Hong Kong embraces battle royale fever with PUBG tournament
Whoops and cheers rang out across the Plaza Hollywood mall in Hong Kong -- punctuated by loudspeakers blaring one question: “WHO GETS TO EAT CHICKEN?”
It’s not a chicken giveaway. This is the first day of the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Team Qualifier -- an esports tournament heralding the way for next month’s Hong Kong Esports and Music Festival.
The seemingly bizarre phrase is a reference to the game’s victory message: “Winner winner chicken dinner!"
The three day festival will run from August 24-26, and features three esports tournaments. It’s also the second year that the Hong Kong Tourism Board is organizing the event alongside the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, an attempt by the city to try to keep up with the lucrative esports industry.
And organizers are definitely trying to capitalize on the battle royale craze. To get people interested, they even shot a real-life PUBG commercial featuring celebrity Jason Chan for the event.
(This ad played on repeat before the event started. I watched it at least 5 times. Send help.)
As the teams were getting ready for the qualifiers, Chan held a PUBG Mobile showdown against 50 audience members. However, there was a catch: Players must kill him with their bare hands.
Whatever street cred Chan earned with that commercial was short-lived.
Swarmed by eager players, all beating on him in their underwear, Chan died in under a minute.
Last year’s festival only featured one League of Legends tournament, but did manage to get more than 7 million online views, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board. We’ll have to wait and see if the addition of two more games (CS:GO and PUBG) will draw more viewers.
The city has seen some locals make it on the international stage. Kurtis “Toyz” Lau was lauded for his skillful mid-lane plays which helped his team win the League of Legends World Championship in 2012. Street Fighter V pro Jonny “Humanbomb” Lee has twice gotten to the top five in the Evolution Championship Series. And one of the city’s Overwatch teams, Hong Kong Attitude, has consistently performed well during this year’s Overwatch Contenders: Pacific.
But Hong Kong can do more to encourage local stars to emerge. It was only this March that the government announced it was going to invest HK$100 million (around US$12.7 million) to promote the development of esports. Hong Kong’s Cyberport will also develop its arcade into a local esports and digital entertainment center.
The rarity of local events is what made 17-year-old Eric Lee and his friends decide to sign up and compete at the PUBG tournament. Lee’s had experience playing in CS:GO tournaments around Asia before, but noted a lack of opportunities in Hong Kong.
“We wanted to play together at an event here at home, and be able to participate in the local scene,” said Lee. “Esports may be growing in Hong Kong but the government still doesn’t have the infrastructure or support system that other Asian governments provide. We need more competitions to find talent so that pro players can actually make a living.”
Still, better late than never, and the esports industry is still booming. Maybe one day, these excited PUBG contestants will be playing in front of a packed stadium of cheering fans instead of a curious gathering of shoppers.