• Edoardo Lipari

Singapore Leads Esports to Success in Southeast Asia


Introduction to Singapore’s Esports Boom

Esports is booming globally, and nowhere has witnessed this explosive growth more than Singapore. With more than 1.5B avid gamers in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, Singapore is building an exciting opportunity for digital marketers and global sports brands to break into the esports market and build a sustainable business. Fueled by this growth, the 2019 SEA Games was the first gaming event to be recognised and awarded with a medal by the Olympic Committee.


Singapore has taken huge strides to become a major esports hub in APAC. The country has a competitive edge compared to other countries in Southeast Asia (SEA). Strong internet infrastructure, high smartphone penetration, government support, and established gamers and gaming facilities all accelerated Singapore to lead the way for esports in SEA.


Gamers in Singapore spent $327.2M on games in 2019 (Newzoo) and Singaporeans spent 7.44 hours/week playing video games, more than anywhere else in the APAC region. Citing figures from market researcher Statista, Singapore Games Association said Singapore's video games market was expected to hit $130M this year and a further $138 million by 2024. Finally, video gameplay shows no signs of slowing down, opening the doors for esports’ ever-growing potential.


This article analyses Singapore’s key advancements as well as opportunities in the esports industry.

World Series 2019 esports event held in Singapore by Garena - Photo Credit: Garena

Success in Singapore

Singapore is winning in the esports industry both at an individual and infrastructural level.

For starters, many successful individual gamers have been born out of Singapore. At the 2019 SEA Games, Singapore claimed two spots on the podium. The country has also produced the following champions:

- Ho Kun Xian, well known for winning first place out of 1600 competitors at the Evolution Championship Series in 2013

- Daryl Koh Pei Xiang, the highest-earning and most successful esports player in Singapore

Beyond the gamers, Singapore is home to Sea, a major gaming and ecommerce company and the first SEA tech company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Every year, Sea hosts the Garena Star League, attracting 180,000 attendees.


Singapore’s infrastructure also boasts the best fibre optic connectivity available throughout its cities, giving the country a massive head start for hosting esports activities throughout the APAC region.


As of 2020, Singapore offers the fastest fixed internet connection in the world, boasting an incredible 200.1 Mbps. To offer a comparison, the worldwide average is 73.6 Mbps, with Australia lagging significantly behind at 41.8 Mbps.


Strong infrastructure matters. In markets like India and Vietnam, esports is not a government priority and tournament organisers have struggled to find support from both sports associations and sponsors to create anything at the Singaporean level. And even with fast internet speeds in Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, the majority of these countries are largely disconnected. This further illustrates the gap between Singapore and the rest of SEA.


Between its champion gamers, successful gaming companies, and gaming-ready infrastructure, Singapore's esports market has grown exponentially over the last 10 to 15 years, and is well on its way to leading esports in Asia.


Facts:

  • In 2008, the Singapore Cybersports and Online Gaming Organisation (SCOGO) had to seek aid from the community to fly four gamers from Singapore for the World Cyber Games (WCG) in Germany. Ten years later, Singapore sent 61 gamers for the same event with Razer committing to fund $10M to develop the esports scene locally

  • Singapore went from 500 gaming enthusiasts in 2007 to more than 1.4M gamers today

  • 15 years ago, in 2005, a local broadcast of the CPL World Tour 2005 appeared on TV, providing a glimpse into professional gaming. Now in 2021, Singapore is set to host the inaugural edition of the world’s largest gaming festival, Gamescom

Becoming Southeast Asia’s Esports Capital

Not only is Singapore positioned to become the leader in esports from many angles, but it’s also extending its lead even further.

The Singapore Games Association, with support from the Singapore Tourism Board, is creating a sustainable esports ecosystem in the country by providing support to gaming companies and increasing job opportunities in the esports industry.

The Board’s main objectives are to position Singapore as not only the leading esports hub in SEA, but also as the most attractive location for international esports events and gaming businesses to set up their headquarters.

The Global Esports Federation, the first global governing body for esports, launched in 2019 and made Singapore its headquarters, while other leaders in the gaming industry are following suit, including:

- EVOS ESports (professional team)

- Bitrep (a regional talent platform)

- Ubisoft (French games group)

International Icon JJ Lin Drives Esports Growth in Singapore

With the growing popularity of esports, the opportunity to use influencer marketing and celebrity endorsements in the gaming industry is catching fire.

As well as making himself a household name as a singer, the Singaporean Mandopop superstar JJ Lin, is an avid gamer who’s passionate about esports and nurturing home-grown talent on a global scale.

With 4.4M followers on Instagram and over 50M on Weibo, JJ Lin is a far-reaching ambassador for the esports sector in Singapore. He’s a member of the Singapore Esports Association, owns an esports organisation himself, and has driven a lot of the country’s esports growth.

By launching an all-Singaporean esports team as part of Team Still Moving Under Gunfire (SMG), JJ Lin’s reach has expanded even beyond his home country. Team SMG also has teams in Malaysia and Shanghai that dominate at community tournaments such as the BRSG Valorant Community Series and the Stay Home Challenge Breaker.

With JJ Lin’s celebrity status and undeniable passion for esports, his influence is another clear example of Singapore’s stronghold on the esports industry.

Making History with Gamescom in Singapore

The Singapore Tourism Board is highly involved in bringing esports to the country. Their efforts will make Singapore the first Asian country to host the largest gaming festival and tradeshow in the world - Gamescom - for its inaugural event.

Gamescom sets the stage for further relationship building in Singapore in the esports sector. Global partnership opportunities are endless since Gamescom provides more than any other esports event with gaming workshops, meet-and-greet sessions, and emerging video game technology presentations.

Over 30,000 people are expected to attend Gamescom, and Singapore is ready to host them. The country already has experience hosting other high-profile esports events such as Vainglory World Championship and Alisports’ World Electronic Sports Games

So, it makes sense that the Singapore Tourism Board is aiming to bring even more game developers, industry stakeholders, and financiers to look at Singapore as a major player in the esports field.

With the support of the Singaporean government, local and regional investments are already flooding into the growing esports industry, and with the Singapore Tourism Board’s continued promotional efforts, numbers are expected to rise.

STB chief executive Keith Tan and the Gamescom event organizer, Koelnmesse, managing director Mathias Kuepper during the MOU signing

Esports Gym Elevates Industry in APAC

Singapore is the only country in Asia with a dedicated esports gym, solidifying the region as a centre of excellence for promising esports teams. Additionally, the gym encourages collaboration between international and local teams, allowing resources to be shared which brings the games to higher and higher levels.

Singapore understands the importance of taking a more professional approach to esports. The gym was created to empower the esports ecosystem in the country, with the venue boasting industry-leading gaming technology, and facilities to help gamers focus on nutrition, physical fitness, and mental focus.

With the aim to create an esports league of gyms in places like Indonesia and China to strengthen the Asian esports community, the overarching goal of a dedicated esports gym in Singapore is to level the playing field between its US and European counterparts.

One way Singapore is accomplishing these goals is by agreeing to a collaboration with De Tune, a US-based esports broadcasting pioneer, to help bring Asian gaming competitions and events to life.

The esports gym in Singapore further solidifies the country’s position as a leader in grooming the best esports talent in the world. At the forefront of gaming innovation and cutting-edge esports technology in APAC, Singapore is set to be a popular destination for gaming enthusiasts.

The Gym, a 24-hour co-working space dedicated to develop esports talents in Singapore. Photo Credit: THE GYM

Unique Opportunities for Corporate Entities

Brands are getting on board with Singapore’s exploding esports scene and it’s clear that this unique sector of gaming is an opportunity for many business ventures.


While some corporations are already in the gaming world, an industry focused on providing entertainment, fewer have ventured into esports. Esports are video games played competitively for spectators and gamers are considered professional athletes.


Esports offers corporations new opportunities that may not have been realised through gaming alone.

Singapore-based company Razer, one of the biggest gaming hardware and software providers valued at $1.6B, is helping to fuel Singapore’s growth by investing $10M in gaming and esports activities in the region.


Singtel has collaborated with Razer to further Singapore’s aim to become a hub for esports by launching a multi-title regional league, the PVP Esports Championships which offers US$300K in prize money.

Participation in PVP esports competition has also exemplified the countless opportunities for corporate entities.

For example, in the 2019 PVP Corporate League, more than 1,500 local players competed, representing everyone from small- and medium-sized businesses to Fortune 500 companies across industries including finance, consulting, media, hospitality, and even government agencies. Plus, the 2019 PVP Campus League saw over 450 Singaporean student competitors participating.

This shows that esports in Singapore is not only for gaming enthusiasts but is also a viable and unique option for companies and corporations across various industries to successfully venture into.

Conclusion: Singapore’s Esports Momentum Increasing


By producing talented gaming champions, boasting a strong infrastructure for gaming, and catching the attention of regional and global corporations, it’s clear that Singapore’s status in the world of esports will continue to build.

Singapore has been able to position itself as the top choice as the headquarters for the Global Gaming Federation and various game publishers.


Gaming platforms and esports revenue continues to skyrocket in the country. Singapore-based Sea, through its online platform, Garena, operates games like League of Legends, Call of Duty, Free Fire Battlegrounds, and Speed Drifters. Garena’s revenue rose by 30.3% to $512M in the first quarter compared to a year ago and active users increased by 48% to 402M during the same period.

Additionally, not only does Singapore have experience and expertise in holding esports competitions and events, but it has also gained credibility by hosting other world-class sporting events such as the Youth Olympic Games, the F1 Grand Prix and the International Champions Cup.

As Singapore continues with its goal of attaining the position as the top esports hub in the APAC region, sports brands should look into investing in the local gaming scene to help raise brand awareness and meet other marketing goals.


With all the benefits listed above, it's obvious that Singapore is the market to be involved with; unmatched across economic, social, and professional qualities, anyone interested in esports should be involved with Singapore.


A special thanks to M Vaishnavi for contributing to the Blog

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