HK gains far more than a medal for esports

By Oasis Hu in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2023-10-23 07:33
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Chan and his teammates celebrate winning the silver medal in the final. ANDY CHONG/CHINA DAILY

Promising future

Eddy Chen Lung-shing, president of Esports Association Hong Kong, said the city's first esports medal is significant, as it can promote a better understanding of esports in the local community, and will improve the entire local esports system.

Hong Kong's neighbors, such as the Chinese mainland and South Korea, boast well-developed esports industries.

Last year, the mainland games market generated revenue of 144.50 billion yuan ($19.76 billion), while that in South Korea saw revenue of 118.2 billion yuan.

The esports industry is expected to continue growing.

Released in July under guidance from the China Esports Industry Research Institute, a research report suggests that global esports revenue will stand at nearly $1.8 billion this year, with the number of core esports enthusiasts estimated to reach 641 million by 2025.

Chen said Hong Kong should not miss out on this trend.

He said although there is a gap between the city's esports industry and the strongest areas in this field, such as the mainland and South Korea, the local industry has grown steadily since before the COVID-19 pandemic emerged.

In 2017, Hong Kong hosted an esports music festival, and two years later, the largest integrated esports arena in Asia was completed in the city's Mongkok district. At that time, a number of professional esports teams were formed in the city, and the government and commercial organizations were eager to invest in the industry, Chen said.

However, the pandemic disrupted the industry's momentum. Offline tournaments could not be organized, leading to a lack of commercial investment, which hit the industry hard, Chen said.

The medal won by the Hong Kong team can help restore development of the local esports industry, Chen said. It can also encourage the government to place greater importance on the esports industry.

Various countries worldwide have introduced measures to promote esports.

In November, Germany increased its national budget for the games industry. The same month, Brazil passed a bill to enhance its games industry. In September last year, Saudi Arabia launched a national e-games strategy to establish itself as a global games center by 2030 through 86 initiatives.

In comparison, only a limited number of policies have been introduced in Hong Kong to support the esports industry.

Chen said that apart from a HK $100 million ($12.78 million) allocation in the 2018-19 budget to promote early development of the industry, no significant supportive measures have been announced since.

The silver medal won by Hong Kong can also help promote commercialization of the local esports industry.

On the mainland, esports has become a highly commercialized industry. Games companies organize large-scale leagues, which are joined by players signed by various clubs.

With large fan bases, tournaments quickly attract sponsors, ensuring that esports players earn a good living through their wages, tournament bonuses and advertising, among other sources of income.

The well-developed esports sector also promotes peripheral industries, such as video websites, live broadcasting platforms, and e-commerce platforms, attracting more players and viewers to create a positive business cycle.

In contrast, some people in Hong Kong still view esports solely as games, and are opposed to the industry. In addition, spectators in the city are not in the habit of spending money to watch esports competitions, and the local market for esports is relatively small.

As a result, Chen said it is challenging to generate profits from organizing tournaments, find brand sponsorship for tournaments, and sustain professional players financially. This situation has led to a loss of esports talent in Hong Kong.

However, the recognition gained from winning the silver medal can positively transform public perceptions of esports to attract a larger audience and attention, Chen said. It can also draw potential investment from stakeholders to create a more conducive environment for the commercialization of esports in Hong Kong.

The city has its advantages in developing esports, Chen said.

Under the "one country, two systems" policy, Hong Kong, as a special administrative region, takes part in international competitions as a separate jurisdiction. This provides an opportunity for players who may face challenges in competing in other regions, thus helping the city woo talent.

Hong Kong's international status also positions it favorably for organizing large-scale international competitions and arranging global esports exchanges.

Furthermore, as the domestic games market becomes saturated, many mainland companies are looking to expand overseas. Hong Kong, with its strategic location and international connectivity, can play a pivotal role in facilitating this expansion.

"By using these advantages and the impact of the silver medal, I have full confidence in the development of esports in Hong Kong," Chen said.

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