One of the many several interesting inclusion in the Belanjawan 2020 is the allocation of RM 20 million for Malaysian esports. Prior to the tabling, the Youth and Sports Minister, Syed Saddiq has also revealed that a national-scale esports league will take place next year.
Official details regarding how the budget will be utilized as well as the format of this so-called “national esports league” are not yet available for the time being though. Hence, this provides a little bit of time and opportunity for a little bit of speculation and discussion.
So, let’s say we were to have an official national esports league in Malaysia, how should we decide which games to include in the league? Well, there is certainly a number of approaches that the organizers of the upcoming national esports league could end up taking; most of which have decent justifications.
THE POPULARITY ROUTE
The first would be to simply include the games that are most popular amongst Malaysian esports players. Doing this would be the most reliable way of attracting the interest of as many fans and competitors as possible – something that may be necessary in order to demonstrate to investors that the audience is big enough to justify supporting the Malaysian esports scene.
So if this is the approach that we go with, which games should actually be in the league? The popular football series, FIFA would probably make it in based on the number of competitors it draws at every single tournament, but deciding on whether or not the game actually should be included is trickier than that.
Even with its large player base, some may argue that FIFA’s popularity is only amongst competitors and it doesn’t draw as much audience as compared to a game like Mobile Legends. Taking logistics and budgetary constraints into account, it’s likely that there won’t be more than 3 or 4 titles included as part of the national esports league to start with, and it’s entirely possible that it could be as few as just 2 titles depending on how much money and time is actually being allocated to the league.
For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that the first iteration of the national esports league will include 3 different games – a solid, but not overly ambitious number when taking into account the resources and effort required to run a national esports league for just one title. If FIFA rightfully takes up one slot, that leaves just 2 remaining slots for numerous titles that are popular amongst Malaysian esports players, which includes Mobile Legends, PUBG Mobile, Tekken 7, and Dota 2.
The Selangor Cyber Games 2019 went with a line-up of PUBG Mobile, FIFA 20, Tekken 7 and Dota 2, which seems like a decent enough line-up that could work for the national esports league. But then we’d be missing out on Mobile Legends which currently has a great audience in Malaysia with our numerous stars and professional teams who have been making a name for themselves, just like what we have witnessed during last weekend’s M1 World Championship 2019 at Axiata Arena.
It could even be argued that Dota 2 shouldn’t be included because it just doesn’t have the same popularity that it once did in Malaysia, even if it’s still one of the biggest and most important games in the esports world.
Naturally, selecting games to be included in the national esports league based solely on popularity also has its disadvantages. By selecting games just because they have the most players or fans, you may end up robbing certain smaller communities of a well-deserved opportunity in the spotlight.
Take a game like Tekken 7 for example. There are certainly far fewer Tekken players in Malaysia compared to PUBG Mobile, but the players that do compete in Tekken tournaments are an extremely passionate and talented bunch, with the best players in Malaysia having proven that they are actually able to compete with the top international players.
Should we forgo the opportunity to develop talented Malaysian players and give them the spotlight deserve simply because their games aren’t as popular as others? I suppose that depends on what Malaysia actually wants to achieve with the national esports league – is it meant to develop our local talents and esports communities, or is it meant to be a form of entertainment for audiences to consume?
If we choose games for the national esports league based solely on their popularity in Malaysia, we may end up neglecting the opportunity to develop the skills of Malaysian esports talents who could be going on to play in top international tournaments far beyond the scope of our national esports league.
AIM FOR GLOBAL DOMINATION
Aside from going for popularity, another approach that we could consider to select the titles for our national esports league is to look at what is being offered at international esports competitions out there such as the SEA Games and WESG.
It certainly makes sense for our national esports league to have the same games that are being played at these events, so we can develop our local players and build the best possible national team to compete at these events and bring further glory and recognition to Malaysia’s esports scene.
Alternatively, we could just aim directly for the biggest international prizes possible. FIFA might be immensely popular in Malaysia, but even the biggest FIFA tournament in the world which is FIFA eWorld Cup pale in comparison to what a Dota 2 team could be competing for at The International.
Why not create our national esports league based on what the biggest international esports titles are so that we can develop our Malaysian esports talents with international success in mind? We already have several Malaysian players competing at The International each year – except that they all play for different top-tier international teams like Team Secret or PSG.LGD.
Imagine how great “Team Malaysia” could be if we actually pooled all of our local resources and talents together, and focused wholeheartedly on developing an all-Malaysian Dota 2 team.
A national esports league to find, select and hone the best Malaysian team possible – and coming together as a country to give that team the support they need to become the world champions. We can only dream.