Looking into the growth of Singapore's esports industry

The Singapore esports industry is catching up with the rest of the world.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the esports industry has slowly been rising amidst technology shifts. Mobile apps and competitive games have also been present amongst their target audience.

Market intelligence firm Niko Partners has noted that the esports revenue in Asia reached US$519m in 2019, which is nearly half of the global esports revenue in the same year, whilst Mobile esports games in Asia generated US$13.3b, comprising 68% of global mobile esports games revenue.

Singapore has also produced esports professionals that made an impact worldwide, including DOTA 2 player Daryl “iceiceice” Koh, who has earned over $1.5m from tournaments.

With the circuit breaker and travel restrictions barring movements the previous year, the esports industry has seen a rapid boom as people rely more on leisure and entertainment.

Esports talent management agency EMERGE Esports aims to build up on this development, as they establish their reach across Southeast Asia.

Chief Gaming Officer Pang Xue Jie, who is also a former world-renowned table tennis athlete, noted that whilst the esports industry in Singapore is currently small, it is growing and playing catch up with the rest of the world.

“There’s actually much more support from the government, more support from non-endemic brands,” he said.

Amongst the support provided are avenues for esports organisations to hold their festivals, advertisements, and other initiatives to open opportunities for local players who want to pursue esports as a profession.

The recent Mobile Legends: Bang Bang M2 World Championship, which featured two teams from Singapore, was hosted by the country with the support of the Singapore Tourism Board. The prize for the winner was over $400,000.

Pang also mentioned some issues that hinder the growth of the esports industry in Singapore, including making a living out of the profession, the “traditional Asian mindset,” and stigma on gaming and esports in general.

One of EMERGE Esports' key focus is ensuring that its talents make a sustainable career out of esports, even when talents get to a certain age or eventually retire.

“We're trying to prove that esports can be a sustainable career, even after your competitive base,” Pang said.

With the esports industry slowly gaining momentum in Singapore, Pang mentioned that there are more organisations like EMERGE Esports being established given the abundance of talents in the country.

“What we are trying to do is, we're trying to cultivate and see if we are able to produce the next superstar from Singapore, and I believe the Singapore esports industry can do it, it’s a matter of when,” Pang said. “We’re trying to help speed up that whole process of providing all the backend support that we can for all the talents.”

Whilst the esports and gaming industry are making waves across Singapore and the world, many organisations like EMERGE Esports continue to provide opportunities not just for esports athletes, but also for other professionals in the realm.

Moreover, a vital part of putting the esports industry on the map is through advertisements and sponsorships with brands, and it comes with educating them on esports, as well as how it can boost businesses.

EMERGE Esports Chief Executive Officer Roy Kek mentioned that the organisation mainly focuses on the management of esports personalities, competitive teams, and esports leagues.

He added that compared to the traditional sports entertainment industry, there is a lack of agencies for esports, which they aim to fill.

Whilst most brands recognise that esports is an up and coming industry, they still face certain difficulties. Kek shared that his team is trying to work with brands closely and advise them depending on their marketing objectives and goals.

“Based on that, we accurately identify based on a wide array of advertising inventories in esports which is the one that is most suitable for them, because there is not one size fits all marketing strategies,” Kek said.

Meanwhile, Pang mentioned that EMERGE Esports offers mentorship programs for those who are looking to start their career in esports, with their in-house talents sharing insights and experiences. He said that joining the organisation is a half-half investment, especially for those who are having difficulty in building a career in esports.

“This is how we actually wait for our partners to ensure that they can feel our sincerity and they are also equally motivated to also push themselves to the next level,” Pang said.

Gaming has evolved beyond being a hobby, as more and more people consider it as a viable career option. The esports industry is expected to grow more going forward, and many brands are becoming more enticed with its rising popularity.

Market research firm Newzoo described that global esports revenues in 2020 are expected to grow to US$1.1b, a 15.7% YoY growth from the previous year. Nearly 75% of these revenues will come from media rights and sponsorships.

Moreover, the research also mentioned that amongst the esports markets, Southeast Asia will be showing one of the highest compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2018 to 2023 with 24% CAGR.

As such, EMERGE Esports have a positive outlook for the esports industry moving forward. Kek emphasised that the organisation is always open to collaborate and discuss possible synergies not just with talents, but with brands as well.

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