SINGAPORE (Oct 29): In August, the Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta had a special showcase. The 5,000-capacity BritAma Arena, normally a venue for Indonesia’s top basketball league’s games, was the stage for quite a different kind of game. Speed, reflexes and dexterity were on display and the players donned team jerseys. But they were also rigged out with headphones and microphones; the battles were virtual, rather violent and high fantasy, fought among medieval soldiers, magicians, maidens and monsters.

The competition was in the category of esports, or professional multiplayer video gaming, which has moved into the mainstream. Like the graphics in the games, the numbers are eye-boggling. According to gaming market intelligence agency Newzoo, the global esports market has doubled between 2015 and 2017 to reach US$655 million ($904 million).

In China alone, there are nearly 620 million esports gamers. The industry’s events sponsorships, ticketing, advertising, media rights and related businesses generate some US$38 billion in revenue a year. The industry is backed by the likes of Tencent Holdings, which has said it will invest RMB1 billion a year in esports. The company has co-published, with Garena, the game Honour of Kings, which boasts 200 million players each month.

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