Esports, this is the hype in gaming industry for the last couple of years. However, the truth is only couple of countries in the world who already have sustainable industry in esports like the US, some western European countries, China, and South Korea. For other countries with under-developed esports ecosystem, we (since I live in one of the country) romanticize the idea of esports and government.
So, this is the question, will the government in those countries have any significance in growing its esports industry? I personally don’t think so, not directly at least.
Why? Let’s see the 4 regions which are already considered succeed in their esports ecosystem.
1. South Korea
I think most people from the under-developed esports countries only see this region and tend to forget the others. It’s true that South Korean government have big impact in their esports history. In 2000, they already have their Korean esports Association which has direct link to the government – in this case, Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. However, most people don’t realize that South Korea also has big gaming industry in general (not just esports).
It was Nexon, a gaming publisher / developer from South Korea, who made the first Free-to-Play game in October 1999. In the era of MMO, it was South Korea which dominated Asian market (when World of Warcraft dominates western market) with their Free-to-Play MMO. Now, they are head-to-head with the Chinese in mobile game development / publishing, leading the the market (at least in terms of quantity).
My point is it’s just that South Korea is already special with their gaming industry, with or without esports development. You can believe me or not but, IMHO, without big gaming industry in general, the governments won’t even take a look at esports seriously. Probably, they will only use your esports event as a mere political tool not as an economic solution for the country.
2. United States
Well, I think the US is just great at any modern entertainment industry, including esports. CMIIW, I think those entertainment industries in US don’t have any affiliation with the government whatsoever. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Hollywood is the leader in modern film industry in the world and it has no affiliation with government (as far as I know). How big is your countries’ sports industry compared to the US who has NBA, NFL, or MLB? They are also private companies, not government organizations.
Europe actually has comparable sports industry with their football / soccer but we will get there on the next part.
Esports in the US is big because they have supports from many other industries. Intel with their IEM (Intel Extreme Masters), Turner (Time Warner) with their ELEAGUE, Valve from general gaming industry, or many others that can’t be mentioned here. None of them are directly related to a government organization.
This is the most different region than the others I mentioned here. It’s because most people (including me) like to put some European countries together even though the conditions on each country – including its esports ecosystem – are very different on some of them. However, just for the sake of this article and my argument, let’s put them together. Maybe someday we will take a look at each country.
Like the US, Europe also has a great esports ecosystem because of its private companies, not government agencies or organizations. ESL which has its root in Germany is owned by Modern Times Group. DreamHack which is from Sweden is also owned by the same Modern Times Group. Some of the biggest esports organizations in Europe also get their funding / sponsors from private companies, like Astralis with Audi.
Esports is also big in Europe because of many non-endemic brands that are already investing in esports, not because of any government actions.
I mentioned about FIFA earlier since I think esports industry could also learn from them. FIFA is a unique organization. They are supposed to be a non-profit organization but they are making money so much better than so many global companies. There is a good article on FIFA’s controversial business model or a good read on how FIFA makes money if you are interested. Bottom line, what we could learn from FIFA is that they could make countries begging to become the host of World Cup just because of basic economic laws, supply and demand.
So, for esports in small countries, we just couldn’t force anything if we don’t have anything – even more so on the government (they are supposed to be the bully, so you have to be a bigger bully first…)
China is just phenomenal in this century. Their industries are jumping through the roof for the last decades, including their esports industry. There is also one big giant from China who makes their esports big, which is Tencent.
From looking at China, I think their government has impact on their esports developments but not on a direct relation. Their government has impact on their global industry development by making profitable regulations and policies, which in turn also affects their esports industry.
Since I don’t want any government official knocking on my door, I have to say this: I am not an anti-government. I just think they only need to do their main job (better), which is making better policies and regulations; and ensure it works for everyone – not making donations to small companies or organizations (like esports organizations / companies).
Let’s go back to my first question. Can government help esports development in small countries? I think so, but not directly – by making better regulations and policies.
So, I don’t think making esports a national sports will have any effect on its development, at least not as good as having better profitable regulations – like what we learn from China. I don’t think an acknowledgement on esports from the government will do anything on esports without any real action.
What we need to make esports big in the under-developed countries are broader and bigger support from other industries, like entertainment industry in the US, general gaming industry in South Korea, or the non-endemic industries in Europe.
I personally think this is a good news because I believe it’s easier to make profit companies to act, rather than the government (unless you are as big as FIFA). Show your local companies which haven’t invested in esports that there are profits to be made in this business. Sure, it needs a lot of things to convince them but, again, convincing profit companies is (IMHO) easier than the government.
Profit companies have a clear goal, which is profit. The government? I’m not even sure what is their goal… LOL… (just kidding, please don’t kidnap me…)