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E-sports

E-sports industry seeks to score Hong Kong officials’ support ahead of budget speech

Calls for gaming venues and changing public perceptions go out before financial secretary unveils how city will spend massive surplus

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2018, 9:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2018, 10:19pm

A group of e-sports industry insiders and lawmakers urged Hong Kong officials on Tuesday to help develop the emerging sector by providing venues and changing the public’s perception of it.

The call came a day before Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po delivers the city’s annual budget and announces how the government will spend a massive surplus estimated at nearly HK$130 billion this year.

The city hosted its first e-sports event only last August. The industry has for years enjoyed a strong following in mainland China, South Korea, Taiwan, Europe and the United States.

The biggest hurdle for the local industry to clear is public perception, according to Clearence Cheung of entertainment conglomerate Emperor Group, which has invested heavily in the sector.

“If the government recognised professional gaming as a sport, sponsors such as banks and other big companies would follow,” Cheung said at a meeting at Tamar organised by lawmaker Eunice Yung Hoi-yan.

If the government recognised professional gaming as a sport, sponsors ... would follow
Clearance Cheung, Emperor Group

Independent game developers also called for more events to connect gamers as well as introduce more educational and recreational games to the public.

David Phalaris of mobile game developer Aurorainno said Europe held conventions for his peers there to network and promote their products.

“It’s hard to find such events in Hong Kong,” he said.

The Tourism Board organised the city’s inaugural e-sports festival, which received HK$35 million in government funding and drew some 50,000 visitors.

“More events like the festival would help the public understand and embrace e-sports,” Phalaris added.

Nicolas Chan, co-founder of Game On Hong Kong, which helps developers link up with their target audiences, said misperceptions persisted about who gamers are.

“Many people still have this image of lonely teenagers sitting in the dark playing games because they don’t have any friends.”

Chan added that talent would be the key to developing the city as “Asia’s gaming hub and competing with South Korea and Taiwan”.

The Chinese college where students learn by playing video games

E-sports Association president Eric Yeung Chuen-sing echoed that sentiment.

“There is a skill mismatch in the gaming industry, so we need an organiser to allocate the resources and train people,” Yeung said.

The video game industry will expand 6.6 per cent in the city and contribute to the local retail business over the next few years, according to accounting firm PwC. The sector’s revenues are estimated to grow from US$742 million (HK$5.8 billion) last year to US$1 billion by 2021.

Game over? 80 per cent of Hong Kong’s young people have no interest in e-sports as a career

Officials could offer tax incentives to e-sports investors and operators to lift the industry, PwC’s report author Wilson Chow said.

Yung, who represents New Territories East, described the industry as receptive to “any amount of money”.

“And more importantly, government should ask the smaller gaming companies what kind of support they need,” she added.