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Businessman Hopes To Ingite Local eSports Industry

Businessman Hopes To Ingite Local eSports Industry
From left: Pita Lagicere, director of Cybernet Poon Wai Zhip, Eric Chan and Afoa Kahele-Keil
June 12
10:00 2018

Esports or competitive video gaming is blossoming into a lucrative global industry.

It is a type of organised computer gaming that is held in front of a live audience, including millions online.

Some 300 million people worldwide follow eSports today, a number projected to grow to 500 million by 2020, according to Business Insider Intelligence, a premium research service.

Tournaments are held nearly every month across several countries, with prize pools reaching up to US$20 million (FJ$41.06m).

In New Zealand, there is a regulatory body for competitive gaming known as the New Zealand eSports Federation.

It focuses on developing the industry, while promoting a healthy and balanced lifestyle for eSports participants.

Top television networks such as ESPN have begun broadcasting live competition events, noticing the potential for growth in the eSports market.

In Fiji, the gaming community largely consists of casual players who meet at internet shops to play popular games such as League of Legends and Counter Strike.

Local players have long depended on gaming shops to avoid costly internet bills and the financial burdens of owning and upgrading gaming systems at home.

But as the internet became cheaper and speeds improved, the attraction of playing at a gaming shop started to decline.

 

The graph shows the estimated spending on eSports in US dollars. Photo: Business Insider Intelligence

The graph shows the estimated spending on eSports in US dollars. Photo: Business Insider Intelligence

One game shop owner, however, thinks he may have found a way to get customers to return.

Poon Wai Zhip, director of Cybernet on Varani Street in Laucala Bay, Suva, opened for business in April this year.

Mr Zhip is trying to give locals a platform for exposure to competitive gaming, hoping to one day see a team participate in an international tournament.

His shop currently has 50 computers that he says were imported from China and are among the best for gaming in Fiji.

The most popular game at Cybernet, Mr Zhip says, is Fortnite, a game that reportedly earned US$223 million (FJ$457.83m) in revenue in March.

“I am planning to host a tournament at this shop as soon as I finalise what game my customers want,” the 27-year-old said.

“Of course, at the end of the day I’m only trying to do business, but as a gamer myself I feel I have to give something back to our small community.”

He has further plans to acquire more computers and dreams to one day open a branch in Nadi.

Gaming shops are not new to Fiji. But most have not been able to sustain the business, eventually closing down under mounting debts and not enough profit.

“It’s all about management,” Mr Zhip says.

“People in Fiji are looking for fast and top-notch computers to not only play games on but also use for things like assignments.

“If you put the service of your customers above everything else, your business will thrive and customers will keep returning.”

By 2020, forecasters say the eSports industry will generate more than US$1.34billion (FJ$2.75bn), according to the British Broadcasting Corporation.

“I am glad someone that owns an internet shop is taking the initiative to host local eSports tournaments,” says Ankit Kumar, a gamer for 23 years.

“If implemented well, I think it could put Fiji on the global eSports map.”

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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