Ready Player One

Nurturing eSports in Malaysia with KITAMEN

There’s nothing quite as thrilling as competition. Whether you are watching or participating, the adrenaline rush that comes from sheer skill and peerless execution is unrivalled, be it football, sprinting, or competitive gaming.

You read that right – eSports are as edge-of-your-seat gripping as traditional, physical sports; and the industry is quickly gaining respect and attention as it goes from strength to strength. The International Olympic Committee has discussed to include competitive video gaming in the Olympics, and they are already to be included in the 2022 Asian Games. And it’s no surprise when you consider the numbers: the industry is booming. Boasting US$493mil in revenue in 2016 and set to surpass US$1bil in 2019, analysts believe that eSports may soon even outstrip mainstream sports in popularity. Don’t believe it? Check out the International Dota 2 Championship online, soak in the excitement, the screaming, the energy. Large corporations are closely eyeing eSports as well, and are prepared to throw money at it to capitalise on the burgeoning industry as it goes from strength to strength: for example, Amazon’s US$1.1bil acquisition of Twitch just four years ago, and AliBaba’s $150mil investment into the International eSports Federation.

It wouldn’t be surprising at all that Southeast Asia will be a key player in the eSports world, boasting the fast-growing eSports audience. It has 9.5 million enthusiasts as of 2016,  a number that is expected to double by 2019. Malaysia, along with it’s neighbouring countries alone contributes to about 98% of this number.

This local interest can partly be attributed to how gaming is much more accessible these days with smartphones and speedy internet. Malaysia also has established several eSports education programmes, such as the Riot Games Student Ambassador Programme which promotes League of Legends communities and the Johorean Academy of eSports which offers training. And Malaysians seem to have a knack for gaming: just last year team LFY placed third at The International 2017 Dota 2, thanks in part to Malaysian player, ‘Ahfu’ Tue Soon Chuan. Malaysia even has a sprawling, state of the art eSports gaming hub called The Pantheon, as well as eSports bars and restaurants for the more casual gamer. As an industry, eSports is booming and isn’t going anywhere.

That’s also why it’s probably the perfect time for KITAMEN to make waves: a lifestyle brand for eSports, it began as a way to connect gamers and eSports enthusiasts with each other, creating a community hub that was also a platform for all eSports titles to be available under one roof. Now it’s grown into a force to be reckoned with, with 15 licensed eSports ‘dojos’ nationwide and a community of 90,000 members and counting.

Kitamen Deal Card (1)

According to KITAMEN, even with Malaysia’s thriving eSports industry – 14 million gamers with US$587mil in revenue – it’s still important to create an environment where talent can be nurtured and the stigma of ‘playing video games all day’ is done away with. Malaysia currently ranks 21st globally in the eSports market, a ladder that it’s bound to climb. KITAMEN will facilitate this by educating, grooming and training grassroots eSports talent, prove access to world-class hardware, provide community spaces and access to a plethora of eSports and video game titles.

KITAMEN’s revenue model ranges from the physical to digital: walk-in eSports dojos, event spaces, and platform-based brand partnerships and marketing – and they are no stranger to working with iconic brands, having dealt with names like Sony Interactive Entertainment, Acer, Red Bull and Digi in the past (among many others).

To properly capitalise on the huge market in Malaysia, KITAMEN has started a round of crowdfunding to raise RM500,000 to RM2mil – money that will be used to build a dedicated space for talents to hone their eSports skills. Creating this space will allow for the gaming community to come together and engage with eSports, while also giving brands an easy avenue to connect with gamers. The physical space they have planned will not only nurture and improve national gaming capacity, but also set an example for others who want to improve Malaysia’s eSports standing – a timely move indeed, given eSports’ meteoric rise in the region.


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