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Sandata Rants: Could Mineski Be the First Overwatch League Team Owners in the Philippines?

November 11, 2016 John Paolo "Sandata" Bago

Though this comes out on my weekly column spread, this is hardly a rant. In fact, today we’re talking about something truly exciting.

Before we continue however, I have to make it clear: the title of this article is mere speculation. I have no insider knowledge on Mineski’s actions.

But what I do have is an acute understanding of the texture and landscape of the Philippine eSports industry. And with everything weighed in, I can confidently say: Mineski is going to be the first organization in the country to hold a perpetual team slot, representing a city, in Blizzard’s Overwatch League.

Just economics

It’s hardly a surprise when you think about it. After all, Mineski is the largest eSports organization in the Philippines. While TNC might be richer in theory, Mineski is the only organization that diverts majority of their revenues in developing their eSports brand.

Meanwhile, other eSports organizations in the country are essentially struggling start-ups. Imperium Pro-Team, who also have a good Overwatch team and whose Heroes of the Storm team, Renovatio, has gone to two BlizzCons now, is a lot less supported than you might think. While they are certainly an exciting team to follow, their operations are still essentially paid out of pocket.

Of what we know about the Blizzard Overwatch League, two things seem important in securing a spot: 1. You must be a team owner that has the infrastructure to be a perpetual part of the League. 2. You must be a best-in-class operator in order to do justice and attract future investors.

Blizzard is pretty adamant that they want to set-up an eSports league that has the hallmarks of traditional sports; they want teams based in cities and they want team owners to be actively invested in building local fan-bases so that they can earn, grown and compete for years.

Mineski fits the bill across the board. Scoff all you want at their yearly failings, but Mineski has built a brand and a loyal local audience. They have built a business structure that helps them grow their teams across four titles now: Dota 2, League of Legends, CS:GO and Overwatch.

They are also well-connected with TV5. Do you know who TV5 are well-connected with? Sporting organizations. Sporting organizations who also see the trend of other sporting organizations starting their investments into eSports.

Given all of these factors, Mineski is the prime candidate to win the bid to represent a city and join the OW League. Will it be in Quezon City, where Mineski’s headquarters and player mansions are located?

Don’t expect a lot of teams from the Philippines

I expect that buy-in requirements and monetary requirements to own a spot in APAC, specifically the Philippines, will be lower than other regions. What I don’t expect is that there will be more than a handful of teams representing cities of the Philippines in the first few seasons of the OW League.

Again, the landscape of Philippine eSports is such that Mineski is far and away ahead of their competition in terms of infrastructure for their eSports teams. TNC is closest, but they have yet to enter Overwatch in a meaningful way.

The caveat to this of course lies with the initial success of the OW League in the global stage. Should the OW League explode in popularity, you can bet that the local mainstream media will cover the phenomenon. With the media attention comes increased investor confidence, allowing the smaller organizations to partner with smaller investment groups to buy-in earlier rather than later.

The only other caveat

The only way that Mineski loses out on the bid, or at least lose out on the distinction of being the first organization to secure a spot on the OW League, is if an outside investor body enters the Philippines and partners with a different organization.

There are a variety of potential investors/bodies that could fit the bill. Tencent is a prolific investor, as with Alibaba and ESForce Holding. Speaking of ESForce Holding, the legal successor to the Virtus.Pro group, already owns eSports teams and is always on the lookout to snap up good investments in the eSports space. Their holdings include majority shares in SK Gaming, Virtus.Pro.

In this case, should Blizzard’s Overwatch League prove lucrative, the APAC region — with its presumably lower buy-in requirements — would be a prime choice to enter for the intrepid investor.

Conclusions

On the whole, this little opinion piece is a great look into how the ecosystem of eSports in the Philippines works. Mineski is poised to once again lead the rest of the organizations into the next big thing thanks to years of groundwork already laid out in front of them.

Mineski’s commitment to their pro teams mean, at the bare minimum, that should they enter the OW League, it will be a class-standard for other teams. That’s a good thing, and their track record makes it likely that they will trailblaze again. In a few years, Dota 2 and League of Legends will inevitably fall. Mineski entering a new title is a signal to other orgs to follow suit.

But that shouldn’t mean that there is no hope for other orgs to make their name in a new frontier, especially one like Overwatch. If anything, if you want to earn the right to represent your city or country in a new competitive space, now would be the time to throw down and step it up.