Online entrepreneur Napoleon “Fra” Jamir is a gaming enthusiast who is based in South Cotabato. His interest in esports began early last year with the onset of the COVID-19 health crisis. “Before the pandemic, I spent most of my time at work. I also go on leisure trips during long holidays. Unfortunately, even though my business is online, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected my target market which is the real estate sector in the US.”
Esports is taking the Philippines by storm, as Filipinos battle through the pandemic staying safe indoors. What used to be a niche interest two decades ago has become part of what Filipinos enjoy doing, especially as a pandemic keeps everyone indoors. The interest has grown alongside the Philippines’ rapid development in internet accessibility, fueled by a greater need to serve customers online. Esports has become a lucrative industry globally in recent years, training and marketing professional players. Now, as enabled by stronger digital connectivity, the engagement with esports has also seen a drastic rise.
With the implementation of community quarantine and border lockdowns starting March last year, Fra found himself with a lot of free time and nothing much to do. “I can’t go out as often as I want to and I can’t play contact sports with my friends. It was during that time that my brothers and I started playing Call of Duty: Mobile and we enjoyed it,” shares Fra. “I live far from my family and I have two brothers who are based overseas. At first it was just a past time then I began streaming to record our gameplay. Soon after we started creating groups and invited more young adults who also enjoy the game to play with us. The community is slowly growing. Most of us are already Titos (Uncles), so we named our page Game of Titos. I’m surprised how diverse the online streaming communities here in South Cotabato. It’s a fun and vibrant crowd.”
In these times when gaming is quickly occupying the digital world that defies borders, the availability of connectivity and fast network speed are vital. In the Philippines, around 76M have internet access and almost 71M mobile phone internet users (source: Statista.com).
“It’s very important to not only have a very fast connection but a stable one as well,” says Fra. “Streamers rely on internet speed to deliver quality content to their viewers and that means they need to have a reliable connection at all times during gameplay and streaming,” he further explains.
In the latest mobile network experience report of Opensignal, Smart Communications, Inc., the wireless arm of the country’s largest integrated telco PLDT, increased its nationwide 4G Availability by 3.5 percentage points in November 2020. In the SoCCSKSarGen area (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos), Smart users enjoy superior Video Experience at 45.3, which is more than 13 points higher than the competitor.
To provide good customer experience to gamers and streamers like Fra, PLDT and Smart are expanding their fixed and wireless networks across the country. As of December 2020, PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, the most extensive in the country, comprised of more than 429,000 kilometers. This fiber infrastructure supports Smart’s mobile networks, which now cover 96% of the population and is available in 95% of the country’s cities and municipalities. Heeding the government’s call to elevate the country’s telecommunications industry and deliver world-class services, PLDT announced that it was prepared to invest between Php 88 billion and Php 92 billion this year to meet the requirements of its mobile and fixed line customers.
For the past years, Smart has been one of the foremost brands to recognize and empower the Philippine esports community by going all-out with mobile promos and events, supporting teams and tournaments, and actively playing a role in the Philippine Esports Organization (PESO), the official National Sports Association that governs and develops esports in the country.
Last year, Smart launched the Free Games for All promo, which allowed Smart and TNT prepaid customers to access their favorite mobile games like Mobile Legends, Clash of Clans, Arena of Valor, Clash Royale, and the newly added mobile game to its roster – Call of Duty Mobile.
Smart Omega, the official esports team backed by the telco giant, won second place in The Nationals and MPL Season 7, propelling the team to represent the Philippines in one of the biggest tournaments in the esports world: the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang M2 World Championships.