Malaysian youth minister looks to Singapore to develop eSports

Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman was an advocate of eSports even before joining Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's government. PHOTO: ST FILE

Malaysia's youth and sports minister, Mr Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, is making an official trip to Singapore this weekend to scope the youth centres there, and to draw ideas on youth development and eSports - a growing field that the young minister aims to tap to reach the young.

"Singapore wants to be the eSports hub of Asia but I obviously also want Malaysia to be a hub within Asia," said the 25-year-old minister.

"It's not a zero-sum game where one succeeds while the other fails. I think we can collaborate," he told The Straits Times.

He will also be visiting Singapore's youth hubs, with the minister looking at building similar centres in Malaysia to provide "upskilling, reskilling with entertainment and extreme parks as well".

"The success of Singapore is our success too. And the success of Malaysia is also the success of Singapore," Mr Saddiq said. "Our fates are intertwined. I think collaboration would be the way forward."

Malaysia's youngest minister was an advocate of eSports even before joining Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's government, with Mr Saddiq saying developing the market is crucial in order to tap the under-25 group. Mr Saddiq is known to be a fan of the game Dota, having once tweeted his obsession with it when he was younger.

Mr Saddiq has promised to look into ways to provide an environment for gamers to grow, including proper training and facilities, as well as altering the negative perception towards gaming as a career.

"eSports should not be taken lightly. In 2024, it could officially be in the Olympics," he said at a press conference yesterday .

"If we fail to take it seriously, we'll be left behind," he added, "It's not just about gaming. Think about the ancillary industry - the programming, advertisement revenue."

Singapore is hosting the first Asean eSports tournament this weekend, with Mr Saddiq's trip coinciding with the Republic's SHINE Festival, hosted by the National Youth Council. The festival includes concerts and other events geared towards the young, including activities by the Singapore Cybersports & Online Gaming Association.

The competitive video gaming industry is estimated to have 165 million eSports enthusiasts, with the global eSports economy valued at US$905.6 million (S$1.23 billion) this year, according to eSports research group Newzoo.

Viewership has outpaced that of traditional sporting events. Last year's League of Legends World Championship final drew 60 million viewers, compared with 20.4 million who watched the NBA Finals.

Already eSports is drawing attention with its inclusion in the 2022 Asian Games, while the International Olympic Committee is mulling over adding it to the 2024 Olympics in France.

Trinna Leong

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2018, with the headline Malaysian youth minister looks to Singapore to develop eSports. Subscribe