With the number of players forecast to reach 26 million in 2019, electronic sports (e-sports) are a rising star of the Vietnamese and global entertainment industry.
|The Vietnamese gaming and e-sports industry has grown to such an impressive size that it is turning heads across the globe Photo: Le Toan|
11 PM is time for bed for most people, but it is when Dung CT, one of the most popular game streamers in Vietnam, gets down to work to live stream.
Starting only about two years ago, the two YouTube channels – Truc tiep game and Streamer Dung CT – lured in millions of viewers, and Streamer Dung CT received the YouTube gold play button for getting a million subscribers. Each of his 11PM streams have an average of 15,000 viewers.
Before the fame, Dung CT was just a normal streamer without any special aptitude for gaming. He prefers to play less well-known video games like The Wolf Among Us and We Happy Few instead of the more popular League of Legends and Counter-Strike. At first, he was quite shy and restricted interactions with viewers down to the minimum, but viewers were attracted by his sense of humour and the mystery as Dung CT has yet to reveal his face to the public.
Thanks to his large follower base, Dung CT made bank through his YouTube channels and fan donations. One fan even donated VND50 million ($2,173) so that Dung CT would add him on Facebook, while another gave him VND50 million ($2,173) of “lucky money” on the Lunar New Year just for the opportunity to talk with Dung CT live on his stream.
Furthermore, he made massive earning by opening a restaurant and shops selling gaming gear and accessories.
Dung CT is not the only Vietnamese streamer: the industry is teeming with popular names including QTV, ViruSs, Archie, Optimus, Trau, and Snake Nidalee of League of Legends, and PewPew of DOTA 2. Some of these streamers have already retired after a few successful years of earning tens of thousands of dollars a month from streaming.
A billion-dollar industry
Appota Corporation, a developer and provider of creative platforms for Vietnam’s digital entertainment industry, estimated that the number of e-sport players in Vietnam was more than 15 million in 2018, which may rise to about 26 million this year.
This provides an amazing base of viewers and players for a thriving e-sports ecosystem. They are part of the country’s community of over 32.8 million gamers, one of the major driving forces for the success of several gaming-focused startups like Garena, VTC, Appota, and Sohagame.
The local gaming industry has amazing potential for growth, especially when it comes to e-sports. According to Newzoo, a global provider of games and esports analytics, Vietnam has climbed from 35th in 2015 to 28th in 2017 among the world’s largest gaming markets, with the estimated annual revenue exceeding $365 million.
The local e-sports market is dominated by Vietnamese game developer Garena, which entered the market in 2009 with games like League of Legends (2012), FIFA Online 3 (2013), Arena of Valor (2016), and Blade & Soul (2017). It is followed by Vietnamese startup unicorn VNG with Vo Lam Truyen Ky, CrossFire Legends Mobile, Mobile Legend, and Rules of Survival, and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds.
The Vietnamese e-sports market in 2019 will also see new games like Survival Heroes and Glory Arena, with e-sports on mobile platforms expected to climb to the top.
In addition to domestic tournaments, in 2018 Vietnam achieved great results at international tourneys. The Vietnamese team won the bronze at the 18th Asian Games Jakarta Palembang 2018 in the games Arena of Valor, Pro Evolution Soccer, and Clash Royale, which won the third place in the Arena of Valor International Championship 2018, while receiving the $20,000 second prize at the PUBG SEA Championship 2018.
Most recently, Appota eSports under Appota Corporation entered into a collaboration with the world’s largest e-sports company Esport League (ESL) to take gamers to overseas competitions.
Appota chief marketing officer Dang Thai Son said, “E-sports will surpass football to become the king of sports in China within the next few years. The Chinese e-sports industry has been developing rapidly and is far ahead of Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. This is the foundation behind the investment wave from China and the reason why we are looking to take Vietnamese teams to international competitions.”
These moves highlight how the Vietnamese gaming and e-sports scenes are transforming and becoming more professional. This can also be seen in the emergence of e-sports tournaments that draw in not only more teams and a larger audience but feature larger and larger prize pools.
According to Appota eSports’ Vietnam eSports Guidebook 2019, the total value of e-sport tournament prize pools in Vietnam increased drastically during 2015-2018, hitting over $787,000 last year from $685,000 in 2017 and $390,000 in 2016.
“This is a clear indicator of how much money brands and game publishers are willing to invest into Vietnam’s e-sports economy. The strong growth in prize pools is largely due to the increased size of the audience that attracts brands to sponsor tournaments,” said Dao Quang Tuan, director of entertainment and sport of VTC Mobile.
“Now sponsorships for e-sports tournaments more often than not fully cover the costs of organisation, which could kick up to millions of dollars. Tournament organisers can turn a tidy profit on ticket sales, advertising, and broadcasting fees. The Vietnamese e-sports market is at a stage of rapid growth, benefiting all parties involved,” Tuan told VIR.
Moreover, with a total of 51 million 3G and 4G subscribers in Vietnam, and around 32.8 million gamers, mobile gaming is also a big deal. The number of downloads of e-sports mobile games in the first half of 2018 was almost triple that of the second half of 2016, growing from 12.8 million to 37.5 million, while the total revenue increased from $1 million to $6 million.
This tremendous market size and follower base has carved out Vietnam’s spot in the international gaming arena, with more international tournaments recognising the country as a regional powerhouse.
This is also a reason why Vietnam is now an up-and-coming destination for hosting major international tournaments such as the play-in and group stage of the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational and the Arena of Valor World Cup.
A more proactive approach by Vietnamese legislators could accelerate the growth of the domestic gaming and e-sports industry. Policymakers could rely on the experiences of the established South Korean gaming industry and of Malaysia where the government has already shown great initiative.
For now, in Vietnam, the sector lacks support from the government and an appropriate legal framework. At present, Vietnam has its Vietnam Recreational e-Sports Association, which is a member of the International e-Sports Federation. However, the association only organises a handful of programmes and tournaments due to a lack of funding and support from the government as well as incomplete regulations.
Meanwhile, in South Korea, which has always been the beating heart of e-sports, the government established the Korea e-Sports Association (KeSPA) in 2000 as the first move of its plan to build a national broadband network for faster Internet connection. KeSPA was established as a branch under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
With the foundation of KeSPA, the South Korean government officially acknowledged e-sports. Due to this timely attention, e-sports now bring millions of dollars in revenue to the country. Meanwhile in Malaysia, the Ministry of Youth and Sports has invested $2 million to develop the e-sports sector. In addition, the Philippines has recognised e-sport players as athletes and e-sports were added to the events at Sea Games 2019 organised in this country.
“Government support is a key factor for the success of e-sports in Vietnam, contributing to the state budget,” said Son of Appota. VIR
Kim Huong Thu