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New Taipei City Opens E-Sports Training Center, Amid Growing Popularity

新北市政府經濟發展局

Almost overnight, arena-sized video game tournaments, or eSports, have sprung up around the world. It is a movement that New Taipei City is now joining, inaugurating in late August a training base for players and related occupations, such as game commentating.

Located in Sanchong, the 1,000 square meter facility will also offer and a gaming competition area, audience viewing areas and broadcasting booth.

While eSports was once the purvey of bedrooms or PC cafés with free-flow soft drinks where all-night gaming cost as little as US$20, the sport is now quickly transitioning to big arenas and big money.

The growth of video games as a competitive sport is being fueled by corporations eager to cash in on a broad spectator base -- namely at-home enthusiasts and rabid fans of video game titles.

Municipal officials are hoping to capitalize on a demographic which readily embraces online PC gaming. For example, gaming trends in Japan tend to be more focused around console games due to the presence of powerful corporations such as Sony and Nintendo, which are also active in arcade style games.

Meanwhile in Taiwan, gaming is overwhelmingly PC-based, probably due to the influence of PC makers Acer and Asus.

Numerous professional leagues based upon a particular video game title have been formed in recent years, where buy-in for global team ownership can be as much as US$20 million (NT$615.8 million).

This is the case for Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch, a ‘shoot-em’ game of the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) variety. Its professional league is Overwatch League, or Owl. Other popular titles in the MOBA genre includes League of Legends, which employs a whole roster of warlocks, soldiers, genies, and faeries.Its professional league is the LoL Championship Series.

Taiwan’s best known eSports league TeSL has five professional teams based on geographical region competing in games such as StarCraft, Kart Rider, and Special Force.

Central to the growth of the league is close cooperation with local broadcaster, Videoland Television Network. The broadcaster is eager to gain access to a near constant stream of content that can be a simple to produce as patching in a single feed from a monitor. This cuts down dramatically on the lights, cameras, and studio sets associated with producing other content.

Each team in the league employs professional players, giving members a base monthly salary, and most have shared living arrangements so team members can easily train together.

One of Taiwan’s best known professional eSports team, Flash Wolves, reached the quarterfinals in the international League of Legends World Championships in 2015.

According to a Business Next article, former Flash Wolves team member, Yuan Jin-hui is optimistic about the growth of the industry but believes that Taiwan may soon face a talent shortage in this area.

In addition to the lack of competitors, Yuan says Taiwan needs better training to overcome the talent gap.

Filling the gap

104 Job Bank recruiting website estimates that Taiwan's eSports industry currently lacks about 10,000 staff including game reviewers, live anchors, event designers and planners, and even competitors.

For this reason, the New Taipei eSports training center plans nine categories of training, including game and broadcaster training, to fill the long-term talent gaps in the industry.

Lai Jun-guang, the general producer of Yahoo Esports channel, speaking in a Business Next article says it’s difficult to find an announcer or reporter who can cover such competitions. To provide commentary they need to understand the complexity of the games and have a breadth of knowledge about eSports, Lai says.

Training in courses that provide eSport instruction as well as broadcasting tips is one way for commentators to overcome this knowledge gap.

Deng Jia-pei, the person in charge of the New Taipei’s eSports center says a maximum of 30 people can be enrolled in each course offered at the new training base.

For courses related to eSports broadcasting, the first wave of invitations will be extended to radio station hosts and those from the industry. The center will give rookie announcers the chance to cover competitions. However, becoming an announcer or commentator for Yahoo Esports Channel or Blizzard Entertainment, will require much more practice and training.

In addition to training professionals to enter the eSports field, the center says it will also support university teams. It also plans to work closely with local technology firms such as Acer, ADATA and AVerMedia, so that it can provide the necessary hardware and software.

Many are hoping this eSports center will become an important stronghold for player training, event organization, and industry exchange. ADATA Chairman Simon Chen in a Business Next article said he hopes the center not only promotes eSports, but also other up-and-coming technologies, like virtual reality and augmented reality.

Chen hopes that through diversified industry exchanges, the eSports industry ecosystem can be strengthened.

One immediate benefit would be a common area where university teams can also train and compete, potentially preparing them for international tournaments in the future.

Aside from supporting local youth by providing them with a place to play and train, this center may just allow them to achieve their dream: Earning top-prize money in international tournaments as professional sportsmen and women.

News source is from Business Next.