It’s been two years since the esports ecosystem in Southeast Asia began showing signs of accelerated growth, and the scene continues to thrive. The popularity of mobile titles has allowed SEA to be the epicentre of the discipline. The ease of access to technology and internet connection has allowed more of the population to be involved with competitive titles, thus increasing viewership. SEA even has its own ecosystem for titles that are largely unheard of in the Western world. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang is one of the region’s biggest titles, and has a thriving ecosystem behind it.
The region’s current and future potential hasn’t gone unnoticed. FaZe Clan and Team Secret both operate in the region. SEA also boasts the presence of esport entities Mineski, ONE Esports and eGG Network—all of which have been active in various verticals throughout the years.
One such name that has recently gained prominence is Nexplay Esports. AFK Gaming, on behalf of the Esports Insider, spoke to CEO and Founder, Gabriel Benito and Head of Business Development, Rob Son to understand Nexplay’s role in the ecosystem.
Technology, Talent and Tournaments
Benito explained that Nexplay is founded on the principles of ‘passion, perseverance, patience and prosperity’.
“Everyone in Nexplay is incredibly passionate about esports and gaming,” he said. ”We try to use this passion to persevere and build a good product. Compared to our competitors, some of whom have been operating for over a decade, we’ve really had to work hard to be where we are in such a time and there have been so many challenges along the way.
“In terms of patience, our vision and execution have always been long term. And of course, in terms of prosperity, we really view the market as one filled with an abundance of opportunities. This really helps us explore new avenues to help grow.”
Nexplay’s three core verticals are: Technology, Talent, and Tournaments. Benito explains that a combination of these three is what helps them grow the ecosystem in a holistic manner. His tech background led to the natural starting point for the company, focusing on scalability with the belief that technology would be one of the primary ways for them to expand. Over the years, Benito would realise that talent, teams, and esports are essential to the ecosystem they were operating in and as a result, Nexplay began expanding operations.
More recently, it has also entered the tournament-organising space with the pandemic and subsequent quarantine helping further the company’s cause over the past year.
Nexplay’s tech involvement includes a mobile streaming app along with its ecommerce platform, which allows Nexplay to sell its products to fans online.
“The goal is to be able to support our ongoing initiatives using the power of data and AI and to eventually scale with presence outside of our region,” Benito explained, adding that the team is also working on products for talent and tournament hosting to support the other two verticals.
In terms of talent, Nexplay has scouted and signed influencers to its brand, with Akosi Dogie and his gamut of talent being the headliners. The organisation also fields rosters in multiple titles, with mobile being a core focus. Its website boasts an impressive roster of 88 pro players and influencers signed to the brand. While the tournament-hosting vertical is fairly new for Nexplay, Benito explained that the goal is to be the leader in the digital space.
“One of the key things that we are looking to do is not just livestream a tournament on multiple platforms, but be able to add additional functionalities to integrate brands and improve user experience,” Benito said.
Understanding the SEA market
With the majority of SEA players on mobile, most orgs in the region have started to operate rosters in one of the many popular titles. With each game having its own unique ecosystem and fanbase, each comes with a unique set of challenges.
Son explained that Nexplay’s approach has been to identify the titles with a long-term future, and both Wild Rift and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang have stood out in this regard. The organisation’s MOBA affinity is clear as they find their roots in Arena of Valor—another mobile title that has been popular in SEA. Despite the recent influx of popular Western organisations such as Secret and FaZe Clan, preexisting knowledge and understanding of the local audience gives Nexplay a significant edge.
“Understanding the culture of both the title and audience is key in building the strategy for us,” said Son. “How we interact with the community, how we acquire players, and what relationships we have with the fans is all dependent on the local culture.”
For now, Nexplay’s core focus has been to consolidate the local Philippine market.
Like most organisations operating in the region, Nexplay is banking on SEA’s future potential. Being a mobile-first region, SEA is central to the mobile esports movement in many ways. With over 600 million mobile-phone users and an already existing esports and gaming subculture, SEA has shown that it is able to pull in the big numbers both in terms of viewership and playerbase.
Benito believes that the real challenge for Nexplay is to educate and create awareness about esports while adding structure.
“Compared to the western regions, we are still working with far fewer resources in terms of capital and publisher support,” Benito said. ”However we need to remember that even though we are behind now, we have a lot of potential in the region. Southeast Asia is a mobile-first region and the future of gaming is very much on mobile.”
This story is written in collaboration with AFK Gaming. It is an India-based esports media and content company that aims to provide quality and consistent coverage about teams, players, tournaments, and competitive video games with a primary focus on the Asian region.