E-sports in Hong Kong may get regular government-sponsored venue at Cyberport

The technology park has put forth a proposal for an in-house site with high-end facilities to boost rising industry

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 9:04am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 9:03am

Hong Kong may get its first government-sponsored venue for e-sports, a growing industry seen as a potential growth engine for the city, if a technology park proposal is approved by authorities.

On Monday, Herman Lam Heung-yeung, head of Cyberport in Pok Fu Lam, revealed the plan to a Legislative Council panel. Lam said the park was exploring the idea of an in-house site equipped with high-end facilities. These include high-speed computers and multimedia broadcast systems.

Earlier this month, the government-owned park made the recommendation in a report to the Innovation and Technology Bureau. The aim was to provide a regular venue for holding more e-sports events – mostly video game tournaments – and related activities.

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As part of the plan, there was also a proposal to leverage on existing resources such as the Cyberport Creative Micro Fund, which offers HK$100,000 in seed money to eligible start-ups. The move was to encourage young industry entrants to develop games and apply emerging technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality.

“Cyberport will also join associations in the e-sports industry to discuss long-term development directions,” Lam said. “We will hold more activities to arouse interest in game development and to nurture young talent.”

The government has in recent years jumped on the e-sports bandwagon as annual revenues in the city’s video game industry were forecast to grow at a robust rate of 6.6 per cent and reach US$1 billion (HK$7.8 billion) by 2021, according to accounting firm PwC.

In August, the Tourism Board organised the city’s first e-sports festival, which received HK$35 million in government funding and drew around 50,000 visitors.

The extravaganza was followed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s pledge to boost the development of innovation and technology in her maiden policy address in October.

As the age group of e-sports consumers range from teenagers to those in their early 20s, its supporters say this resonates with Lam’s remark that the development of the tech industry would “create quality employment opportunities for young people”.

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Eric Yeung Chuen-sing, newly-elected president of the E-sports Association, welcomed the new initiatives but suggested that the government provide convenient transport arrangements for e-sports audiences.

“Cyberport is still not so accessible and the transport cost of going there can put off some spectators,” Yeung said. “It would be best if the government can provide free shuttle bus services during big events.”

He also urged authorities to provide more options as there were currently only about four regular e-sports venues – all privately run – in the city.

“The most desirable policy is recognising e-sports as a sport so we can rent all stadiums and sports grounds at discounted prices,” he said. “Right now we are still regarded as a performance so the cost of renting sports grounds is much higher.”

Cyberport is currently not a member of Yeung’s association, which oversees 200 e-sports players in the city, but he said he hoped the park would be included soon.