).

In addition, the popularity of mobile esports (played on smartphones as opposed to desktop computers) in Asia has seen the region’s leading smartphone manufacturers create dedicated esports versions. The phone makers include Singapore’s Razer Inc., Guangdong-based ZTE Corporation and Beijing-based Xiaomi Corporation (Stock Exchange of Hong Kong).

These developments show how Asia is spearheading major elements within the international esports market.

The whole world is waiting to see if the legacy-sports sector will truly adopt this potential new child known as esports, as several investors in competitive gaming are from the worlds of football, motor racing, basketball and other traditional sports.

But the real endorsement could be coming from the International Olympic Games (IOC), the governing body that has used broadcast TV to take the Olympic Games’ established sports into the world’s estimated 1.6 billion TV homes.

Esports was a demonstration event launched with this year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea’s PyeongChang. Computer-chips giant Intel, a top-level Olympics sponsor, brought its Intel Extreme Masters esports competition to the Games.

Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn (pictured, below), the only female competitor to qualify for the tournament, won.

The 2018 Asian Games (organised by the Olympic Council of Asia and held in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia) also hosted a demonstration esports gig in preparation for possibly making competitive esports a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games.

Research group Newzoo describes Southeast Asia as esports’ fastest-growing region, with more than 9.5 million esports enthusiasts. That number is forecast to double by 2019

Asia is obviously one of the places to watch in the predicted explosion of esports as a global business.

MediaTainment Finance is a media partner of Asia Esports Forum.