Esports talent in S.Korea gets boost from big business, easing of gaming ban
29 October, 2021, 6:29 am
South Korean teenager Yoon Ki-chan gets just three hours of sleep a day but spends more than three times that playing online games – with the blessing of his parents and teachers – as he dreams of becoming a top pro League of Legends player.
Yoon and his peers are the next generation of gamers in South Korea, a fast-growing esports powerhouse whose players have won Riot Games’ League of Legends World Championship six times since the most-watched esports event began in 2011.
“I suffered a lot from the shutdown law. I typically don’t sleep a lot, so I studied different things during the shutdown hours. If it weren’t for the law, I could have been a better player by now,” said Yoon, who says he can game at least four hours more now since turning 16 this year.
Esports will also feature as a medal sport for the first time at the Asian Games in Hangzhou next year.
Park said the private academy has seen a 30-fold jump in daily consultations since it started this programme in 2016.
Despite the growing international status and interest among prospective professional players, government support for the esports industry, estimated in 2020 to be worth around 17.9 trillion won ($15.2 billion), has been lacklustre, experts say.
But the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism wants to do more, especially ahead of organised competitions such as the Asian Games, an official said without giving details.
Instant noodle maker Nongshim Co Ltd (004370.KS) launched its professional League of Legends gaming team, Nongshim RedForce, late last year, joining other South Korean conglomerates that have seen potential in the industry.
“The esports industry continued growing, but the state-led support measures have been weak, with corporate sponsorships and private academies mainly having driven the industry,” said Oh Ji-hwan, CEO of Nongshim E-Sports.
SK Telecom-backed team T1, on which ‘Faker’, the most famous League of Legends gamer of all time, plays, opened its esports academy last month. The 20-week programme costs 5.6 million won, but applications are flooding in, it said.
Nongshim’s Oh says support for gaming talent from both the government and the private sector is paramount as South Korea’s market will never be as big as that of the United States or China.