Forget streaming, live audiences still matter for esports

Live audience wave their phones in the air
A live audience at the Indoor Stadium for The International 11. (Photo: Aloysius Low/Yahoo Esports SEA)

A chorus of chants echoed through the walls, rising to a perfect crescendo as avid fans on both sides cheered on their favourite teams.

It was our first time attending a full-scale esports event in-person, and the atmosphere was unlike any other. Passion, determination and grit, are the three words that perfectly sum up the experience.

Taking place at Our Tampines Hub, the grand finals of the Mobile Legends Professional League Singapore Season 4 (MPL SG S4) played host to a crowd of over 500 rabid supporters of rivals Slate Esports and RSG SG as they duked it out.

While the number may be a far cry to the recently hosted The International 2022, which took place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium to 12,000 fans, it's indicative of just how much it's needed. I'd imagine a professional player would relish the support from an enthusiastic crowd.

You could feel the passion of each and every fan in the arena as their chants reverberated across the walls. You could feel the determination of each player on stage as they focused intently on the screens in front of them, ensuring that every move they made was effective.

You could feel the grit as the closing moments of the match drew ever so closer and each player brought out their last ounce of resolve to secure the victory.

Following a gruelling series of matches between the two teams, RSG SG came out on top, becoming back-to-back season champions and the first team in MPL SG history to finish an entire season without losing a single series of games.

“Playing in front of a live audience really gets you hyped up during the match and you can feel your adrenaline pumping,” said Remas “Remaniscent” Ker Zhen Hong, the jungler of Team Flash, who finished seventh overall in the standings.

It's still game on

(Photo: Aloysius Low/Yahoo Esports SEA)
(Photo: Aloysius Low/Yahoo Esports SEA)

The post-pandemic scene has seen a rise in organised events and the same can be said for the esports industry.

With many measures in place, it has not been an easy journey. “We can still feel the impact of the pandemic on us”, said Lee Jian Ming, founder of Zenway Studios.

During the height of the pandemic, Zenway managed to land big gigs, co-producing the Free Fire World Series 2021 with VSPN, the M3 World Championship with Mineski Global, and Free Fire World Series 2022 Sentosa with IO Esports. This led to MPL SG S4.

While many industries have taken a beating from the COVID-19 pandemic, esports has been one of the few that are thriving.

It created a demand for such events as many leapt into the gaming realm. This prompted Zenway Studios to quickly pivot their once offline tournaments, online.

But for the first six months of the pandemic, there was little to zero growth and engagement from the audiences.

“It took a toll on us as an event management company and we were struggling. We went on to work with the government and the People’s Association to hold online engagement activities and it got better. We saw the number of users grow again,” said Lee.

The future transformation of esports

(Photo: Aloysius Low/Yahoo Esports SEA)
(Photo: Aloysius Low/Yahoo Esports SEA)

Whether it be singing along with your favourite band’s concert or joining in the rallying cries at a football match at the World Cup, fans complete the experience of attending a live event.

The same can be said for live esports events.

The clamorous atmosphere of the fans coupled with the nail biting action on offer made us realise how much live audiences have been missed because of the pandemic.

With the reduced pandemic measures being put into place locally, and borders being opened up across the world, the future of live esports remains bright.

There is no doubt that they will continue to grow and keep a foot in the worlds of both online and offline events.

This story is the work of student contributors working with Yahoo Southeast Asia.

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