Jakarta. The debut of esports in the form of competitive video gaming at this year's Asian Games has shown not only its expanding popularity worldwide, but also Indonesia's promising potential for success in the discipline.
The country's achievements include a gold medal won by 16-year-old Ridel Yesaya Sumarandak in Clash Royale on Monday (27/08).
Though Ridel's win will not count in Indonesia's official medal tally – esports is a demonstration event this year – his performance may indicate a transition into defining gaming as a professional sport and further illustrates how the industry is developing in Indonesia.
According to the Indonesia eSports Association (IeSPA), there are around 40 million players in the country.
Indonesia is ranked 17th in the games market, with an estimated revenue of $1.13 billion in 2018, as projected by market research company Newzoo.
Hendry Handisurya, a professional Indonesian gamer who started his career in 2006, said esports is thriving.
"Ten years ago it was small, but now it's big and it's only getting bigger. You'll be amazed," Hendry told the Jakarta Globe in a recent interview.
Hendry will be competing on Friday in the Hearthstone event, and is expected to win another gold for Indonesia. His preliminary round will be a match against Werit Popan of Thailand.
"Everyone is expecting me to get the gold, [but] I don't know, because my opponents will not be easy – they are all champions in their countries. So I can't promise anything, but I'll try my best," Hendry said.
IeSPA secretary general Prana Adisapoetra said Indonesia seeks to win at least a bronze medal in the Pro Evolution Soccer event, which will take place on Saturday at the BritAma Arena in Jakarta.
After its successful Asian Games debut, esports is en route to become a full medal event at the next Games in Hangzhou, China.
It was recognized as a sport activity last November by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), with efforts underway to introduce the discipline in the Olympic Games.
"We think of esports as a discipline which could attract the youth, so that the Asian Games does not cater to audiences of traditional sports, like athletics or badminton. This is definitely a progress," Indonesian Asian Games Organizing Committee (Inasgoc) media and public relations director M. Danny Buldansyah told the Jakarta Globe.
At the 2018 Asian Games, six titles, including League of Legends (LOL) and Arena of Valor (AOV), are featured.
Gamers are enthusiastic about the latest developments.
Indri Sherlyana Tunggal, an Indonesian gamer from Surabaya, East Java, told the Jakarta Globe that the esports demonstration event at the Asian Games could help change negative perceptions of gaming.
"I think it's so cool. This is improving how esports is perceived, and hopefully it can change the stigma on gaming … now gamers are also athletes," she said.
Indri specializes in first-person shooter game Point Blank and has played in national and international tournaments.
Esports in Indonesia
Although esports is still categorized as a recreational sport in Indonesia, IeSPA is working on changing it into a competitive sport, which should translate into more support.
"The government still underestimates [esports] a little bit, in terms of financial support and all, because it is more focused on achieving medals," IeSPA's Prana said.
The association, which was established in 2013, became a member of the Indonesian Olympic Committee (KOI) in February and is working toward being recognized by Indonesia's National Sports Committee (KONI).
IeSPA has its branches in 11 provinces, including West Papua, North Sumatra, West Kalimantan and South Sulawesi.
According to Prana and Indri, there is a positive outlook for esports in the country.
"There are many successful gamers making significant income in this industry. Maybe in Indonesia esports is not as advanced as in other countries yet, but if the community and gamers work toward more professionalism, along with support from the government, esports here could become huge," Indri said.
Players competing in international gaming tournaments stand to win prizes worth millions of dollars. The winner of annual Dota 2 championship, The International, for example, won more than $11 million this year. Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle game.
In Indonesia, however, esports development may be hampered by problems with internet connectivity. A good internet connection is essential to access international servers.