At the 30th Southeast Asian Games held in the Philippines in 2019, esports was officially recognized as a competitive event. If we rewind back a year to the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, the initial integration of esports with traditional top-tier sports events had already started to embed the concept and influence of esports in the minds of many ordinary people, especially among the audiences in Southeast Asia, where the aforementioned sporting extravaganzas were consecutively hosted.
Today, the Southeast Asian esports market is relying on its flourishing esports culture and a vast population of esports enthusiasts to establish itself as another major player in the industry outside East Asia. However, despite years of growth, the market still suffers from a lack of diversity in esports games and content. Breaking away from its sole reliance on FPS or MOBA games and offering a more diverse esports gaming experience to players in the region has become a crucial objective. This is why events like the upcoming ROO Odin Cup are so vital to expanding the horizons of the esports landscape in Southeast Asia.
The Unique Esports Culture in Southeast Asia
One of the most distinct features of the global esports industry’s development is clear differentiation. In comparison to regions such as East Asia, North America, and Western Europe, where esports events are well-established with advanced industry frameworks, the Southeast Asian esports market remains new but has shown rapid growth momentum. It has the potential to become a “new frontier” for rapid development and expansion of the global esports industry. While it possesses significant growth opportunities and potential, the Southeast Asian market focuses more on mobile gaming and mobile esports, which presents more opportunities compared to other regions worldwide.
The 2021 global gaming market report from Newzoo indicated that Southeast Asia had 142 million mobile gamers, and the number of esports enthusiasts had grown to 35 million, up from 19.8 million previously. The flourishing esports ecosystem has led to an esports audience of over 50 million. Moving into 2023, data from SensorTower reveals that in the first quarter, mobile game downloads in the Southeast Asian market surpassed 2.1 billion, contributing to nearly 15% of global mobile game downloads.
It is evident that although the pace and scale of esports market development vary among Southeast Asian countries, players in the region share a remarkable preference towards mobile gaming and mobile esports. It’s precisely due to the immensely large and potentially growing population base in the Southeast Asian esports market, combined with a strong focus and affinity for emerging industries like mobile esports, that this hotspot region stands out within the global esports landscape. This allows it to emerge as one of the most vibrant and rapidly expanding esports frontiers, rivaling even regions beyond East Asia.
From Solitary Excellence to Thriving Diversity
Looking back at the past several years, the most influential and mature esports games in the Southeast Asian region have mostly been in the MOBA or tactical competitive game genres. This trend is actually not unique to Southeast Asia, as it also exists in East Asia and particularly in the Chinese esports market. However, precisely because of these limitations, an increasing number of game developers in diverse game types are attempting to expand the breadth and scope of esports through esports tournaments. This offers players who enjoy different genres of games the equal opportunity to participate in esports events.
This trend can be glimpsed from the changes in the Chinese esports market. In August 2023, the classic MMO mobile game Journey to the West hosted the playoffs and grand finals of its 8th Peak Tournament in Suzhou. On the other hand, Justice, a game that claims to be organizing one of the biggest MMO esports events in China, has also invested millions in prize money in an attempt to further develop the game and complete a new puzzle piece in the esports field. From running tournaments to attracting player participation, MMO esports events have provided successful examples and experiences for others to refer to.
Esports revenue of Southeast Asia (image via Newzoo)
It is precisely due to these successful precedents that the Southeast Asian region has gained a clear vision of the demand for new categories in esports. Take Ragnarok Online, a game that has long held a prominent position in the Southeast Asian MMO gaming market, as an example. Its recent official sequel, Ragnarok Origin, has recognized the market potential in Southeast Asia to create the 1st Odin Cup esports tournament (hereinafter referred to as ROO Odin Cup), aiming to forge a new future for MMO esports in the region.
A Start, A Pioneer, A Leader
In April 2023, Ragnarok Origin, the official sequel to Ragnarok Online, was launched in the Southeast Asian mobile market. The game achieved remarkable success right from the start with over 5 million pre-registrations before launch. After its official release, the game even topped the game sales charts on the App Store in five countries, namely Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore, which clearly demonstrates the game’s immense popularity in the region.
With such a vast user base and influence, it is no surprise that Ragnarok Origin decided to host the ROO Odin Cup. This event is not only a heavyweight esports tournament in Southeast Asia but is also considered the region’s first top-tier MMO esports event. The main focus of this event will be a cross-server Guild League, with the strongest guild to be determined via competitive guild wars.
The ROO Odin Cup will feature large-scale battles to present an intense and engaging competitive experience. The form of the tournament will challenge top-tier guilds in various aspects, from battlefield strategy, and combat tactics, to the character class compositions. Each player and spectator of the event will have the opportunity to fully enjoy the unique excitement that MMO games bring to the esports arena through this massive esports competition. The diverse expressions of gameplay will become another major highlight that sets the ROO Odin Cup apart from traditional top-tier esports events.
Thanks to the combination of online and offline matches in the ROO Odin Cup, along with the use of cutting-edge technologies, the event will be streamed via a virtual broadcast studio. This studio will provide a panoramic display to offer a realistic “viewing platform” to viewers joining online. Through this immersive viewing experience, the unique appeal of MMO esports and the spectacles of large-scale battles can be showcased to all esports enthusiasts at a whole new level.
In the grand finals taking place at the end of October, the ROO Odin Cup will bring all qualifying teams to Bangkok, Thailand. To present the intensity of the finals in the best way possible, the event organizers will construct a highly luxurious and esports-oriented venue. From the actual viewing experience to audiovisual sensations, the aim is to provide thousands of onsite fans and participants with an even more exceptional top-tier esports experience at multiple levels.
It’s worth noting that in addition to providing players from Southeast Asia and even the entire Asian region with an ultimate gaming experience in various aspects such as tournament mechanics, production, and atmosphere, the ROO Odin Cup organizers are also demonstrating their sincere commitment and confidence in further cultivating the development of esports through the event’s prestigious trophy, championship rings, exclusive merchandise, and limited-edition in-game costumes.
MMO Games: The New Starting Point for Southeast Asian Esports
Bolstered by the high popularity and development potential of Ragnarok Origin in Southeast Asia, the ROO Odin Cup has the chance to lead the exploration of MMO esports in the Southeast Asian esports ecosystem, especially given its tournament scale, way of presentation, number of participants, and actual influence. Moreover, the inherent topicality, market influence, and vast user base of the game itself, as well as its substantial number of dedicated fans and big spenders, will bring a commercial value to the ROO Odin Cup that is unparalleled by other esports brands.
More importantly, being the first to venture into this territory, the ROO Odin Cup has entered into commercial collaborations with major brands such as Huawei’s AppGallery and Razer Gold. Through these partnerships, the event aims to leverage its capabilities to tap its potential and explore more opportunities for the Southeast Asian esports market. By joining the Southeast Asian esports ecosystem with a fresh approach, the ROO Odin Cup not only offers Ragnarok Origin players a platform to showcase their skills and talents, it is also popularizing the concept of MMO esports while making significant contributions to a more vibrant and engaging Southeast Asian esports landscape.
Please download the game for more information about the Odin Cup, or you can visit our official tournament website and official social media communities to stay informed of the latest event updates.
About Gravity Game Hub
Established in 2021, Gravity Game Hub (GGH) Pte Ltd is a game publisher and developer focusing on online and mobile games. Gravity Game Hub is committed to delivering an interactive gaming experience and creating a dynamic community for all players in South East Asia.