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Niko Partners: The Growing Esports Viewership in Southeast Asia

6 July 2021Ellavie Ichlasa Amalia

The number of esports players and viewers in a particular country is highly correlated to its population size and internet quality

The gaming industry in the Greater Southeast Asia region — including Southeast Asia and Taiwan — is estimated to be worth$8.3 billion USD by 2023. One of the primary driving factors behind the growth of the gaming industry at GSEA is esports. This is not a surprise considering that most gamers in Asia are also esports enthusiasts. According to data from Niko Partners, around 95% of PC gamers and 90% of mobile players in Asia are, to a certain extent, active or interested in the esports world. In a previous article, we already discussed the state of the gaming industry at GSEA in 2020. This time, we will dive deeper into the esports world in Asia, especially SEA.

The Esports Audience in Southeast Asia

According to Niko Partners’ data, the number of esports viewers in East Asia and Southeast Asia reaches 510 million people. Furthermore, around 350 million of these esports fans came from China, and the remaining 160 million are from Southeast Asia, Japan, and South Korea.

“There are approximately 100 million esports viewers throughout Southeast Asia. The number of viewers and players in each specific country, more or less, is directly proportional to the population size and internet quality in the country,” said Darang S. Candra, Director of Asia’s Gaming Market Research Company, Niko Partners. “In SEA, Indonesia has the largest number of viewers and esports players, followed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.” If you want more details regarding the statistics of the esports audience in SEA, you can refer to Niko Partner’s premium report.

The population size and internet speeds in Southeast Asian Countries.

The five countries in Southeast Asia with the largest population are Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar. In terms of internet speed, Singapore comes on top not only in the SEA region but also throughout the world. According to data from Speedtest, the average speed of a fixed broadband network in Singapore reaches 245.5 Mbps. As you can see in the table above, although Indonesia has the largest population, the country’s internet quality is relatively subpar when compared to the other countries in Southeast Asia.

The Philippines, by far, is the country in SEA that has racked up the most top-tier esports achievements. For instance, the Philippines managed to bring home the most medals (3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze medal) from the esports section at the 2019 SEA Games. As a comparison, Indonesia’s esports team only managed to win two silver medals.

The Philippines won three gold medals in three different games: Dota 2, StarCraft II, and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. Last January, Bren Esports, a Filipino team, also won the M2 World Championship. The StarCraft II player who won the gold medal for the Philippines was Caviar “EnDerr” Acampado, a pro StarCraft II player since 2011. EnDerr is still active in the StarCraft II esports scene until this very day. In 2021, he has even won two minor tournaments called PSISTORM StarCraft League – Season 1 and Season 2. Last 2020, he also won a major Starcraft II tournament, DH SC2 Masters 2020 Winter: Oceania / Rest of Asia.

The Philippines also houses many talented Dota 2 players and teams. In addition to successfully bringing home a gold medal at the 2019 SEA Games, the Philippines also has a formidable Dota 2 team called TNC Predator. Not long ago, TNC won the Asia Pacific Predator League 2020/21 – APAC. In 2020, they also placed first in both the BTS Pro Series Season 4: Southeast Asia and ESL One Thailand 2020: Asia. Furthermore, they also won the MDL Chengdu Major and ESL One Hamburg in 2019. TNC is also one of the few SEA teams that consistently made it into The International, qualifying for four consecutive years from 2016 to 2019.

TNC Predator is regarded by many to be the best Dota 2 team in SEA. | Source: IGN

Another member of the Philippines’ esports arsenal is Alexandre “AK” Laverez. He is a professional Filipino Tekken player who brought home the silver medal at the 2019 SEA Games. AK is incredibly well-known in the global Tekken esports scene since 2013. At that time, he managed to place third in the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Global Championship despite being only 13 years old. In addition, he also won the runner-up position at the WEGL Super Fight Invitational and EVO Japan 2019.

However, Indonesian esports teams also do have their own set of accomplishments. When compared to most esports organizations in other Southeast Asian countries, the Indonesian esports team is incredibly popular. In fact, the three most popular esports teams in Southeast Asia (EVOS Esports, Aura Esports, and RRQ) are all based in Indonesia.

Esports Tournament Ecosystem in Southeast Asia

The number of esports players and viewers in a region can only grow if its ecosystem is healthy and thriving. Fortunately, the esports industry in Southeast Asia has a lot of potential. Lisa Cosmas Hanson, President of Niko Partners, even said that it is incredibly likely that SEA will become a global esports center in the future. To test this prediction, we can take a look at the number of esports tournaments held in the region.

“In 2020, there were over 350 major tournaments held in the Southeast Asian region. This figure does not even include amateur or small-scale tournaments,” said Darang.

Phoenix Force from Thailand won FFWS 2021. | Source: The Strait Times

The esports tournament prize pools in SEA are also quite large. Free Fire World Series (FFWS) 2021 is, by far, the esports tournament with the largest total prize pool in the region, reaching $2 million USD. Furthermore, this tournament broke the record for the largest viewing numbers in all of esports. During its peak, FFWS 2021 managed to accumulate viewership numbers of 5.4 million people. In comparison, the 2019 League of Legends World Championship — the previous title holder of the largest audience in an esports tournament — only had a peak of 3.9 million viewers.

Besides FFWS 2021, another esports tournament that offers a massive prize pool is the ONE Esports Singapore Major, which has a hefty $1 million USD prize pool. In 2018, another Dota 2 tournament held in SEA, the Dota 2 Kuala Lumpur Major, also had a $1 million USD prize pool.

Currently, many esports leagues in Southeast Asia implement the franchise model, which is predicted to be the trend in the future. An example of these leagues is Mobile Legends Professional League Indonesia (MPL ID). There is also a rumor that MPL Philippines will be adopting the franchise model in Season 8. The Free Fire Master League has also used a league system similar to the franchise system. Each team is required to pay a certain amount of money if they wish to participate in the FFML. Esports organizations also have the choice to include more than one team to participate in the league. This contract between esports teams and the tournament organizers usually only lasts for the duration of one season.

Featured Image: Freepik. Translated by: Ananto Joyoadikusumo

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