In recent years, e-sports has emerged as a new and exciting concept in Vietnam after a period of strong development worldwide.
|Terence Ting, CEO of Team Flash|
Recently, a team of seven Vietnamese, called Team Flash AOV Vietnam, won the AOV World Cup 2019 (AWC 2019) after defeating the Chinese Taipei team with a score of 4-3. They are the first Vietnamese team to be crowned the world’s champion in e-sports. Việt Nam News talks with Terence Ting, CEO of Team Flash, a professional e-sports organisation, about the development of e-sports in Vietnam.
Can you give us an overview of the e-sports market globally and in Southeast Asia? Is there potential for e-sports to develop in Vietnam?
Certainly! Even though e-sports is still a new concept and nascent business, competitive gaming has actually been around since as early as the 1980s. The first e-sports tournament was held in the US with more than 10,000 players attending.
It is only in the last three to five years that e-sports has started to be taken seriously, as people have seen the commercial potential of games to become a competitive platform for both professional players and a fast-growing fanbase throughout the world. We often call it the digital sport, or even millennial sport, as the audience demographic is very young, from 13 to 35 years old.
Vietnam has an extremely rich e-sports history, which truly started with the League of Legends seven or eight years ago. In the last three years, the popularity and rise of mobile gaming coincided with a new e-sports in the Arena of Valor (AOV)/Liên Quân mobile, which is arguably one of the most mainstream e-sports right now in the country, especially with our AOV roster’s recent victory at the World Cup 2019 in Da Nang.
Today, the focus should be mainly on these two titles as they have the most potential to make professional gaming more mainstream besides other more niche titles like FIFA and PUBG.
E-sports is still a new concept in Vietnam and many people have an inaccurate perception of the sport. What should be done to change this? And how can we call for more investment to develop e-sports here?
This perception is still prevalent throughout the world, not just in Vietnam. But because of the advanced monetisation and developed ecosystem in countries like China, South Korea and the US, the perception has shifted significantly in the last 24 months with numerous rounds of funding and brand sponsorship announced.
I believe the Government and media have a big part to play in changing this perception by not just necessarily acknowledging e-sports as a professional sport, but also acknowledging the wider perception that gaming is harmful and unproductive and needs to be eradicated. If we can change this perception and educate the masses, which range from concerned parents and brands to media, we can expect investment to flow in organically as numbers don’t lie and are growing extremely fast.
Vietnam is already an attractive market for foreign companies to invest in when it comes to e-sports, and the Vietnamese community have to be open to this, too, as it will help accelerate the progress for Vietnam e-sports, aside from local investment.
At the end of the day, e-sports is also a media and entertainment business that can be compared to KPOP and similar talent industries.
Can you describe the e-sports trend globally? What should Vietnam do to catch up with this trend?
As mentioned, e-sports is growing at a rapid pace and there are already established e-sports leagues and teams abroad today. The biggest e-sports league in the world is arguably the Overwatch league, which requires a minimum US$40 million buy-in today which many traditional sports and football club owners have invested in the US. Top teams in the US already have raised numerous rounds of institutional funding and are already valued at anywhere from $150 million to $300 million.
For Vietnam, the main challenge has been monetisation as not everyone truly believes in the potential of e-sports yet in the country. We entered the Vietnamese market in February 2018, and our initial conversations were difficult when it came to investment or even media coverage for the team as they had not achieved anything at the time.
Today, they are World Champions and there is a visible change that can be felt within the country, and I personally feel a strong sense of pride every time I step into Vietnam even though I’m not Vietnamese.
We also need more Vietnamese teams who are able to compete and do well at the international stage, and a Tier 1 e-sports club that both e-sports and non-e-sports fans will recognise to make it truly mainstream and popular among the daily masses.
Our goal is to position Team Flash at the centre of Vietnam’s e-sports ecosystem going forward.
The Vietnamese team recently won the championship at AWC 2019. Can you describe something about this win, and why it was important?
It’s huge and the emotion I felt in Da Nang during the championship win was indescribable. Our season was such a rollercoaster ride and will forever be known as the greatest comeback season, as we nearly lost so many times – first in the Vietnam national championship and the World Cup semi-finals against Thailand. Any fans who followed our progress will know this well and experience the same intense emotions as us.
At the end, I was so happy for our boys (Gấu, XB, ADC, ProE, Elly and Đạt Koi) when they finally won it. They showed the mental strength of champions and beat Chinese Taipei in the grand finals 4-3 when we were again one game away from elimination. Our coach Harvin helped as well especially in the area of mental fortitude and giving confidence to the players even when we were losing.
I also think it is important to highlight our main man in charge in the country: Nguyen “Top” Phuong, who we have great trust in and who has done a great job of bringing up the players when we started working together almost 18 months ago.
In the wider context of what this victory means, this is both Vietnam and Team Flash’s first world championship title, which sets the stage to come. Since the win, we’ve received numerous enquiries from partners who genuinely want to support the team, from investors and sponsorship and media coverage opportunities. We are heartened by it, especially as I started this team first for passion and second for business.
Does Vietnam now have a chance to join the SEA Games 2019?
In my opinion, Vietnam definitely has a good chance at the SEA Games 2019 for a gold medal in the Arena of Valor. As I commented in a previous interview, Vietnam’s toughest opponents will likely be Thailand who have the most mature e-sports ecosystem and competitive team that came close to beating us at the World Cup last month.
The other titles to look at would be Dota 2 and possibly Mobile Legends, where Vietnam will also likely field strong teams in those titles as well.
Your company has invested in e-sport teams in several countries. Why did you decide to invest in Vietnam, and what do you think of the Vietnamese e-sport players?
I think the most impressive thing about Vietnam so far when comparing to other markets is the undeniable passion of the fans, the ability to keep supporting the team even when they are losing. In other neighbouring e-sports communities in Southeast Asia, the fans can be quite critical sometimes which may put more pressure on the players and organisation. But in Vietnam, I feel the fans are generally very supportive and always encouraging the team.
From my observation, Vietnam’s e-sports players also possess a lot of natural talent as well as hunger to succeed, which is a difference maker when it comes to comparison with other countries in the Southeast Asian region. In the Tier 1 titles such as League of Legends and Liên Quân, Vietnam’s e-sports players have consistently proven themselves on the world stage as a legitimate contender to other international teams.
One of the other main reasons we decided to invest in Vietnam was the incredible viewership for both domestic and international leagues, which shows that the market still has much room to grow. We are here to build a team that Vietnam fans can be proud of, and that players want to join to realise their dreams and ambitions as professional e-sports stars.VNS