To answer that burning question on the headline: not quite. But it’s not sunshine and rainbows either.

COVID-19 has put a huge damper on some esport organization’s physical plans. But it’s not like they’re left completely helpless: online tournaments do help in keeping the grassroots competitive scene going.

In order to shed more light on whether esports is doing good or not in Malaysia, Kakuchopurei talks to one of Malaysia’s prominent Dota 2/esports player and Battle Arena’s Head of Marketing & PR Tiffani “Babyoling” Lim. Being one of the few experts who knows what’s up, we asked her about the competitive gaming scene during such tumultuous times.

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How is esports doing in Southeast Asia through your own perspective?

So far so good amid the new landscape that’s been shaped by the recent COVID situation. However, it’ll be a long while before we can return to the roots of esports where the industry started. I’m referring to LAN events in stadium or arena settings, cybercafe gaming sessions with friends, etc.

Knowing gamers, I believe they prefer this new norm of online events and content delivered to the comforts of their own home too; at least for now.

Many sponsors and advertisers are also jumping at the opportunity to get into esports now that it’s one of the main channels through which they can reach the gaming demographic. While stuck at home, people are playing games now more than ever.

I’ve had so many friends who haven’t played games in a long time since they’ve entered corporates or started working 9-5. But lately, they’ve all been online and gaming the nights away, perhaps sleeping through their conference calls the following day as a result. Now they’re all caught up with the latest tournaments, the meta, and so on.

I’ve even had old friends call me up out of the blue asking about potentially entering the esports industry. So, all in all, I would say not bad at all.

What are good ways for esports teams, internet cafes that focus on esports titles, and esports event organizers to adjust to the “new normal”?

For esports teams, there’s not much of a difference since they continue training daily as per normal, just that they would be participating in more online tournaments than offline ones. Any hardware or software that reduces ping or latency issues are more important now than before, thus it would be a good time to invest in VPNs, providers with a stable internet connection service, and other utility software.

For internet cafes, some of them have started renting out PCs to maintain some sort of income for this period of time. So that’s one way to do it until they are allowed to operate again, and even then there should be stringent health protocols in place to ensure the safety and health of their customers.

As for organizers, it would be wise for them to start stepping up their online production capabilities in order to bring more value to their viewers, sponsors, and clients.

What is Battle Arena doing on their side to keep afloat during the COVID-19 period and MCO?

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The MCO is tough on bricks-and-mortar businesses, but our CEO has made a swift decision to restructure the organization and shift our company direction quite early into the crisis. So the impact isn’t that bad when you think about it.

Online events were only a minor part of our business before, but now while working from home we’re focusing largely on those for revenue. Other than that, we’re also taking the chance to try out content creation and giving everyone in the company a chance to display their creativity by creating gaming content.

Our CEO also set aside some subsidies and incentives to help us develop our skills and reward productivity, and kept advising us to take the opportunity to read up or learn some new skills outside of working hours since the market will look vastly different when the economic depression hits.

Thanks to his insights and judgement of the situation, not only were we able to keep our jobs amid the crisis, I believe we have been able to make the best out of this whole situation. Personally, I’ve also learnt a lot from how the company deals with crises and (hopefully) averts them.

How will the esports field cope in the next few months leading to the end of 2020?

Coping implies a bit of a struggle, no? I think esports and gaming are thriving amid the crisis though. The status quo -having and maintaining online tournaments to entertain viewers and answer to sponsors- has been working well as a solution for the industry.

As countries gradually reopen, the active gamer base might take a hit but the new esports and gaming fans would remain, and people’s preference and pattern in the consumption of content has changed fundamentally and will remain that way from now on. Esports is already largely online-based with no need for contact or for participants to be physically in the same space.

So as the community changes to embrace this new type of lifestyle, esports would eventually grow to edge out some traditional spectator sports with more limitations and are more difficult to produce.

What games will thrive in the second half of 2020? Especially the competitive esports-savvy ones?

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It’s hard to say. But in Malaysia so far, Animal Crossing has been all the rage earlier.

The new Riot titles look really promising too, namely Valorant and Wild Rift. I got into Legends of Runeterra too; it’s pretty well-designed and fast-paced as collectible card games go.

During this MCO the number of mobile gamers has increased considerably as well, so existing popular titles like Mobile Legends and PUBG Mobile can only continue to grow and thrive. PC games-wise, Valve has also just released their new Battle Pass so some older, first-generation Dota 2 players are returning as well. If the triple-A titles like Cyberpunk 2077 and AC Valhalla can be completed in time this would be an optimal time to take the gaming market by storm.

These are uncertain and chaotic times. We’ve lost an alarming number of people in the short span of 6 months, mostly to the pandemic, but also to uprisings and other tragic complications. Esports is something that’s meant to entertain and provide enjoyment to the audience, and it can be a helpful coping mechanism or perhaps a temporary restoration of a sense of normalcy amid this drastic shift in the landscape.

As such, I only wish that everyone can gain some joy from these esports content that we create for the community.

As long as everyone plays their part well and we keep up the efforts on the public health and hygiene front, I believe we can brave the storm and survive this gruelling test to our generation and humanity.

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