22 April 2017

Singapore takes steps to make esports pay

Source: SCOGA. From left: Matthias Beyer, Partnerships Lead, Southeast Asia at Twitch, Dennis Ooi, Honorary Secretary of (Singapore) Cybersports & Online Gaming Association (SCOGA), Kelvin Tan, President and Co-Founder of SCOGA, Nicholas Khoo, Chairman and Co-Founder of SCOGA, Raiford Cockfield III, Director of APAC Partnerships at Twitch, and Dr Charles Ling, COO, Informatics Education.
Source: SCOGA. From left: Matthias Beyer, Partnerships Lead, Southeast Asia at Twitch, Dennis Ooi, Honorary Secretary of (Singapore) Cybersports & Online Gaming Association (SCOGA), Kelvin Tan, President and Co-Founder of SCOGA, Nicholas Khoo, Chairman and Co-Founder of SCOGA, Raiford Cockfield III, Director of APAC Partnerships at Twitch, and Dr Charles Ling, COO, Informatics Education.

With esports exploding in popularity around the world, the (Singapore) Cybersports & OnlinGaming Association (SCOGA) has signed new agreements to expand the esports field for Singapore’s gaming community. The move is designed to identify and train gamers similar to how professional athletes are selected and nurtured, while developing more career opportunities for locals. There are competitive and broadcast elements to esports which do not exist in gaming - esports players compete for hard cash, and share their gameplay live with the world. This gameplay can also be monetised.

Khoo (left) and Dr Ling (right) signing the MoU with David Chua,CEO  of the National Youth Council in the background as a witness.
Khoo (left) and Dr Ling (right) signing the MoU with David Chua,CEO  of the National Youth Council in the background as a witness.

One of the agreements is with the Informatics Academy to launch an Esports Academy. Informatics, being one of the leaders in IT education, sees an opportunity in the esports industry and believes that good resource and management can help Singapore reap the benefits efficiently.

Kelvin Tan, President and Co-founder of SCOGA, which turns 10 this year said: “In our Esports Academy, we use competitive video games to teach skills such as leadership, team work and communications. We hope that this prepares them for the jobs of the future and help them achieve their aspirations. Recently, one of our academy trainees, Justin Bersamin drew more than 4,000 total views per session while streaming. Daryl Koh as known as iceiceice, the top Singaporean earner in esports has won over US$1 million in prize money.*”

The Esports Academy, supported by the National Youth Council, aims to build a career path for Singapore gaming enthusiasts by providing training to more than 2,000 Singapore youths in various aspects of esports, peak performance and soft skills. It will engage more than 50,000 youths initially through game festivals, events and academy programmes. 

Dr Charles Ling, Chief Operating Officer of Informatics Education said that Informatics is keen to collaborate with SCOGA in ways that nurture gamers while ensuring that youth do not miss out on academic pursuits. "We have gaming and animation tertiary education for students up to bachelors' degree level," he said. "While the kids are training themselves to be professional gamers there is an opportunity to see it from the other side, how the game is developed."

SCOGA, Informatics and Twitch, the global social video platform and community of choice for gamers and creators, point out that  just as in sports, the industry involves more than the players themselves. There are other careers in esports to aspire to in the ecosystem, such as becoming sportscasters and presenters, trainers and coaches for esports. Gamers can also consider building a career in coding or other aspects of game design.

Twitch, which attracts close to 10 million visitors from around the world each day, said each visitor spends an average of 106 minutes watching the platform daily. SCOGA and Twitch will co-create a talent development programme to fast track trainees to become Twitch Partners. Twitch Partners are able to monetise their content, earning a share of the revenue generated from all broadcasts from their channels. By enabling paid channel subscriptions, Partners can earn even more money from the same stream. 

Twitch will also create opportunities on its platform for talent development programme graduates and provide support for the National Esports League which is to be launched in the coming weeks. Raiford Cockfield III, Director of APAC Partnerships at Twitch said, “We are looking to support the region by investing in the Singaporean esports scene and by providing local content creators with the opportunity to make a living on our platform. The landscape is very competitive, but we see great potential in the local community and are really looking forward to working with serious local partners.”

Cockfield III noted that esports in the next couple of years could be a US$1 billion business with as many as 200 million viewers tuning in to watch those competing. According to Twitch, the opportunity in China was worth US$82 million in 2016, and US$112 million by 2019. In Korea, that opportunity is valued at US$7.4 million by 2019, up from US$8.2 million in 2016.

"Twitch is an important part of that shift from traditional media onto online streaming platforms," he said. "Seventy-two percent of esports fans feel Twitch is important to esports. We are already an important member of that crowd."

Cockfield III said Singapore has the right structure to really grow and lead esports in this region. "The Singapore network is already built for esports. It's built for Twitch. We already have servers in Singapore. We've already invested in Singapore and we believe it is the hub for Southeast Asia," he said. "Singapore is a breeding ground for more programmes in the future."

Cockfield III added that working with SCOGA is the best way to get involved locally. He said: "We are all about the community growing, period, we believe it's the best place and we are willing to compete."

Twitch plans to bring in professionals from overseas to teach Singapore Twitch users, from how to use supporting tools to taking advantage of social media, Cockfield III said.

Nicholas Khoo, Chairman and Co-Founder, SCOGA, shared that SCOGA has hosted more than 2 million gamers since its inception in 2008, and the interest continues with over 350 youths trained to date at the already soft-launched Esports Academy.

SCOGA will also collaborate with the NUS EI Lab and Emosis to test a brainwave-sensing wearable headband that can detect and monitor the user's anxiety levels in real time. Emosis is a startup that develops tech-related products for wellness and rehabilitation. It is working towards the development of a wireless anxiety management headband that both general consumers and sports professionals can wear to raise their competitive performance through anxiety management. 

Assistant Professor Raye Yeow, Head of EI Lab said allowing professional gamers to monitor their anxiety state in real-time, will give them greater awareness of their tension levels during gameplay. "This is expected to improve their performance, particularly in response to anxiety-inducing in-game events," he said.

Benjamin Pommeraud, GM - Singapore & Malaysia at Riot Games, developer of the highly popular League of Legends gamesaid: “It is fantastic to see SCOGA and the National Youth Council recognise the global impact of esports and nurture talented gamers in Singapore through a structured training curriculum.”

SCOGA is also in discussions with Spanish football club Valencia Club de FĂștbol (VCF) to tap on their knowledge and experience of running a professional sports organisation and youth academy. VCF already has a Singaporean connection as Singapore billionaire Peter Lim has a controlling stake in the club. VCF also announced partnerships with a Singapore football club last year. 

VCF is no stranger to esports. It is the first club in the Spanish first division to have a dedicated esports section participating in various popular games. The collaboration will also see Singaporean gamers visiting VCF’s facilities and speaking with VCF staff involved in football training and esports programmes.

A good esports player can make as much as seven figures in revenue (US dollars) on Twitch. The top-earning 100 esports players today include people from Pakistan (no. 3), Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. 

*Editor's note: Singapore player iceiceice is rated as no. 24 in the world in terms of earnings, so his wins are very high by global standards. According to the same site, the highest all-time earner took home over US$2.7 million. The figures are amounts accumulated over three years (2014 to 2016), rather than an annual amount, which may not work out to very much money when averaged out per month. In the list of top 100 Singapore esports earners, the top 100th player in Singapore received under US$3,000 - nothing to sneeze at, but certainly a far cry from $1 million. These figures however exclude monthly base earnings, which could be in the six digits.

Forecasts for esports are very positive however, and initiatives to boost the market could definitely develop it to the point where esports professionals can earn much more money. Deloitte Global predicts that esports will generate global revenues of US$500 million in 2016, up 25% from about US$400 million in 2015, and will likely have an audience of regular and occasional viewers of close to 150 million people. 


Esports Academy will be offering classes officially from May. Khoo of SCOGA said that the association is in the beginning stages of working out a financially sustainable model. At present the fees have been under S$50 for up to eight hours of training.

The first national league will be available between May and July.

Read the Deloitte Global forecast for esports

Check out TechTrade Asia's blog post on esports in Malaysia