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eSports in the Philippines: The Rise of Professional Gaming

Esports, or electronic sports, has been on the rise globally for the past few years. It’s a form of competition that’s done through video games, where professional players compete against each other in front of live audiences and online viewers. The Philippines is no exception to this trend, as the country has seen significant growth in its esports scene in recent years. From being viewed as a hobby or a pastime, esports in the Philippines has now evolved into a legitimate industry.

But it wasn’t always this way. In the early days of gaming in the Philippines, playing video games was seen as something that only kids do. It wasn’t taken seriously as a career or an industry. But as the years went by, the passion of Filipino gamers has helped change this perception. They’ve shown that with dedication and hard work, gaming can be a profitable and fulfilling profession. And it’s not just the players who are reaping the benefits of this growth – the industry as a whole is also seeing a surge in popularity and acceptance.

How Esports in the Philippines grew

The history of esports in the Philippines can be traced back to the early 2000s. Back then, internet cafes were the go-to places for gamers to play and compete against each other. These cafes were the breeding ground for the country’s first professional players and teams. 

For many of us, computer shops were the first introduction to social gaming. Burning the hours with friends while making new ones trying to compete with one another in Dota, Counter-Strike, and Crossfire were just a number of early memories I’ve come to fondly look back on. Not a lot of kids had their own gaming PCs and stable internet connections back then so computer shops became a breeding ground for multiplayer games. I’ll go as far as to say a lot of my competitive nature came from all those days spent in computer shops. 

But it wasn’t until the 2010s that esports began to gain traction. With the rise of streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube, gamers were able to showcase their skills to a wider audience. This helped increase the visibility of the scene, and more people began to take notice of the potential of esports in the Philippines.

In 2011, the first major esports tournament was held in the Philippines. The event, called the Mineski Pro-Gaming League, was a huge success, drawing in thousands of players and spectators. This was a turning point for the industry, as it helped establish esports as a legitimate form of competition in the country. From then on, more and more tournaments were held, with larger prizes and bigger audiences. This helped attract more sponsors and investors, further solidifying the industry’s place in Philippine society.

Growth opportunities with eSports in the Philippines

Today, the esports scene in the Philippines is thriving. There are numerous esports organizations operating in the country, such as Smart Omega, Nexplay, and Bren Esports. These organizations provide training, support, and resources to professional players and teams. There are also several esports tournaments and leagues being held throughout the year, such as the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League (MPL) and The Nationals. These events not only showcase the skills of the players, but they also serve as a platform for fans to engage and connect with the gaming community.

The most popular games in the Philippines are Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Dota 2, League of Legends, and Valorant. These games have the most active player base and the most organized leagues and tournaments. All of which are free-to-play games making it easy for a larger population to play. The minimal barrier to entry alongside a highly competitive infrastructure and support from the developers is an easy recipe for success. 

Looking toward the future, the potential for the growth of eSports in the Philippines is immense. With the increasing popularity of gaming and the rise of mobile gaming in particular, the industry is in a good position to attract more talent. 

However, there are also challenges that need to be addressed. One of the biggest is the lack of infrastructure and support for esports in the Philippines. There are not many dedicated esports venues and the current ones are not up to par with international standards. There is also a lack of government support for the industry, which hampers its growth and development.

Another challenge is the lack of a clear and defined esports ecosystem in the Philippines. This makes it difficult for players and teams to find opportunities and for investors to find viable investment options. Organizations who have their own Esports teams get most of their profits through sponsorships. Notice how a lot of brands nowadays would rather hire a social media influencer rather than a gaming team simply because it’s more likely the safer bet when it comes to generating popularity. 

A lot of the most successful foreign Esports teams generate income by building up their brand to be more than just gaming competition. This is where content creation comes in. Vlogs, documentaries, podcasts, social media activations, etc. are all practices that the likes of OpTic, FaZe, and 100 Thieves do to attract investors. This can include providing support for grassroots development, creating a sustainable business model for the industry, and establishing a clear talent development path for players and teams.

Despite challenges, the future of Esports is bright. With the dedication and passion of Filipino gamers, the industry is sure to continue its upward trajectory. As competitive gaming continues to grow and evolve, it will be exciting to see what the future holds for Esports in the Philippines.

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