The Rise of Esports in the Philippines

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Written by: Maine Dela Cruz

More than 43 million Filipinos participate in esports, with annual growth of 12.9% since 2017. Smartphones and mobile internet are making this expansion more accessible. That’s why it is no doubt why there is a recent rise in mobile gaming, particularly, esports in the Philippines. And this is most especially true now that we have fast internet at home.

The Telegraph described esports as “competitive gaming at a professional level” in 2017. It is a spectator sport that has a global audience via streaming sites such as Twitch or YouTube. Esports is a well-oiled ecosystem that includes professional players, game developers, professional teams, and tournament organizers.

Multiplayer online battle arena games, first-person shooters, and real-time strategy are all popular esports genres. These are typically played on high-spec PCs. Such explains the rising gaming desktop and laptop accessories markets. And it includes the demand for a stable and fast internet connection. Certain games have been adapted for mobile devices as well.

Esports has emerged as a result of the popularity of video games as a worldwide entertainment medium. One of the factors contributing to the popularity of video games is their competitive character.

Ever wonder how esports start in the country? Or when did it come into being? How has esports or the online gaming industry shaped the world we live in today?

So, without further ado, let’s get started and explore the rise of esports in the Philippines.

History of Esports

History of Esports Philippines - Streamtech Fiber Internet
Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

We’ve been captivated and fascinated by gaming since video games first debuted on television. Let’s take a trip down memory lane on how the esports ecosystem came into existence.

In the 1970s and 1980s, as video games became increasingly popular, esports emerged. A year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine was originally the prize for the inaugural video game competition. In the 1980s, a slew of firms was formed to keep track of high scores in video games. And such would go on to help popularize competitive gaming throughout the world. These businesses made an effort to make as many high scores public as possible. This is in order to pique people’s interest in video games and lure them in. As esports tournaments became increasingly popular in the early twenty-first century, more media attention was paid to them.

First Esports Tournament

The first country to hold competitive esports contests was the United States. Stanford University hosted the first competition. Due to the huge success of this event, individuals all around the United States have begun to organize esports events pitting professional gamers against one another in games such as Space Invaders and Spacewar. Esports sparked a nationwide craze for video game teams since it debuted in 2009. The sport remained popular among Americans, who began watching it on television so that more people could see it. Esports only became widely popular throughout the world once they were moved online.

Esports first gained traction in the 1980s, when the Guinness Book of World Records began publishing top scores for various video games. It was only with the advent of worldwide video game competitions that esports ratings began to climb, as more people became interested in the sport. There are now many agreements between professional esports teams and video game corporations in esports, making it at its peak. Due to its growing popularity, video game contests have lately started giving prize pools exceeding $30,000,000.

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Inventor of Esports

Manufacturer of videogame hardware and software, Atari, pioneered esports. The Space Invaders Championship was held in 1980, and they were the organizers. Nearly 10,000 people entered this contest. To assist push video game records into the Guinness Book of World Records, Walter Day founded Twin Galaxies in 1981, a firm that kept track of video game records. If this were to happen, esports would gain traction across North America and beyond. Esports was revolutionized in 1988 with the release of Netrek, the first game played online with a multiplayer component.

Esports as of 2017

According to, a total of $110.6 million in esports prize money was given last year from 3765 competitions. What’s the single tournament’s largest prize fund? The International 2017 raked in a stunning $24.6 million.

As the gaming industry continues to develop, so will the popularity of esports. To put that in perspective, esports income is expected to reach $1.55 billion by 2020, with no other insights of abating. In the same way that fans have flocked to overcrowded stadiums for decades to see a select group of top athletes compete, esports has grown in popularity, both as a participant and as a spectator, over time. Everyone, it seems, enjoys a little friendly rivalry and a little well-earned success.

How Did Philippines’ Esports Industry Begin?

esports philippines begin - streamtech fiber internet
Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash

The introduction of competitive video gaming to the Philippines is difficult to track, although it has been here for the better part of the last decade.

South China Morning Post reports from February 2020 that according to the We Are Social survey conducted in 2019, 32% of Filipino Internet users participate in online gaming through streaming, while 42% watch live feeds from these gamers. In August 2017, the Gaming and Amusements Board granted athletic licenses to professional esports players, recognizing esports as an official sport.

Let’s look back at the history of esports in the Philippines:

The start of Mineski Philippines and TNC

Mineski founder Ronald Robins founded his first Dota 2 team in 2003, and he was already playing in regional and international gaming contests at that time.

A year ago, Robins said in a lecture to an audience at a conference that he witnessed how outmatched Filipino players were when they played in Dota 2 events abroad. In 2008, he opened the first Mineski Infinity cybercafé, which he attributed in large part to his transformation from being a professional player to a businessman.

Another local cybercafé chain, Eric Redulfin’s The Net Café or TNC, had established its first store a year earlier and was beginning to gather traction by then. Because its first locations were near campuses, Mineski and TNC quickly became popular among college students who sought to play PC games competitively during and after class.

After more than a decade, the two companies now operate over 100 Internet cafés around the Philippines. Other nearby nations including Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia have also created outposts of their companies as well.

Global success

Mineski and TNC aren’t the only cybercafé chains in the country giving local players the venue to hone their esports skills, but the two are major reasons for getting the Philippines on the radar of the global esports community.

Aside from their Internet café business, both Robins and Redulfin established their own professional esports teams under the Mineski Pro Teams and TNC Pro Team brands respectively. Both organizations compete in various international tournaments of several competitive video games and started getting attention because of their performance in the Dota 2 tournament scene.

Both teams have already taken home championship trophies in prestigious Dota 2 tournaments, with Mineski placing first in the 2018 Dota 2 Asian Championships and TNC emerging as the winner of the 2016 World Electronic Sports Games. As well, the two teams placed within the top 20 of The International 2018, a global Dota 2 tournament with a total prize pool of $25.5 million (P1.3 billion), the largest for any esports event ever.

In 2019, Southeast Asia recognized esports as a competitive sport in addition to traditional sports. The following year, the Philippines bagged its first-ever esports gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games thanks to Sibol Mobile Legends: Bang Bang team, beating world champion Indonesia. The country took home three gold medals in total for that run; the two medals came from wins in DOTA 2 and Tekken 7 games.

For the 2021 season, two divisions were introduced opening The Nationals to non-professionals; These divisions are The Challenger Series which was open to amateurs, and the Academy Series which was for players who are enrolled in schools at the time of their participation. The Nationals Draft Series will be introduced with the top players of the Challenger and Academy series eligible to enter.

Esports Philippines Tournaments

Gariath Concepts is a Philippine-based esports and gaming organization, owners of award-winning esports IPs like ESGS, Rev Major, and PGF. Gariath Concepts usually handles the operations and logistics of the country’s players. Here are some of the esports titles played in the Philippines:

1. Dota 2

You might recall DOTA from your high school days, and yes, the PC-only game now has a sequel. In DOTA 2, you have to gather gold, gain experience, and destroy the rival team’s Ancient to win the game. It’s often said that DOTA 2 is quite complicated and has a steep learning curve, so it’s recommended to get started with Single Draft, where you choose three random characters, which limits the pool selection (DOTA 2 features over a hundred heroes) and makes it less daunting for beginners. 

2. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang is a multiplayer-online-based arena game that came out in November 2016. The usual game mode has two five-member teams competing with the objective of destroying the base of the enemy before they do. Each player can control a selectable character or Hero, each with individual abilities and traits. There are 103 heroes (with some that have to be unlocked) to choose from and they can either fall under any of these six classes: tank, fighter, assassin, mage, marksman, or support. 

3. League of Legends (LOL)

League of Legends is one of the world’s most popular video games, developed by Riot Games. It features a team-based competitive game mode based on strategy and outplaying opponents.

How to play League of Legends? Players work with their team to break the enemy Nexus before the enemy team breaks theirs. LOL is a complex game that involves both high-level strategy and fast-paced gameplay. Skilled players know how to beat the opponent in front of them while keeping the macro-elements in mind to support their team to victory.

Key Takeaway

If you think you have the potential to be a pro-gamer, or have a huge following to be a streamer, you can earn while playing online games. As of writing, Twitch remains to be the leading live-streaming platform for gamers, with tens of thousands of viewers each day.

While video games provide a good distraction from the stresses of the outside world, be wary of its health risks. As they say, “Too much of everything is bad.”

According to a Harvard article, too much gaming can cause repetitive stress injuries, or overuse injuries, obesity, vision problems, and addiction or internet gaming disorder (IGD). As with many other activities that have potential benefits and harms, moderation is the key.

Parents with minors should be wary of the gaming habits of their children.

Most of the harms that come from online games can be improved, if not avoided altogether, by developing healthy gaming habits. 

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