World's top e-gamers fight it out in S'pore

And the World Cyber Games committee ponders over whether to include mobile devices as an official games platform in the competition.

SINGAPORE--The world's largest electronic sports show kicked off in the island-state yesterday, gathering more than 700 gamers from 67 countries who will compete in the grand finals for prizes totaling US$435,000.

This year's World Cyber Games (WCG) has attracted competitors as young as three years old, with the oldest over 60 years old, and boasts a total prize money of over US$2.5 million, including amounts awarded during preliminary rounds.

With the global games market projected to be worth US$30 billion in 2007, it is no wonder WCG organizer Hank Jeong said it is only "a matter of time" before the Games achieves "Olympic level". Jeong is president and CEO of International Cyber Marketing, the official organizers of the WCG.

And the Singapore government definitely wants a piece of the action.

Said Quek Swee Kuan, director of infocomms and media cluster with Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB): "Being a host to WCG sends a strong signal to games companies all over the world that Singapore is serious about games." He noted that the government has sealed several partnerships with games and digital media companies to drive this market in Singapore, including Japan's Koei and Lucasfilm Animation in the United States.

"Singapore is at the crossroads of the East and West," Quek said, adding that the country has the abilities and knowledge to develop games that appeal to an international audience. Hosting the WCG further puts Singapore on the map as the "Asian venue for exciting virtual world of games and great sportsmanship", he said.

The EDB will continue to "bring in" more of such major global IT trade shows and exhibitions, such as the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in the United States and Tokyo's GDC (Game Developers Conference), and host them in Singapore, he said.

The WCG committee is also exploring the possibility of introducing mobile games in the competition, and no decision has been made yet, according to Jeong. Every new platform must be tested for at least one to two years before it can be recognized as an official component of the game, he explained. There is, however, a Mobile Tournament at the games which will run as a standalone league.

This year's competition features nine official games including PC-based Counter Strike and FIFA Soccer 2005, and Halo 2 and Dead or Alive Ultimate, which run on the Microsoft Xbox console platform.