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S’pore’s ONE Esports CEO: “How we grew to 3.5 million gaming followers in two years”

One Esports CEO

“Like all business people in the beginning of 2020, I was uncertain how the year would turn out when the pandemic hit. A component of our business is composed of offline, live audience events,” said ONE Esports CEO Carlos Alimurung.

The CEO of the esports events firm shared his candid remarks with Vulcan Post as we caught up with him after two years of running the startup, a business that’s formed in a joint venture between ONE Championship and Dentsu.

“However, our strategy to offer a more comprehensive solution that not only included events, but also content, social, and data – enabled us to adapt to the situation rapidly, win big partnerships, and advance our business and relative position in the market,” Carlos said.

3.5 million followers in just two years

Carlos does have some bragging rights in the company’s growth thus far, having survived the pandemic despite being part of the events industry.

Also, in just two years of operations, the firm has reached 3.5 million followers on its social media channels.

In 2019, the brand was officially launched by sports organiser ONE Championship and advertising firm Dentsu. The plan then was to kick off the year with events held across Asia, featuring multiple blockbuster game titles.

Image Credit: oneesports.gg

Carlos, touted as a seasoned media and esports veteran, was asked to launch and lead the brand back in 2019. He was the former Chief Business Officer at online tournament platform Battlefy.

But the pandemic threw a spanner in the works, with Covid-19 safe management limits gassing out the idea of holding events with live audiences and ticket sales. 

Despite the setback from the original plan, ONE Esports has been tapping on multiple methods to extend its reach and online presence, helping it gain a strong foothold in Asia’s esports scene. That’s in spite of the pandemic and being a newcomer.

Not just an esports events organiser

Over the course of the past two years, ONE Esports has been working with influencers, owning and running an esports news site, and producing its own streaming content.

It is one of the few companies in the industry that can help brands engage and connect with the esports community across several fan touchpoints, said Carlos.

Image Credit: oneesports.gg

“Our social media is now massively scaled with close to 300 million monthly impressions. We host some of the biggest esports events in the world, and we own and operate oneesports.gg which is one of the biggest esports news sites in the world,” said Carlos.

“We have our own studio that produces long-form, short-form, and streaming content and we also work with a wide range of esports teams and influencers,” he added.

The enterprise distributes its content broadly across all the major streaming platforms like Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok too. “Not only does the breakdown of viewers vary across the different countries due to local consumption preferences, it also differs across gaming titles as well,” Carlos explained.

In addition to all these, the startup runs an in-house data and analytics team that publishes proprietary esports reports. The reports cover a wide range – from the OTT landscape to female esports fans, and Chinese esports fans.

Image Credit: ONE Esports

There’s a team of 40 employees across the region backing this grand endeavour. Carlos added that ONE Esports is always on the lookout for talented individuals to join its fast-growing team.

This proves to be true, as a check on its LinkedIn jobs page showed that it is currently on the lookout for business development analysts and product managers.

Its gaming events generate millions of views

According to Carlos, ONE Esports hosts some of the biggest esports events in the world and attracts millions of viewers across the globe. 

For example, the firm kicked off its launch with the ONE Esports Dota 2 World Pro Invitational Singapore with a US$500,000 prize pool in December 2019. The event generated 88 million views.

Subsequently, ONE Esports held its MPL Invitational with a US$100,000 prize pool which garnered 65 million total views.

Image Credit: ONE Esports

Its most recent ONE Esports Dota 2 Singapore Major – held earlier this year – with a prize pool of US$500,000, generated 274 million total views. “It had 1.1 million peak concurrent views, making it the second most-watched Dota 2 Major in history.”

“While the situation today is better than it was a year ago, the impact of the pandemic is still unpredictable and likely to create an on-and-off situation in the next 12 to 18 months. Companies that will be successful in this environment will be the ones who have a robust business model that provides optionality for itself and its partners,” said Carlos.

Holistic approach, long-term relationship with fans

What sets ONE Esports apart from other esports organisations is “our commitment to our mission to share and celebrate the stories of esports heroes who ignite the world with hope, strength, dreams, and inspiration,” Carlos said.

The goal is to build a long-term genuine relationship with fans, help brands connect, and engage with the esports community in an authentic way.

“The most successful brands who have engaged in esports have taken a holistic approach and activated across multiple channels, experiences, and content. When fans engage with a brand consistently across multiple activations and platforms, it becomes a long-term opportunity to create awareness and genuine relationships,” he added.

Another reason why the brand is going strong in the industry is that it is involved with all the major gaming titles in the region and the world.

Image Credit: Edward Gaming, MAD Lions, T1, 100 Thieves on Twitter

“These games are global in nature or have the potential to be global and whose player base is at a scale that justifies the resources we allocate to super-serve its fans,” Carlos shared.

ONE Esports has hosted tournament events for large gaming titles including Dota 2 and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.

“We recently announced that we have once again partnered with Moonton to host this year’s MLBB Professional League Invitational (MPLI) in the final quarter of 2021, which will feature the best teams across Southeast Asia,” he said.

ONE Esports is also the official media partner for the Arena of Valor International Championship 2021, Free Fire Indonesia Masters 2021, and UniPin Ladies Series MLBB 2021 in Indonesia.

Southeast Asia’s growth potential

There is enormous market potential for esports in Southeast Asia, said Carlos. 

“Our research indicates that there are 225 million gaming and esports fans in the region. The continued growth and penetration of mobile gaming in both developed and developing markets is certainly fuelling the rise in mobile esports.”

Image Credit: Joseph Asuncion, ONE Esports

Mobile gaming is set to heat up in the near term too.

The firm’s data shows that today nearly 60 per cent of gamers in North America and Europe and 87 per cent in Southeast Asia regularly play mobile games, he said.

“The market will only get more competitive as more triple-A game developers enter the mobile games market.”

Rise of female gamers, young audience

Interestingly, one of the fastest-growing segments over the last couple of years are women in gaming and esports, he said. Today, female fans account for half of the gaming and esports market in Southeast Asia (51 per cent male versus 49 per cent female). 

“The widespread adoption of mobile phones and the rise of new players in the video streaming market have enabled easier access to gaming content, especially within the female community,” Carlos explained.

“Our research finds that 87 per cent of female fans prefer mobile games. We also found that Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and PUBG Mobile are the top gaming titles played and watched among female fans in Southeast Asia. There is still more room for this segment of the community to grow.”

Image Credit: Riot Games

Another growth area: A young generation of esports fans. “The average age of esports fans is a lot younger than the average age of fans of traditional stick and ball sports. The esports audience consists of mostly Gen Z and millennials,” Carlos said.

“Dominated by a young, digital, and global audience, esports is certainly shaping up to be the future of sports, media, and entertainment,” he added.

But when commenting about the non-fungible-tokens (NFT) craze taking the esports industry by storm – with many firms coming up with NFT collectibles of players for example – the CEO provided a different reaction.

When asked if ONE Esports is involved in any NFT projects, Carlos gave a straight reply: “No, we are not.”


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Featured Image Credit: ONE Esports, ONE Championship

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