SINGAPORE: Dota 2 has become one of biggest e-sports titles in the world, with prize money going into the millions.
In August, the world’s top teams played for a prize pool of more than US$34 million at The International (TI), the capstone event of the Dota 2 Pro Circuit. It was the largest pot of prize money offered at any e-sports tournament.
To tap on this growing mode of entertainment, a Singaporean firm is bringing professional e-sports to Southeast Asia.
ONE Esports, the online gaming arm of mixed-martial tournament organiser ONE Championship, is organising the Dota 2 World Pro Invitational competition this week.
The firm hopes to fill up 8,000 seats at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, said ONE Esports CEO Carlos Alimurung in an exclusive interview with CNA.
It also has strategies aimed at building on the gaming scene in Singapore, including launching a web portal solely focused on gaming.
“It’s a global game, the stakes are incredibly high. There is rich potential for storytelling. The player base - the viewer base - is global, and ONE Esports’ aspirations are global,” said Mr Alimurung.
“There is a multi-billion dollar opportunity for e-sports globally, so we’re going to go after it.”
FULFILLING A NEED
The company said research showed them that 60 per cent of their fans who watch the live fighting tournaments by ONE Championship also took part in e-sports.
It decided to set up an e-sports arm this year.
For the Dota 2 World Pro tournament, Mr Alimurung said all 280 VIP tickets, which cost S$378 each, were snapped up within the first three weeks they were launched.
“We are expecting a full house over the weekend, so we’re super bullish on the attendance and filling up the whole entire stadium. It is big," he said.
"What we would say is, well, look, we’re bringing in the world’s best talent and therefore we need a big place, an iconic place to hold this kind of event."
SINGAPORE TOURNAMENT ATTRACTING "ALL-STAR" PLAYERS
The international e-sports market is competitively looking for talented players, and some are setting their sights on players in the region, said Mr Alimurung.
“Like all businesses, it’s a war on talent, and in e-sports, it’s an incredibly flat and distributed player base,” he said.
This is why the event here has attracted some of the top teams in the world, even though the prize money is smaller compared to events in the Major Championship series, said the CEO.
Nine out of the 12 teams in the Singapore tournament, such as Team Secret - PSG.LGD and Evil Geniuses - have played in the big leagues, he added.
The World Pro Invitational prize pool is US$500,000, compared to US$34 million for TI this year.
According to Mr Alimurung, this shows that there is interest from international players who want to come to Singapore and the region to compete.
“The prize pool is enough to attract the world’s best teams, and we have them coming …(most) of the teams that are coming have participated in a previous TI. That has never been done in Singapore before," he said.
BUILDING THE GAMING NETWORK IN SINGAPORE AND THE REGION
To connect with e-sports fans who are not easily reached via traditional media channels, ONE Esports plans to generate content to attract e-sport fans to engage with the brand.
It launched an online portal in April called OneEsports.gg, which showcases stories on professional players, cosplayers, e-sport businesses and others in the gaming scene.
It is a major project, with the firm pooling half of its team to focus on developing the online portal.
“Everyone enjoys learning about pro players, and the drama and theatre of competition and rivalry, but that doesn’t mean that people like the cosplayers, or the people who are running the business side of e-sports, that their stories don’t deserve to be told. Or, even the fans’ stories," said Mr Alimurung.
"Our aspiration is not only to be an e-sports news site, but to … peel the third or the fourth layer on e-sports."
The CEO believes the "storytelling" portal will play a critical role in transforming the conversation around e-sports in Singapore and the region.
“I personally believe the storytelling in e-sports can be vastly improved,” he said.
“The storytelling is what gives the authenticity - gives the credibility - and it shows the community that you’re trying to celebrate and share the stories that are so deserving in this space.”