A chat with Dr Sid on leaving music, interest in esports and the viability of esports in Nigeria

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Dr Sid’s focus has shifted from singing about the soft life in white agbada with Don Jazzy to joining forces wherever he can to build the Nigerian esports ecosystem…
Dr Sid's next act? The Nigerian esports industry

Dr Sid had a plan. Thirty minutes for the interview, thirty-five tops. Then he had to catch a flight back to Lagos. Days later, he’ll post on Instagram a clip with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos.

He had met with the governor in hopes that they can facilitate a Memorandum of Understanding between the Lagos State, Sports Commission and the French Embassy on building and structuring the Nigerian Esports ecosystem.

In the past few years, Dr Sid’s focus has shifted from singing about the soft life in white agbada with Don Jazzy to joining forces wherever he can to build the Nigerian esports ecosystem.

On saying goodbye to the stage

“I needed to transition from music into something else,” he said of his decision to bow out of the music scene. Having observed the industry for years, he had come to understand the twist and turns of music.

Born Sidney Onoriode Esiri, but took the moniker Dr Sid in spite of his degree in Dental Surgery. He knows the significant role that age plays in who gets to bounce around stages to a cheering crowd of music lovers all over the world.

Just as he changed the game and contributed what he could in the moulding of the Nigerian music sound, when a new crop of singers emerged on the stage to make their own contribution, he left.

“There is a limit to how long you can actively perform on stage at the same level,” he said. And so it was at the peak of his career, when he still had a couple of hits in him, that he decided to leave the stage and set into motion what he calls his “retirement plan.”

“Music was always a means to an end, even though it was my passion. I have always had a passion for film and so that is sort of my end game, my retirement plan.” His movie The Order of Things, a romantic comedy starring AMVCA Best Actor winner, Timini Egbuson, was in the cinemas in June this year.

But gaming he said is the next act by Dr Sid. Kon10dr is the next phase of what I’m trying to build.”

Dr Sid's next act? The Nigerian esports industry
Dr Sid

The Chronicles of Gaming, community and Kon10dr

Kon10dr (pronounced contender) is a company he started in 2019 that “host and organize premium esports gaming tournaments and league.” With Kon10dr, he has been able to register over 6000 gamers.

The entire Kon10dr community, made up of Discord channels and Telegram groups, is over 13,000 strong, he said.

Read also: Let Oscar Michael tell you what the Nigerian games industry is about

He didn’t just look around for possible opportunities and jumped on esports as his next line of action.

You see, he had always been into video games (his favourite? Call of Duty: Warzone) so much so that growing up, it was a cause of concern for his father, the veteran Nollywood actor Justice Esiri. He regularly posts clips of himself playing a new video game or trying out gaming gear for his 600,000 followers on Instagram.

He explained his love for gaming:

“I think gaming is a huge part of my blood, my DNA from when I was a kid,” he said. “I was highly fascinated by the complexities of video games; by how, you know, they were made, how they run and that there was a reward to completing or finishing a level. I’ve had every single console or mobile gaming device that was sever developed. I played every and anything that was available to me.”

This is how the whole Kon10dr thing started.

In 2015, he enrolled in a film school in Los Angeles. He had thought to learn how to make films. Then he began to notice the esports space just on the periphery. It wasn’t until he heard of Kyle Giersdorf, the American teenager who won 3 million dollars from playing the game Fortnite, that he began to take the industry more seriously.

So, he decided to attend the E3 video game conference in 2019.

“It kind of changed my perspective as to how viable, how big the gaming and esports industry is big globally,” he said of the conference.

It was at this time that he began to push and founded a gaming team. Joined multiple WhatsApp and Telegram groups. Plugged himself into the ecosystem. Joined the Nigerian Esports Association.

He became the vice president of the association. When it rebranded itself as the Nigerian Esports Federation, he became technical director. Eventually, he left the federation, from exhaustion from all the politicking that politics actually involve.

He was bootstrapping, running his gaming team from pocket. Money was going out but wasn’t coming back. It was then that it came to him. The industry needed a tournament. Not just any tournament. A big one. Big enough for the world to pay attention, to make esports mainstream in Nigeria.

“The problem we had was, we had Manchester United without the Premier League,” is how he described it.

To fix it, he started Kon10dr Inc., to “give gamers the opportunity to monetise their passion.” In December last year, it held its marquee event, Kon10dr Esports Championship, a tournament that saw it fly in some 350 gamers across the continent to Lagos and doled out over N26.1m in prize money.

Already the Kon10dr team has started doing the groundwork for the championship this year, hosting esports meets in the runup to the end of the year.

Dr Sid on the viability of esports in Nigeria

But after all, is said and done, is esports a viable business opportunity especially in a place like Nigeria desperately in need of more technological advancement?

“Esports is a 2.1 billion dollar business globally. So when you look at the business aspect of Esports, it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” he said of the business viability of the industry in Nigeria. “Is it commercially viable? I’ll say yes. But there is a lot of work that needs to go into it for it to get to that point. It is a goldmine that is going to be successful regardless of all the forces and things that try to stop it.”

Revenue from esports is no different from regular sports. Sponsorships, advertising, ticket sales, media licencing, betting etc are all opportunities on the table and if things go as planned, will be ripe for the taking in the nearest future.

“We have to spend time cultivating the audience,” Dr Sid said. “In Africa, it’s still in its infancy. We are focused on building that community. There is value for everyone involved. We are growing organically. We are in the middle of trying to raise some pre-seed capital to scale up our operations.”

But in the meantime, his focus is on letting the public see that esports is an industry bristling with multiple career paths. That is a hill he is willing to die on because he knows it far too well. When he pivoted from dental surgery to music, at a time the music industry was only just picking up.

“They told me that I was crazy. ‘How do you do music?’ But look at now, we have artists winning Grammys,” he said.

Dr Sid's next act? The Nigerian esports industry

The plan is that the Nigerian esports industry grows so big it becomes an export for the country.

“If that can happen with music, I am very sure that it can happen with esports. It’s going to take a while. But Nigeria will definitely catch up,” he said.

See how Dr Sid did in a lightening round below:

  • God of War or Assassin’s Creed?
    God of War
  • Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings?
    Lord of the Rings
  • Lagos or Abuja?
    Lagos


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