E-sports: From insurance agent to full-time live streamer, Singapore gamer eyes spot in M2 World C'ship grand final

SINGAPORE – Over three years ago, Ho “SynC” Ee Hong had been working as an insurance agent for six months when he was thrown what seemed like a perfect lifeline to haul himself out of a job that he disliked.

After emerging champions in 2017 with Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) team IDNS SG in the inaugural MLBB Professional League (MPL) MYSG for Malaysia and Singapore teams, Ho was offered the chance to do live streaming full-time.

Despite his wife and parents’ reservations – the new job would see Ho recording himself playing games live to an online audience – and worries about career prospects given he had a young son, Ho took the plunge and gave himself six months to see if he could make a living out of his passion.

“Many parents wouldn’t want to see their kids just staying at home and playing games,” he said. “My wife also (objected to it) because she found it unstable and unrealistic. But after I got some results, they were more open to it.”

That leap of faith paid off as Ho’s viewers on the live streams of his MLBB sessions on Facebook grew from 20 in the first month to 500 in half a year, enabling him to earn enough to support his family.

The professional e-sports player, a two-time MPL MYSG winner, also sees live streaming as a way to hone his skills as he can spend nine to 10 hours playing MLBB daily.

Ho, 26, is part of e-sports team RSG, who will be taking part in the upcoming M2 World Championship in Singapore. The US$300,000 (S$399,090) tournament features two local and 10 foreign team and runs from Monday (Jan 18) to Sunday.

All 12 look set to be involved, despite Brazil team DreamMax having three of their players testing positive for Covid-19 last week.

The rest of the team will compete online while being quarantined in their hotel rooms as the other 11 teams play in function rooms at the Shangri-La Hotel.

Ho “Sync” Ee Hong, 26, from RSG at RSG’s HQ on Jan 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

RSG are drawn in Group A with Myanmar’s Burmese Ghouls and Russia’s Unique DeVu, and kick off their campaign on Monday.

While Ho is used to spending hours battling it out in virtual worlds, being a successful live-streamer required him to do more than just play the game.

He needed to become more outgoing – successful streamers often engaged with their viewers who left comments – and after two months, Ho also felt confident enough to turn his web camera on to show his face. He is now on popular streaming platform Twitch where he has 4,800 followers.

Most live-streamers make money from the funding from their fans, which can come in various forms such as donations, tips or paid subscriptions.

A monthly subscription on Twitch could cost US$4.99, US$9.99 or US$24.99, with each tier giving subscribers different benefits and levels of access to content by the streamer.

Twitch users may not necessarily subscribe to channels that they follow.

Ho “Sync” Ee Hong, 26, from RSG uses Benedetta in his next Mobile Legends match on Jan 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

Top streamers such as American Timothy “TimTheTatman” John Betar can bring home millions, with the 30-year-old, who has 6 million followers on Twitch, earning over US$1.2 million last year.

A local streamer, known as Zxuan, told Tech in Asia in 2018 that he could earn up to a five-figure income in a good month.

Ho’s wife Michelle, 26, a senior data analyst and web developer, no longer has those initial worries. She said: “When he first started telling me that he wanted to be a streamer, I was quite puzzled because I thought that in Singapore, being a streamer isn’t very common and popular.

“I realised that gaming is the only thing that I’ve seen him being so passionate about so I decided to be supportive of his decision and I’m glad he made the right choice.”

For the past few weeks, Ho’s focus is firmly on the M2 World Championship.

He said: “We’re aiming to get into the grand finals (on Sunday). We’ve increased our training and for the past weekends, we’ve been coming down for full-day training from 11am till midnight.”

More on this topic

Defending champions EVOS Legends will not be participating in this edition of the tournament, leaving the Indonesian teams RRQ Hoshi, who were the runners-up at the M1 World Championship, and Alter Ego the ones to beat.

Although the tournament will be held behind closed doors, fans can catch the action online or at Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure, with tickets starting at $15.

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