E-sports: Industry players vie for a slice of South-east Asia's growing mobile games pie

Statista reported that the number of mobile gamers in the region is expected to hit 122.8 million in 2021.
Statista reported that the number of mobile gamers in the region is expected to hit 122.8 million in 2021.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - It is hard to ignore the rapid rise of South-east Asia's mobile gaming market and industry players are keen to capitalise on the region's growth.

Asean is one of the world's fastest growing games market and global research firm Statista estimates that revenues for mobile games segment in the region will reach US$3.48 billion (S$4.64 billion) this year - a 16.3 per cent year-on-year growth.

Statista also reported that the number of mobile gamers in the region, which has a population of over 670 million, is expected to hit 122.8 million this year.

Riot Games, a video game developer and publisher, is keen to expand in this region. On Monday (Feb 8), Singapore telco Singtel announced it had partnered with Riot Games Southeast Asia to offer its post-paid mobile customers zero-rated gaming bundles for the latter's mobile game League of Legends: Wild Rift (Wild Rift).

The gaming bundles, which are priced from $6.90 to $9.90 monthly, provide players with unlimited data-free gameplay, as well as up to $40 worth of Wild Rift in-game content.

Mobile gaming is also popular in Singapore.

Gan Siok Hoon, Singtel's managing director of sales and marketing, consumer Singapore, said that 76 per cent of Singtel's customers play games on their mobile phones.

According to mobile consultancy App Annie, Singaporeans spent over US$332 million on in-app purchases in 2019, the second highest in the region for mobile game consumer spending.

In a virtual press conference, Gan said: "Mobile gaming has surged in popularity in the past year as more people turned to them for fun and entertainment during the pandemic."

While this is the first of such a partnership for Riot Games, Justin Hulog, the company's general manager for South-east Asia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau said that it is looking to roll out similar initiatives with one of Singtel's regional associates.

The popularity of mobile game titles in the region is also reflected in the number of viewers such events draw from South-east Asia.

Last month's Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) M2 World Championship attracted 3.08 million viewers, making it the fourth-most watched e-sports event in history.

Of the over three million viewers, half were Indonesian-speaking viewers, while fans from Myanmar and the Philippines made up 18 per cent and 17 per cent of spectators respectively.

Singtel had earlier in February said it will stage its first-ever independent MLBB professional league this year. The $100,000 tournament, presented by Singtel's PVP Esports and the game's developer Moonton, will give local players more opportunities to compete.

Carlos Alimurung, One Esports chief executive officer, had said at the online All That Matters business festival in September that a trip to the Philippines had made him realise the ubiquity of smartphones in the region.

He said: "That was this realisation that I had coming to South-east Asia - the next generation of fans are these people who want to access these sports and who are interacting with it through a mobile phone."