By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE NATIONALS — the Philippines’ first and only franchise-based Esports League — is set to take full flight later this month with hopes of taking organized gaming competitions in the country to a whole new plane.
Broke ground and got its legs last year with Road to The Nationals, the Esports platform is now setting its sights on making a “bigger cultural impact” and showing that Esports is worth investing time and effort in.
The league commences for its debut season on March 24 with five teams and another one joining by June.
The five inaugural teams are Bren Epro, Cignal Ultra Warriors, HF Emperors, PLDT-Smart Omega, and Suha-XCTN Punishers. STI is the sixth team but is set to make its debut in the middle of this year.
Games to be featured on the first year of The Nationals are Dota 2 on PC, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on Mobile, and Tekken 7 on PS4.
The first season will take place from March to October with all the games to be played at the Gariath Concepts Studio in Eastwood City, Libis, Quezon City.
All of the contested games will have two conferences in the first season. Each conference will feature a double round-robin group stage and single-elimination playoffs, with winners and the top performers per conference advancing to a season finale later on in the year.
The Nationals President Kevin Chung said Esports stakeholders should expect an exciting inaugural season from the league and that it is a concept whose time has come.
“I think the market is ready now for The Nationals,” said Mr. Chung, whose group began conceptualizing the league as early as 2015.
The Nationals official went on to say that they are happy with the way things have progressed for the setting-up of the league and that they are bent on making it a successful first year.
“Well this is the first in Southeast Asia. We burned a lot of eyebrows in conceptualizing this. The thing about it is there was no one to copy it from. The closest thing we have is the NBA. But we don’t have same access [to data] as the NBA and we had to carve out everything as no one has done it before. It was really hard but we went with it and we wanted do it right as a lot of people not only here but also in Southeast Asia are looking at it — how we would do it and succeed in it,” said Mr. Chung on the sidelines of the media launch of The Nationals on March 8.
“Last year it was breaking ground and this year it is about being recognized by the market. For corporates to know this as something relevant, something worthy to invest in, something that is part of the culture. The Nationals will try to ramp up partnerships and get everyone involved,” he added.
For Bren Epro team owner Jab Escutin, the establishment of The Nationals is very much welcomed since he believes it is a step in the right direction for the development of Esports in the country.
“Coming from a company that is for Esports, we are happy that there are a lot of opportunities for the industry to grow in the Philippines, especially in making it legitimate. The Nationals is a good step for us. It’s a step in the right direction. Here we have certain rules and certain processes that we follow. Having those is big for Esports in the country. It’s a step in being recognized,” said Mr. Escutin in a separate interview.
With all systems go for the league, Mr. Chung said they could not wait for The Nationals to start rolling.
“This is going to be groundbreaking. I will compare it [the league] to the UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines) with corporate backing. We see The Nationals unifying the market and people talking about it much like, say, an Ateneo-La Salle game, or that of a UST game. It’s going to have a bigger cultural impact,” Mr. Chung said even as he highlighted that The Nationals added further significance with Esports set to debut in the Southeast Asian Games here in the country later this year.
The Nationals’ official TV broadcast partners are ESPN5 through 5Plus on Free TV and Cignal TV through eGG Network and One Sports on Pay TV. Livestreaming on social media will likewise be provided by the league.
For more information on the league follow it on its Website at TheNationals.PH. It is also Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.