PH esports achievements in 2017: Athletic licenses, victories, major fests

After a success-filled 2016, who would’ve thought 2017 was going to be even better for Philippine esports?

Esports in the archipelago has definitely been on the up and up over the past few years, with the local industry steadily becoming a global powerhouse. 2017 continued on that trend, and will be remembered for the sheer amount of achievements the community was able to garner.

From government recognition to top-caliber events, here are some of our top picks for what Philippine esports achieved in 2017.

Esports pros as athletes, given athletic licenses for quicker visa processing

ESPORT CONTINGENT. Games and Amusement Board officials pose with PH esport players and representatives at event officially acknowledging esport players as athletes. Photo by Julius Mariano

ESPORT CONTINGENT. Games and Amusement Board officials pose with PH esport players and representatives at event officially acknowledging esport players as athletes.

Photo by Julius Mariano

As esports steadies its foothold in the Philippines landscape, the majority is coming to better recognize the industry’s rise and legitimacy as a form of competitive sport and entertainment.

As of July 2017, the Philippine government, through the Gaming and Amusements Board (GAB), now allows professional esports players to secure athletic licenses on par with legitimate sports. The GAB has expressed that competing in the field of esports requires a tremendous amount of dedication, persistence, and skill to develop, much like traditional sports, hence its support.

Previously, professional esports teams and players found difficulty in securing visas for competing internationally. Now, we enter an era where esports – regardless of what game you play – is welcomed and celebrated in its entirety, where homegrown talent can be supported and reared to become world-class. 

The rise of scholastic esports

Mainstream growth aside, esports also secured a large foothold in the scholastic scene this year. Be it League of Legends, Dota 2 or even Super Smash Bros., schools across the  country are slowly but surely integrating esports into their respective campuses.

On the Dota 2 end of the spectrum, the UP Diliman Gaming Guild’s (UPGG) Impetus circuit had eight UAAP schools compete for a PHP 50,000 prize pool. Impetus took place over the course of several months, with its finals happening on July 24th at the TNC High Grounds Cafe.

University of Santo Tomas, the country’s oldest collegiate institution, eventually reigned supreme over the flock and became Impetus’ inaugural champion.  Given the success of the first Impetus, the future of the Philippine collegiate Dota 2 is looking bright.

League of Legends fans had even more to be excited about. Introduced in October, Garena’s LoL Varsity League (LVL) became the first local initiative to integrate esports into Luzon-based schools officially. The LVL is the first-of-its-kind in wanting to not only develop the level of play in esports, but also in facilitating events and production through partnering with accredited collegiate campuses.

Along with the establishment of the league comes an arrangement of benefits for players that step-up in the Rift and in class through esports scholarship grants and assistance provided to the varsity and its LVL starters.

The action wasn’t limited to colleges either, as several high school-aged groups took it upon themselves to spearhead their own form of scholastic esports. Leyte’s Philippine Science High School - Eastern Visayas Campus became the region’s first high school to introduce esports to its intramural, with an interschool circuit to follow in 2018.  

Over in Western Visayas, Iloilo City’s ISC Events ran the country’s first-ever high school esports league in the form of the Acclaim Interschool ELeague last May. The team would go on to organize the Visayan Conference of Garena’s LoL Collegiate League and CONQuest, the region’s first esports convention.   

It’s clear that scholastic esports is here to stay in the Philippines, and that we should expect it to grow even further as time goes by.

Masters, majors and international events galore

Photo from ESGS Facebook apge

The year 2016 had world-class events like the Manila Major and ESL One Manila grace the Philippines, yet 2017 somehow found a way to match it.

Kicking off 2017 was the 5th iteration of the Pinoy Gaming Festival in late April at the Trinoma Activity Center. Gamers, cosplayers and hobbyists alike converged in what would be one of the summer season’s flagship happenings. The aptly dubbed “Summer Assembly” signaled what was to come for the local community in the coming months: a blitz of events that would leave them wanting more.

An exact month later was the Manila Masters Dota 2 tournament, organized by local events powerhouse Mineski Events Team. While it wasn’t an official Dota 2 major, its quality spoke for itself and showed local and international fans alike that the Philippines was truly the place to be for esports events.

The Philippine fighting game community (FGC) enjoyed continued success in terms of events as well, with Playbook Esports’ REV Major and Imperium Pro Team’s Manila Cup achieving international attendance and recognition. Featuring a slew of titles from Street Fighter to Guilty Gear, these events showcased how talented and dedicated the Philippine FGC was. In fact, the REV Major is currently in the running for best Tekken event of the year; you may vote for it here.

Of course, who could forget one of the largest annual gaming events in Southeast Asia, the E-Sports and Gaming Summit (ESGS). This year, it returned to celebrate the truest essence of esports at its core: an unadulterated passion for gaming.

Last October 27 to 29, 2017 in SMX Convention Center, Manila, the ESGS showcased esports competitions, gaming title debuts, cosplay clashes, local indie game developers, tech exhibits, and everything you can think of under esports and tech.

From NBA 2K18, locally-developed Xandata, Street Fighter V, quality gaming gear, esports apparel, and even anime, the ESGS held events of all flavors to cater to gamers of every genre.

This year’s ESGS featured the growth of our own country’s game development scene through the Indie Arena, the premier independent games showcase in the Philippines, and showcased the talent and enthusiasm the Filipino crowd has for gaming. From the convention’s success and reputation, the ESGS is a telltale symbol that esports is indeed alive and kicking, with a passionate community to back it up.

These events, along with others like Crossfire Stars and the Smart MGL, show that that Philippines is indeed in no shortage of top-notch esports events.

Continued success in competitions

CONTEMPLATION. Euneil 'Staz' Javinas at the WESG 2016 grand finals. Photo from WESG website

CONTEMPLATION. Euneil 'Staz' Javinas at the WESG 2016 grand finals.

Photo from WESG website

Of course, what would a year be without success in the games themselves?

TNC Pro Team and Execration carried their successes in the previous year to qualify for The International Dota 2 Championships 2017. Both teams were considered powerhouses in their own right, and each scored several respectable wins in the group stages – with TNC securing an upper bracket spot in the playoffs. Unfortunately both teams were eliminated earlier than expected. Execration placed second-to-the-last with a $123,440 payout, while TNC finished just one place higher with a $370,319 prize.

Mineski-Dota, on the same end, came out from under its drought of title wins, bringing renewed pride to the Philippine Dota scene with a championship win at the PGL Open Bucharest, and a silver finish the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3. Through these symbolic placings, Mineski-Dota hopes to continue its newfound success and keep up its streak in the hopes of making it back to the The International stage.

Meanwhile, players such as Andreij “Doujin” Ablar and Alexandre “AK” Laverez continued to establish the Philippine’s competitive standing in the arena of international Tekken play. With Doujin taking the International e-Sport Federation’s Tekken World Championship, followed by his and AK’s 1st runner-up placement in the Abuget Cup and WEGL, respectively, the Philippines continues to prove its competitive prowess in esports in a variety of genres internationally.

During last January's World Electronic Sports Games held in Chuangzhou, China, TNC won the Dota 2 tournament, taking home $800,000 from the $1.5 million prize pool. At the same event, Philippine Hearthstone player Euneil Staz Javiñas of team PH Alliance defeated Swedish player Jon Orange Westberg to win the WESG Hearthstone World Finals, netting him a cash prize of $150,000 (approximately P7.5 million). 

2017 was quite the year for Philippine esports. What will 2018 have in store? – Rappler.com