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Samoa can become regional hub for gamers – businessman

Samoa has the potential to become the regional hub for esports but internet connectivity continues to be a hurdle in reaching that goal.

That is the view of Francis Ah Wong, the Owner and Manager of the firm Push Play Samoa that operates the arcade in Apia, which has become a e-sports platform for individuals in Samoa to enhance and take their gaming skills to the maximum level and have fun.

He said his company plans to host tournaments throughout the year to develop the talent and skills of local gamers in different game genres.

Next week, the arcade will host one of these tournaments in a 2v2 match for the popular video game Call of Duty. 

Other tournaments include games such as the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA 2020) in soccer and renowned fighter genre game 'Tekken' in the following weeks.

Mr. Ah Wong said it was his dream to make Samoa the hub for esports in the Pacific Islands, which would see players travel to Apia to participate in competitions.

"We want Samoa to be the very first center for e-sports in the Pacific,” he said. “Currently for Oceania gaming tournaments, one would have to travel to China which is far away from the local action of Pacific island gamers.”

But the long distances that Pacific Island gamers have to travel is not the only challenge, as Mr. Ah Wong said internet connectivity in Samoa is still a challenge.

“If we were to host our own tournaments here in Samoa, other Pacific Island countries could come here and play. But we do have one issue with that and that’s our on-island internet connection,” he added.

Despite the hurdle, he said it is his hope that when his plans get underway, internet connectivity will be upgraded to better suit an event of such scale.

Discussing the tournaments his company will host, he said he is not only looking out for genuine talent, but to provide a social space for talented players to grow their love of gaming.

Looking at Samoan culture and how children are raised to put education first, Mr. Ah Wong said this can be an opportunity for children to see information technology and video game development as career paths.

“Maybe in the future these kids can program and develop their own video games,” he added.

Mr. Ah Wong said in terms of competition, he has seen a lot of progress in the tournaments to remove the stigma that is associated with gamers. 

“We know the idea of being a gamer in Samoa is considered weird, but we are trying to start that fire for our community and show that we have a passion.”

He added that how weird gaming could possibly be is when professional esports players like Richard Tyler Blevins – commonly known by his online alias ‘Ninja’ – makes millions of dollars annually.

Ninja became the first professional esport player to be featured on the cover of ESPN Magazine furthering the prominence of gaming in mainstream sports.

Mr. Ah Wong runs the arcade together with his partner, Rosealhe Liga, and fellow employee, Eric Ete.

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