Why top esports athletes are now millionaires

Why top esports athletes are now millionaires

Make no mistake: The top esports clubs in the Philippines have money on their mind as the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League (MPL) Philippines Season 13 rages on.

The ongoing competition will determine which two teams will represent the country in June at the ML:BB Mid-Season Cup (MSC), where the champion will receive the largest cash prize in ML:BB e-sports history.

Earlier this year, game developer Moonton announced that MSC’s prize pool would amount to an astonishing $3 million (P168 million). The eventual champions will take home the lion’s share of $1 million (P56 million).

esports athletes
Blacklist International’s Edward Dapadap (left) and AP Bren’s David “Flaptzy” Canon

For David “Flaptzy” Canon, AP Bren’s finals most valuable player in the M5 World Championships, Season 13 is about one thing, and one thing only: “Our goal right from the start is to qualify for the MSC,” the EXP laner said. “This is really important for all of us, especially because we all have needs.”

Putting things in perspective, the prestigious M5 Championships in 2023 had a prize pool of $900,000. The Manila-hosted tournament previously held the distinction of having the largest prize pool in competitive ML:BB history. Flaptzy’s squad won the tournament and received $300,000.

The total payout for MSC 2023 was $300,000, of which tournament winner ONIC Esports took home $140,000.

Monetary motivation

There’s a popular saying in sports that goes: “It’s easier to climb the mountaintop than to remain there.” Conventional wisdom dictates that repeated success leads to comfort, and comfort leads to complacency.

If that logic is to be believed, then AP Bren is toast. After all, the top Filipino team won almost every tournament it joined over the past several months—from the MPL PH Season 12 in October 2023 to the Games of the Future in Russia just last month.

AP Bren head coach Francis “Ducky” Glindro

But as far as AP Bren head coach Francis “Ducky” Glindro is concerned, this won’t be an issue for the defending champs.

“Actually, I was really happy when they announced that the prize pool is huge,” Coach Ducky admitted. “That’s because I know it will be favorable for my team.”

He added: “They are heavily motivated by the money. You have to remember, these kids come from working-class families. They definitely have that mindset that if we perform, we’ll get a good chunk of change. And it’s gonna be life-changing for them.”

esports Blacklist International
Blacklist International coach Kristoffer “BON CHAN” Ricaplaza

His sentiments were echoed by Blacklist International’s coach Kristoffer “BON CHAN” Ricaplaza.

“We all know that everyone’s goal is to play in the MSC, especially with how big the prize pool is,” said BON CHAN, who steered Blacklist to three MPL PH titles. “However, we have to take things one at a time. For now, we just have to earn points so that we won’t have to play catchup in the playoffs.”

Erasing the stigma

Gone are the days when video games were blamed for a teenager’s perceived lack of success.

If anything, Filipino world champions like Blacklist International, Echo Philippines, and AP Bren proved that gaming obsession, when paired with discipline, can become a viable and lucrative career path.

MPL PH Season 12 runner-up Blacklist International

This is exactly what Philippine Esports Organization (PESO) executive director Marlon Marcelo wants Filipino parents to understand.

“As an NSA (national sports association), one of the things that we wanted to do is promote esports responsibly,” Marcelo told reporters in a previous edition of the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum.

“There’s a connotation that if you’re a gamer, you’re an addict or you’re not successful. We wanted to get rid of that,” he asserted. “We’ve seen a lot of esports athletes actually fulfill their dreams. Some esports athletes can buy houses because the prize pools are really lucrative in esports.”

In an ever-changing zeitgeist, what’s frowned upon yesterday can be celebrated tomorrow. A decade ago, who would’ve thought that the lament “Kaka-cellphone mo ‘yan” is why young Filipinos become multimillionaires?

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