E-sports is growing in TT, and it's big business

Rondell "Eni Panda" Allard celebrates after winning Mortal Kombat: The First Showdown, a e-sport event hosted by eSports Creative, Sunday at the Link Bar Ariapita Avenue, Woodbrook.

MORTAL Kombat: The First Showdown epitomised the continued growth of the e-sports entertainment market, specifically the local fighting game community and the big business surrounding it.

The e-sports tournament was hosted by eSports Creative at The Link Bar, Ariapita Avenue, Sunday, with tournament winner, Rondell Allard – whose gaming alias is "Eni Panda" – taking the $2,000 purse and, of course, bragging rights. The runner-up Derrian "Casper" Gomes and third place finisher Imran "Fraud0noko" Mustapha, earning $2,000 and $1,000 prizes.

E-sports is essentially competitive gaming on video consoles, which are normally multi-player. Apart from Mortal Kombat, the popular titles include FIFA, Street Fighter, Fortnight and Call of Duty, with common themes in sports, first-person shooter, fighting and other types of combat.

"In TT, the growth is phenomenal as well (compared to the global rise of gaming)," said Kwesi Charles, founder of Funnables Entertainment Group, the parent company of eSports Creative. Charles organised the event in partnership with his friends Alpha Henry and Keegan Bruce – a founding member of the local fighting game community.

"Based on data collected within secondary schools, seven out of ten boys play video games daily. Millennials and Generation Zs are known to be digital natives, hence the reason for the growth in competitive gaming."

Rondell Allard, playing against an opponent before winning Mortal Kombat: The First Showdown, at The Link Bar, Ariapita Avenue, Woobrook, on Sunday.

Sunday's event was successful for many reasons, Charles said.

It was well planned, competitive and received sponsorship from corporate partners, Red Bull, The Link Bar and Boom 94.1.

He said in order for the local sector to grow, "there must be a mix of innovation by entrepreneurs, corporate strategy by brands, and the necessary quality of players.

"This event did exactly that," he said.

He believes brands and sponsors have a ripe market to explore, but instead of supporting one-off event they should invest in long-term strategies to aid in "creating a healthy e-sports ecosystem."

However, he says he does not believe in waiting on sponsorship to build itself.

"We have to pave the way and show corporations how they can get their return on investment while building the ecosystem. (I'm) always willing to sit with any brand to discuss their involvement in the landscape, because before entering, one must understand how it works in terms of scale, segmentation of market and investment duration."

While Charles believes gaming is especially popular with people between the ages of 17-35, only about ten per cent play competitively.

"That being said, of that ten per cent, there is an opportunity to create and grow a thriving ecosystem to enable several things to happen in all areas, ranging from players to organisers. It’s almost similar to any other sport. If we are to get to a world class quality, the necessary investment must be made.

"In terms of the e-sports market, there are many gaming competitions done by organisers, which don’t really qualify as part of the e-sports ecosystem," he said, adding that standardisation, in terms of policies, licensing, procedures and other factors, are crucial for market growth.

"I remain positive – based on experience and data – that Trinidad can develop its e-sports model while maintaining its uniqueness, which would elevate brand Trinidad and Tobago," said Charles.

Among their upcoming events is a Primary Schools' eFootball Cup 2019 on May 11.


"E-sports is growing in TT, and it’s big business"

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