One is a powerful leader of a Southeast Asian economic powerhouse of a nation. The other is one of the world’s most popular video games that has spawned a massive following and the largest prize pool in the esports industry.
Last Saturday, these two unlikely bedfellows met — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took a gander at ganking noobs in Dota 2.
The Singaporean premier dropped by Yio Chu Kang Community Club last Saturday to attend the inaugural Yio Game On event, where residents of all ages took part in the good ol’ art of playing games together. Aside from esports tournaments involving Mobile Legends and Clash Royale, a segment of the event was a Dota 2 beginner’s class run by Singapore’s Cybersports & Online Gaming Association (SCOGA) esports academy. And PM Lee was right there to wreck some Ancients.
While we doubt that he got into the weeds with jungling, farming and stacking techniques, it appears that PM Lee came away with slightly more knowledge about the massive esports industry and why Valve’s perennial classic will be included in this year’s SEA Games.
But that wasn’t the end of PM Lee’s geeky day out. He made sure to stop by a Pokemon Trading Card Game showdown too, citing familiarity with it — his own children were trainers as teenagers.
Intermingling between government and video games has always been inevitable in Singapore. In the past decade or so, esports has proven to be an industry too large to ignore. And it’s impossible to fully ignore a platform that youths were (and are) spending huge amounts of their time and money on — whether it be playing actual games, or watching streamers on YouTube, Twitch and other sites.
In Singapore, we’re still playing catch-up to the rest of the world when it comes to the esports industry, mostly thanks to the lingering (and dated) societal stigma against video games in general.
But as gamification spreads to other industries, it’s become a poor cliche to think that video gamers are losers living in their parents’ basement; today, professional gamers can become filthy rich in a highly viable industry — one which will net $1.1 billion in revenue this year through sponsorships, media rights, advertising, and merchandise. Not to mention the 453.8 million esports viewers worldwide.
In a panel discussing the viability of esports in Asia last week, CEO of gaming marketplace platform Meta.us Alan Chou explained why brands and governments are scrambling to get into the industry.
“The new generation spends a lot more time on content through their phone than on the TV. On websites, they have Adblock to conceal the ads,” he stated on stage during the Echelon Asia Summit 2019.
“So how do you reach this unreachable audience? By aligning yourself with video game content.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that local government bodies are taking an active interest in esports to engage with youth. SCOGA’s Esports Academy is supported by the National Youth Council; an Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) event hosted tournament; and now, PM Lee knows how to play Dota 2.