HONG KONG — A pistol-armed man in royal blue sleeves stealthily creeped through the corners of a dusty, presumably abandoned town. At the sight of an opponent, he shot relentlessly until the latter gushed blood and dropped dead on the ground.
Suddenly, cheers and jeers — depending on whom one is rooting for — erupted from a large crowd of spectators gathered here in one of the large halls of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The killing, as well as the ones that followed, happened in a virtual world, set off by members of two five-man teams. It was part of the grand finals of the ZOTAC Cup Masters 2018, a tournament for the video game "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive."
The ZOTAC Cup was one of three tournaments of competitive video gaming, dubbed e-sports, that took place at the ICBC (Asia) e-Sports and Music Festival, which ran here from August 24 to 26.
After a successful debut last year, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) decided to mount the festival anew to capitalize on the enthusiasm for e-sports, which gaming research firm Newzoo said is expected to reach a total global audience of 380 million this 2018.
Tried and tested
HKTB chairman Peter Lam said last year's festival "provided enormous international exposure for Hong Kong and reinforced its image as the events capital of Asia."
Last year's event also generated global publicity value of HK$150 million (or P1 billion) while the tournaments for "League of Legends" and "Street Fighter V" drew more than 7.4 million live online viewers, Lam said.
This year, the HKTB spent HK$40 million (around P270 million) in organizing and promoting the event, which they said drew nearly 80,000 attendees, including overseas visitors.
In a bid to scale up attractions, this year's festival dropped "Street Fighter V," and added the tournaments for "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" and the battle royale-style "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds" (PUBG). Over 100 players from different parts of the world participated in the games.
For the ZOTAC Cup, Brazil's Made in Brazil swept Poland's Team Kinguin to take home a prize money of over HK$2 million (around P13 million), a record-setting amount in Hong Kong's e-sports history.
The prize pool, meanwhile, for the "PUBG" and "League of Legends" tilt were at HK$1 million (P6.8 million) and HK$100,000 (P680,000), respectively.
Aside from the tournaments, blaring game sounds akin to those in an arcade filled the Experience Zone, where game companies set up booths for festivalgoers to buy their latest products and try out upcoming ones.
At the Sony Interactive Entertainment booth, for instance, visitors were able to play a demo version of "Marvel's Spider Man" for PlayStation 4, which has yet to be released in the market.
Festivalgoers were given a fully immersive experience in booths that offered virtual reality (VR) games. They needed only to wear helmets or visors to live out the games in computer-generated environments.
One notable VR game at the Experience Zone was "Tower Tag," exhibited by Network China Technology Limited, where players positioned atop great heights in the virtual world engaged in three-on-three shooting battles.
The event was also not short on entertainment, featuring performances by DJ Soda from South Korea and Canto-pop singer Gin Lee, among others.
As Hong Kong continues to establish itself as a gaming hub in the region, similar to cities in neighboring Mainland China and South Korea, its tourism board is hopeful of holding another e-sports festival next year.