Recognising the increasing prominence of online gaming among youth, Singapore will host the inaugural Asean eSports competition at the Singapore Sports Hub this year.
Mr Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, told Parliament yesterday the tournament will be held over the first weekend in August, as part of the Shine Festival for Youth and GetActive! Singapore.
He added: "As a highly popular and trending activity among youth, eSports has tremendous potential, as an innovative means of engagement, to connect Asean youth through shared experiences of competition, sportsmanship and fun."
Local professional gamerAmos Ker, 17, hopes the new event can "help Singaporeans better understand that gaming is more than a hobby and can also be a sport".
According to eSports research group Newzoo, the competitive video gaming industry has 148 million players and will be worth US$905.6 million (S$1.2 billion) this year, a 38 per cent year-on-year growth.
Last year's League of Legends World Championship drew 33 million viewers, compared with 20.4 million who watched the NBA Finals.
Major sporting events are taking notice of eSports. It will be included in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, while the International Olympic Committee is exploring adding eSports to the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.
Meanwhile, in Singapore, Asterisk are the first women's team from the Republic to qualify for the grand finals of next week's World Electronic Sports Games in Haikou, China, which has a purse of US$170,000.
Mr Nicholas Khoo, chairman and co-founder of the Singapore Cybersports and Online Gaming Association, estimated that there are 500,000 gamers here, and that number is growing.
He said: "There is a lot of potential to develop values such as sportsmanship, discipline, teamwork, leadership, communication and the ability to make split-second decisions in our youth.
"We want to support our youth who have the aspiration to represent Singapore at the Asian Games.
"We understand one of the requirements is that we may need to become a national sports association, and we are in discussions with the relevant authorities."