Esports at the IOC-sanctioned 32nd Southeast Asia Games (SEA Games) in Cambodia have drawn to a close. Running from May 6 to 16, the regional sporting event saw competition in six titles that are popular in Southeast Asia: Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Attack Online 2, Crossfire, League of Legends: Wild Rift, Valorant, and PUBG Mobile.
This year’s SEA Games was the third time that esports have been included as a medal sport at the event. The previous iterations in Manila, Philippines, and Hanoi, Vietnam, set the groundwork for esports as a fixture at the games. SEA Games is the largest IOC-sanctioned event to feature esports in medal competition, that is, until they appear later this year at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
These types of events are important to the esports industry as they help to build awareness of esports among non-gamers, encourage government support for esports businesses, development of infrastructure, and most importantly better recognition and support for esports athletes. International esports competitions are a key driver of growth for the esports industry, particularly in Southeast Asia where cultural and national diversity add to the excitement. We discuss the wider implications of this trend in detail in our recent Esports in Asia & MENA Report.
This year’s event was significant, as it drew increased collaboration between esports entities. The Esports Federation of Cambodia (EFC) and the 32nd SEA Games Organizing Committee (CAMSOC) cooperated with the Vietnam Esports Federation (VIRESA) and gave the latter permission to plan and organize the esports competitions at the games. The EFC is a relatively new organization, so they relied on support from VIRESA to ensure esports competition went smoothly at the event. CAMSOC was also assisted by VTC Online and Mineski in organizing the esports events.
Vietnam’s VNG Corporation also supported tournament communications and helped deliver esports equipment from Vietnam to Cambodia. GosuGamers was the main media partner for esports events. In addition, game publishers including Moonton (Mobile Legend: Bang Bang), Smilegate (CrossFire), Riot Games (Valorant & League of Legends: Wild Rift), and Krafton (PUBG Mobile) were also involved.
Play was divided into men’s and women’s competitions or team-based and individual events. Each participating country was permitted to compete in seven esports events. Cambodia, as the event’s host, was permitted to compete in all the events. A total of 33 medals was awarded in the category of esports during the event.
Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines are the top 3 performing countries in this year’s games. While Indonesia and Cambodia tied for the most gold medals, with three each, Vietnam earned the most medals overall, with seven. Singapore won its first gold medal sharing it with Indonesia in a controversial fashion, following a divisive Valorant grand finals. This is the first time that the country hosting the games has not finished as the medal leader.
We’ve picked five most memorable outcomes from the 32nd SEA Games Esports.
- The Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Women’s event became the most-watched women’s esports event of all time. The gold medal match between the Philippines and Indonesia peaked at 1.36 million viewers, surpassing the previous record of the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Women’s Invitational, which peaked at 392k viewers.
- The Philippines secured a three-peat by winning the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Men’s division again this year. SIBOL, the Philippine’s national esports team composed of players from Bren Esports, swept Malaysia 3-0 in the gold medal match.
- The Valorant event ended in controversy, with Singapore and Indonesia ultimately sharing the gold. The dispute centered on allegations of a bugged or disallowed player ability used by Singapore in the grand finals match. This resulted in a technical pause during the grand finals that lasted almost two hours. The match was resumed the following morning but ended in a forfeit. After the complaint was reviewed by the NOC, SEAGAF, and IESF, Indonesia was also granted the gold medal.
- Cambodia dominated the Attack Online 2 event. The host country won gold for the Team event and gold and silver medal for the Individual event.
- Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Men’s division favorite Indonesia failed to secure a medal in the event. The Indonesian Mobile Legends: Bang Bang community was shocked as its national team suffered upsets from Cambodia and Myanmar eliminating them early in the group stage of the event. This is the first time Indonesia has not won a medal for the men’s division in the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang game title since the esports event was added in 2019.
Southeast Asia is one of the fastest growing regions for esports fandom in Asia and the MENA. Its esports ecosystem is defined by a high degree of national complexity and local specificity. The proximity of Southeast Asian teams, combined with a growing number of regional events results in esports as a medium to express national rivalries. This also fuels further growth of esports’ popularity.
Asia and MENA continue to lead the global esports industry in trends and growth, contributing to over 56% of the $1.3 billion global esports market. Niko’s Esports in Asia and MENA Report offers an insightful and comprehensive analysis providing key data on esports topics including market size, revenue, and growth drivers, as well as titles, teams, and tournaments leading the industry.
Author: Marco Vicente
Analyst, Esports and SEA