LEVEL UP PLAY ONE: How COVID-19 affected esports and its opportunities
"If we don't get out of this within the next few months, we'll either go bankrupt or not be part of the business anymore."
According to a survey done by the Digital Creative Content Division of MDEC (Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation), when COVID-19 was beginning to weigh down Malaysia's economy, this is the belief held by 70% of the companies that they contacted for the survey, to analyse the needs of the digital industry. With that in mind, the vice president of said division, Hasnul Hadi Samsudin, recalled that they had to revise their then-current programs and cater to their necessities better, particularly MDEC's annual Level Up KL event.
"So when we suggested Level Up KL to go online (with LEVEL UP PLAY ONE), everyone wanted to be a part of it," Hasnul shared, aligned with their vision of Level Up to be "a platform that provides opportunities for our companies and partners." Originally a one-day online event, he said that they decided to expanded it into a four-day event instead - including LEVEL UP SPACEBAR - due to popular demand, testament to the viability of converting live events to digital versions.
Hasnul shared this recently in the LEVEL UP PLAY ONE webinar, which was organised by MDEC in partnership with eGG Network over the weekend (13 - 14 June). Each day of the webinar encompasses two esports-related topic, with Day 1 including COVID-19 & Esports and Esports & Opportunities.
Aside from Hasnul, several other key players across the Southeast Asian esports and gaming industry came on board the webinar to share their insights, including our very own Head of Sports at Astro, Lee Choong Khay.
"Although there's a pause in traditional sports tournaments, the sports federations and associations has resorted to esports version of their sports to make up for it during the lockdown," said Lee, whose portfolio covers both traditional and electronic sport. He cited the UEFA eEURO 2020, F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix and ePremier League Invitational as prime examples of this trend, "making esports a good introduction to traditional sports fan on what esports is all about."
Although traditional sports events going digital with esports may take some getting used to for fans and everyone involved, esports had the virtue of having little issue with this. "The community and ecosystem for esports was born online, so going from in-person events to streaming events is easy for us," said Carlos Alimurung, CEO of ONE Esports. Despite having said that, Alimurung clarified that "the extend and the scale to which we had to deal with COVID-19 is not easy", mentioning the short time that ONE Esports had to bring a Jakarta-based ONE Esports tournament from physical to digital in a span of five days due to Indonesia's sudden restrictions on live events.
However, it's still more good news than bad news, which is why Yoodo is now more involved than ever in the world of esports. "If you check out the last few months, you'll that there's so many more esports tournaments popping up, especially at the grassroot level," said Chow Tuck Mun, Head of Yoodo, explaining that casters and streamers are even starting their own tournaments online. "We've also started on tournaments but at a more national level for PUBG Mobile, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and so on."
Chow also opined that those who want to get involved in esports will see more opportunities to flourish in the industry. With Yoodo - who also sponsored the MLBB Professional League Malaysia/Singapore (MPL-MY/SG) Season 5 - backing a team for Call of Duty: Mobile and probably one for the highly-anticipated Wild Rift, Chow expressed cautious optimism for the scene. "As long as the opportunity is there and the price is right."
Viewing the situation as a moment for esports to shine, Alimurung explained that based on a survey ONE Esports conducted, a lot of former esports fans are returning to the scene, not to mention that there are a lot of new fans who are unfamiliar with the esports space. "The question is, how do retain those who come in after COVID-19? One way to do that is through compelling storytelling, which is why the type of content we're doing now is more emotionally-linked, revolving more around the personalities of those involved," such as the players, the production and business sides, and more.
These are just some of the highlights we've handpicked from the first day of the LEVEL UP PLAY ONE webinar. You can check out the full clips for Day 1 of the online panel discussion on the eGG Network YouTube page to learn more about effects of the pandemic on esports and its opportunities.