This article first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2016 issue of WGM.
With the help of Grow uP eSports Association, Macau sent a team of young eSports players to the World Championships for the very first time in October and performed well above expectations.
Macau has a long established tradition of punching above its weight, so it should come as no great surprise to see the city’s first professional eSports team making its presence felt on the world stage.
Competing at the eSports World Championship in Jakarta in early October for the very first time, Macau SAR – represented by six aspiring young gamers aged between 15 and 21 – stunned some of the world’s best before falling just short of progressing past the group stages.
Particularly impressive was the five-man League of Legends (LoL) team, which scored wins over Sweden, Macedonia and Switzerland, while Hearthstone (HS) representative Kyle Wong finished his tough group with wins over Switzerland and one of the big guns, Australia.
“The Macau teams, both HS and LoL, performed beyond our expectations,” said Frederico Alexandre dos Santos Rosario, Chairman of team backer Grow uP eSports Association.
“At first we thought it would be too challenging because we landed in the same preliminary groups as the big players like China (in LoL) and South Korea (in HS) after the official seeding.
“But the Macau LoL team managed to beat Sweden on Day 1 then surprised everyone again on Day 2 beating Switzerland and Macedonia. We even came close to beating Australia!
“The opponents were strong in HS but we still managed to beat the Swiss and Australia. Our HS player had to face Finland, South Korea and other top “brainy” countries but we always knew our calm-minded Kyle Wong could perform. Beating two nations is considered a success for Macau, the newcomer for IeSF World Champs.”
Macau’s maiden eSports team was selected in August at a regional event organized by Grow uP eSports Association – a not for profit group which aims to develop and grow eSports across Southeast Asia.
Alongside 21-year-old Wong, the LoL team comprised 18-year-old Wai Chak Hou, 17-year-olds Leong Ka Kin and Kou Meng Chong, 16-year-old Fernando Gabriel and 15-year-old Yau U Son.
They joined a total of 340 competitors from 32 nationalities at the World Championships in Jakarta.
“Grow uP eSports has provided the Macau teams an opportunity to experience eSports at a national level,” explained Santos Rosario. “We offered them a rare chance to gauge their skills against many other nations, to interact with players from other countries, exchange ideas and build new friendships with similar interests. We hope they will continue to play online with the new friends they made to improve their current skills.
“During the championship, players have faced numerous technical issues and schedule delays. We were happy to see our Macau team players using the time-off opportunity wisely to exchange tactical skills with Australian and Swedish players.
“The Macau LoL team have proven themselves to be, at least, a semi-professional team. They have always honed their skills by themselves and with constructive opinions from their friends in local internet bars/cafés, without the support of a professional coach or proper facilities that many other nations and professional teams have access to.
“According to the heads of some other nations’ e-Sports Federations, the team has great potential to evolve into a professional one. Imagine if we had a full sports management team behind supporting them with assets like professional coaching, fitness training and diet control?”
The recognition given by Macau’s rivals is testimony to the team’s rapid progress, as evidenced by their World Championships performance.
Already an associate member of the International eSports Federation (IeSF), an Annual Gneral Meeting was held while in Jakarta with 14 nations voting for Macau to become a full IeSF member with voting powers.
“It is recognition for our hard work in the past one to two years and shows how much the other nations want to collaborate with us as an eSports partner,” Santos Rosario said. “We believe those nations who voted for us see the true potential of the Macau eSports industry. They know the positive effects that eSports has bought to Las Vegas so far – through economy, business and tourism diversification – and to their nations as well.
“We all know that Macau is the ‘Las Vegas of the East’ with the biggest hotels in the world, a proven successful tourism industry and a very welcoming and talented eSports community. Macau people have games flowing in our veins!”
And, says Santos Rosario, this is just the beginning.
“We know there are players from Macau who have participated in tournaments and in mixed-nationality teams’ tournaments held in many Asian countries in the past, but there was never an opportunity for these hidden pros to represent Macau,” he said. “We are changing this and we hope these players will support us by becoming more pro-active and participate in more tournaments organized by Grow uP eSports. The eSports local community unity is essential to help the industry grow.
“Grow uP eSports will continue to play the main role in developing this industry in Macau and bring new kinds of excitement to this entertainment city. eSports will become an innovative marketing vehicle for large corporations in Macau to connect with young ‘millennials’ with rich spending power and habits.
“Based on our observations, there are still many unsung eSports heroes in Macau in many different games. We believe we will lure these beasts out with the exposure we are creating and the tournament opportunities we are offering.”