Razer's Singaporean chief Tan Min-Liang sees potential in eSports ecosystem

HONG KONG - Singapore can do more to support and develop eSports, a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, says Mr Tan Min-Liang, a Singaporean and co-founder of Razer which produces award-winning gaming peripherals.

"I think it is a great opportunity right now to focus on eSports. It's not just the players. There's infrastructure. You need great infrastructure like broadband... You need to get great tournament organisers. The entire ecosystem is there," Mr Tan told The Straits Times on the sidelines of the three-day Rise tech conference in Hong Kong .

Today's global gaming market is worth more than US$100 billion (S$138 billion).

He noted that there are more people watching eSports than Formula One motor racing.

"Today, there is no need for people to go to a location anymore. You can have millions of people watching a live stream concurrently," he said.

"People who have never been to Singapore can see a tournament happen, for example, at the Marina Bay Sands and see the night scene."

Mr Tan, 39, who is chief executive and chairman of Razer, was ranked No. 41 on the Forbes Singapore Rich List with a net worth of US$600 million last year.

Razer, which he co-founded with Mr Robert Krakoff in 2005, has since expanded from producing an online gaming mouse as its initial product to manufacturing gaming laptops, with a massive following worldwide.

The company is seeking a listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in October with a valuation of up to US$5 billion to help fund development of its own mobile phone, reported Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter.

Backed by Mr Li Ka Shing's CK Hutchison's Three Group, Razer opened its first concept store in Causeway Bay last month.

The deal with the mobile telecommunications firm is to form a global alliance to tap the estimated market of two billion by offering specific mobile plans and devices designed for gamers.

In the coming months, Razer plans to roll out its own virtual currency which gamers can use to buy more than 2,500 game titles via all Three stores globally.

It also plans to launch its mobile devices before the end of the first quarter next year.

On his choice to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Mr Tan said the city serves as a platform for Razer to venture into China, which makes up 13 per cent of its business. Currently, 50 per cent of its business is in the US, 27 per cent in Europe and 23 per cent in Asia.

Mr Tan also noted the Hong Kong government's efforts to grow eSports. Financial Secretary Paul Chan has said eSports is a new sector with economic development potential to boost information and technology development in the city.

Last month, Chinese Internet conglomerate Tencent announced a five-year plan to create a US$15 billion eSports industry in China, complete with tournaments, associations and the building of an eSports-themed industrial park.

According to data from Euromonitor International, the global video games industry is expected to grow by about 25 per cent to US$146 billion in 2020 from an estimated US$117 billion this year.

"Gaming is pervasive... It's bigger than movies, it's bigger than music... it's just inevitable," said Mr Tan who has sold US$1 billion worth of products in the past three years.

"With eSports going to be an official sport in 2022 in the Asian Games, and it being talked about as an official sport in the Olympics, we could have multiple Joseph Schoolings there," he added, referring to the Singaporean swimmer and Olympic gold medallist.

Mr Tan said that Razer has more than 300 employees in Singapore and he is constantly looking for opportunities to work with Singapore firms.

"We are looking potentially to build a campus for our businesses. And Singapore is one of the areas we are considering."

joycel@sph.com.sg