E-sports: M3 World Championship in Singapore welcomes the return of fans

Fans watch the M3 Mobile Legends: Bang Bang World Championship at the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre on Dec 17, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - When Carlo Bartolome and Jun Avila heard that a live audience would be allowed for the final three days of the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) M3 World Championship, they took leave and bought tickets hoping that they could catch the two teams from the Philippines in action.

They were rewarded as they were among 178 fans who watched Filipino outfit Blacklist International sweep Indonesia's RRQ Hoshi 3-0 in the lower bracket play-offs at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre on Friday (Dec 17).

"Since we have the opportunity to watch the world championship live in Singapore and we've got two participants from the Philippines, we thought why not come and support them," said Avila, 33, an IT professional who has been working in Singapore for nearly a decade.

The US$800,000 (S$1.1 million) event, which started on Dec 6, is the first international e-sports competition in Singapore to allow a live audience since the pandemic began.

The tickets, ranging from $20 to $45, for the six match sessions until Sunday have all been sold out.

The Republic has hosted five major e-sports tournaments this year and will also be staging the Global Esports Games, which will take place at Resorts World Sentosa over the weekend.

Avila and Bartolome, 34, who were waving a Philippines flag in support of Blacklist, cheered together with the crowd as the two teams took their place on the stage that came alive with strobe lights.

In the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre hall, fans followed the action on three large screens along with the commentary from the casters, who were stationed in the middle of the hall.

The first game between Blacklist and RRQ was an intense 36-minute affair that kept the audience on the edge of their seats, but the former dominated the following two games to eliminate the Indonesians.

While he had caught e-sports tournaments online, Bartolome feels that watching the competition in the flesh offered a different experience.

The planning manager said: "It's the first time I'm seeing the players themselves and I'm quite proud.

"It's different to see them live, at home you may do other stuff while watching, but here you're focusing on the match and cheering for them."

While it was not the same as the e-sports tournaments he had attended before the pandemic, which often had different booths selling products at the venue, senior manager Reuben Wong, 38, was excited to be watching a competition in person again.

Fans at the M3 Mobile Legends: Bang Bang World Championship at the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre on Dec 17, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Wong, who will be catching matches on all three days, said: "This (M3) is purely just about the spectator experience, but it's nice to see how everybody's reacting, seeing others shout, going ecstatic and the individual faces (of players), which you don't see online."

Players also welcomed the return of a live audience, although it did take some getting used to for some.

Blacklist's Danerie "Wise" Del Rosario: "I was used to playing without a live audience, but I'm happy that the normal e-sports audience is back."

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