There is no doubt that Malaysia’s largest Dota 2 tournament, ESL One Genting 2017 was a success. With ESL’s expertise in event management and the facilities provided by Resorts World Genting, the Arena of Stars packed in close to 5,000 fans for ESL One Genting from the 6th to 8th of January. In the end, Digital Chaos from North America emerged victorious to win their first ever LAN event, taking home their share of the $250,000 prize pool.
It has been a while since we last saw an international tournament of this scale in Malaysia and ESL One Genting promised to be the breath of fresh air we needed from the dire (heh) situation we’ve been in the past few years.
The Malaysian eSports scene had its “big bang” moment when Orange eSports claimed third place at The International Dota 2 Championship 2013, putting a country better known for its badminton athletes right on the eSports heat map.
But that was it. The team split up and several well-known Dota 2 players vanished from the limelight. In truth, it took Malaysians years to recognize and even understand the huge potential eSports has as a legitimate competitive activity. Some in this country will still argue against it.
Since Orange eSports achievement, several organizers have tried to come up with their own events. Major All Stars in 2015 and AGES 2016 were ambitious in scale, but the execution left a sour taste. Major All Stars faced constant technical issues with their equipment and facilities over the course of the tournament, while AGES 2016 just did not get the audience it hoped for despite being a regional event – in fact, not many Malaysians even knew of the tournament because of the poor marketing and exposure.
On top of that, both these tournaments had issues disbursing the prize money for winning teams to this very day.
These stories tainted the image of the fledgling competitive gaming industry in the country, which was very damaging given how Malaysia is only just getting cozy with eSports.
ESL One Genting 2017 was a form of redemption for the Malaysian eSports scene in the sense that it regained the trust of not just the international professional Dota 2 teams, but the global eSports audience as well. Resorts World Genting may be an unconventional venue, but it worked closely with ESL for a huge event that went without a glitch.
With any luck, this success will encourage investment in eSports. Brands know for a fact that eSports has a massive market, but aren’t yet confident enough to invest into an industry they know so little about. ESL One Genting 2017 was a testament to eSports in Malaysia and that there really is something to gain by being more willing to invest.
In fact, this tournament saw many brands leveraging on the global appeal of competitive PC gaming. Lenovo debuted its Legion series of gaming laptops here – mere days after being announced on the other side of the world at CES 2017. MSI showed off its latest and greatest VR-ready gaming machines. Even Microsoft got into the fray, demonstrating the capabilities of Windows 10 in gaming.
At the rate of how rapidly eSports is growing globally, it’s an industry that’s gaining a lot of traction and has not yet been fully tapped into here in Malaysia. Given the conservative nature of most companies, bold brands could take advantage of this opportunity and align itself with events and teams. They get the exposure from the relevant eyeballs, while gamers and fans alike get quality content that investment brings: articles, videos, interviews, merchandise, and of course, on-ground events. It’s a win-win scenario (if done right), and there’s no denying that eSports have the potential to one day be a spectacle similar to (or one that surpasses) the FIFA World Cup.
But more importantly, the industry can and will boost the scene by investing into the bodies directly involved: the teams. For example, Digi recently agreed to a long-term sponsorship deal with WarriorsGaming.Unity for winning the ESL One Genting Malaysia qualifiers. That’s crucial to ensuring the team has the backing it needs to focus on participating and winning tournaments around the world, and not have to worry about funding every month.
Digi’s sponsorship of WG.Unity shouldn’t be seen merely as a short-term marketing push. The deal reverberates beyond the funding the team receives and the exposure the yellow man gets – there is a lot more to consider here.
It helps that a local telco – which one may argue has little-vested interest in eSports – that also happens to be a well-known company has taken a leap of faith in a bunch of young Malaysians who play computer games for a living. It somewhat justifies the notion that competitive gaming is just as viable a career as traditional sports; that gamers are athletes in their own right.
The social stigma of playing computer games remains a pervasive one in the Malaysian community, but with international teams such as Fnatic taking an interest in Malaysian players and Digi helping the next generation of world beaters, there is genuine hope that Malaysians themselves may rise above its own traditional views of an activity some of us excel in tremendously – and actively encourage it as much as we encourage our youth in traditional sports.
ESL One Genting is a great example of how a proper eSports tournament is like and sets a benchmark of how things should be done. Previous ambitious efforts that flunked here can and should be seen as growing pains, but one does hope that event organizers in Malaysia can emulate the same efficiency and organization in future eSports tournaments here.
It was also a tournament where brands finally came good with investing into eSports in Malaysia, cooperating with other competing brands to truly support a world-class event. We’ve seen plenty of smaller-scale tournaments, but they should always build up to a major one with world-class teams pitting their skills against our heroes.
Now that ESL One Genting is over, it’s time to start building upon this success. The hard work truly begins here, and maybe, just maybe, we could be graced with the Kuala Lumpur Major in the future.