Vietnam has an interesting gambling industry. The only legal forms of gambling in the country is the lottery and more recently sports betting. However, the Vietnamese locals have been creative with how they can go gamble. It is great that the Communist government is slowly relaxing its stance on gambling. As the government experiments with sports betting, it allows more and more investors and foreigners to take a chance on the country.
Aside from the usual casino games like poker, Vietnamese locals are loving a new kind of “gaming activity.” In recent years, the global electronic sports industry experienced massive growth with several premier and major tournaments held regularly around the world. These tournaments are widely watched worldwide by both players and non-players. In 2013 alone, more than 71.5 million watched competitive eSports. Esports is so popular that it has attracted millions of players.
While the electronic sports industry has many different games, the most popularly played game is the League of Legends. In 2014, this online eSports game had more than 67 million monthly players. In the latest statistics released by Statista, the said eSport has 100 million players already. League of Legends is a legend in eSports as it is often credited for putting the competitive gaming industry into the view of mainstream gamers. In Vietnam, approximately 15% of the 91 million population are fans of the League of Legends Facebook page.
Gaming tournaments are making waves that about hundreds and millions of gamers, both amateur and professional, are joining international tournaments annually. Known as eSports or electronic sports, these tournaments showcasing computer games are rapidly becoming one of the competitive gaming sports in the world today.
The Growth of Electronic Sports in Vietnam
Online gaming has become such a huge part of socializing and entertainment in Vietnam. It is not unusual to see the locals engaging in mobile and online gaming. Some hard core gamers even spend hours in internet cafés. To date, the country has approximately 39 million mobile gamers, 25 million online gamers, and has a 54% internet penetration rate. Online gaming is largely driven by eSports. In a survey conducted by Statista, about 35% of Vietnamese citizens spend an average of one to three hours and close to 23% spend four to 10 hours playing video or computer games per week.
Electronic sports is not a new concept for Vietnamese people. It started about a decade ago but its rapid growth into prominence only started a few years ago when multiplayer online games like CrossFire and Dota gained popularity in the country’s gaming community. From friends hosting video game nights, eSports has become a full-fledged industry complete with a network of professional teams, leagues, and tournaments. Vietnam’s eSports industry is not very large compared to other Southeast Asian nations, but the concept is slowly catching on. In the last five years, the eSports industry of Vietnam is already earning its recognition from the International eSports Federation (IeSF).
As the gaming industry of Vietnam grew, regional and national gaming tournaments became regular, with some of them held annually. To gain support from the Vietnamese gamers, organizers offer huge monetary prizes. This also encouraged more gamers to become more competitive.
Realizing the potential of eSports, the government of Vietnam considers this as a type of a sport. Gamers are encouraged to sharpen their skills, develop strategies, and start eSports communities. The government also allowed websites and communities that cater to Vietnamese eSports enthusiasts.
Gaming Tournaments in Vietnam
As mentioned, Vietnam is a country of gamblers. While the older generations focus their energy on traditional forms of gaming or gambling, the younger generation harnessed the power of technology by playing competitively through computer, mobile, and video games.
The country may have a relatively small number of eSports gamers, but most of them are professionals. These professional gaming teams of Vietnam have already proven that they are a force to be reckoned with. They have won several notable eSports tournaments in the country and they are sure to become one of the most competitive teams in the realm of eSports.
One of the factors that competitive gaming is gaining traction in Vietnam is its monetary reward. Professional gamers, when they win several major tournaments, have the potential to earn huge money. In the latest list of highest-earning eSports countries, Vietnam ranks 27th with earnings of $617,565.82 from 213 players. The country is home to the eSports professional gaming teams including Freedom, GeniusGaming, Saigon Jokers, Aces Gaming, and Fantastic 5. GeniusGaming and Freedom placed second at World eSports Master 2010 and WCG 2012, respectively.
The Electronic Entertainment Association was established in Vietnam to polish the profile of eSports in the country. This has led to the formation of professional teams that are compensated very well. Early this year, Vietnam received its promotion to its own independent competitive region. This means the country has a guaranteed play-in slot to contend at global events such as Worlds and Mid-Season Invitational (MSI).
Vietnam used to be a part of the Southeast Asian region where they compete to gain one spot at international events along with other members of Southeast Asia during the Asia’s Garena Premier League (GPL). However, the country’s competitive streak during the 2017 MSI and Worlds allowed them to rise beyond other teams from countries like Singapore (SLS), Philippines (PGS), Malaysia (LCM), Thailand (TPL), and Indonesia (LGS). Vietnam will no longer compete in the GPL just to qualify at international tournaments. They already have guaranteed slots.
As Vietnam secured their own slot at MSI 2018, the said tournament will now have a 14-team tournament. The Worlds will still have a 24-team tournament. Vietnam will own the extra play-in spot earned by the highest ranking region of (CIS), BR, JPN, LAS, LAN, SEA, OCE, and TUR. In the Rift Rivals tournament, Vietnam will belong to the group of CIS and Turkey, while SEA GPL will stay in the group with Japan and Oceania.
Esports tournaments in Vietnam offer attractive prizes of up to 8 million dongs. This attracts millions of enthusiasts and viewers, which means a higher amount of corporate sponsorship. As many willing companies express support, professional gamers earn hefty incomes. The opportunity to earn big money is not limited to the players, commentators also earn good money from gaming tournaments in Vietnam.
The global phenomenon is a lucrative industry that has spawned many professional eSports teams. For some, competitive gaming is similar to professional sports. They have sponsored teams and coaches. Analysts, commentators, and forums dedicated to the electronic sport, making it a specific career where an individual can prosper.
The professional eSports teams of Vietnam may not be the crème de la crème but they are definitely showing promise. In the past two years, the growth of eSports is not only concentrated in Hanoi and Saigon. It also included other urban cities of Vietnam. Many gamers credit the success of eSports in the country with its widespread fan base. Esports in Vietnam is not focused on just one city.
Betting on eSports in Vietnam
The eSports market is now valued at about $900 million and it is expected to grow even more in the coming years as each tournament gets more viewership, sponsorship, and richer prizes. As they say, bettors will follow where the money is.
The latest League of Legends 2017 Season World Championship prize pool amounted to a staggering $4,596,591. Records were broken when the International 2017 Dota 2 had the largest prize pool in eSports history at $24,787,916. This new economy has given rise to a new breed of bettors and gamblers. Before the meteoric rise of eSports, most bettors would wager on football and baseball games. Now, a number of betting sites offer spectators the chance to become active participants in these online competitive gaming sports. Some pre-existing betting operators have included eSports into their line ups. For instance, Bet365 added eSports in 2013 and Betway followed suit in 2015. There are also some betting sites that only offer eSports such as the Las Vegas-based Unikrn, which was founded in 2014.
The growing popularity of eSports in Vietnam does not slip through the radar of hard core gamblers, as well. A number of Vietnamese locals also place their bets on competitive gaming. While the country only legalized betting on international football games, horse racing, and greyhound racing, Vietnamese punters can still place their wagers on professional gaming teams through online sportsbooks. The demand for online sportsbook offering eSports is high. This is the reason why a number of online sportsbook offer eSports betting. This includes Pinnacle, Betway, Bet365, Betsson, Arcane Bet, and SkyBet. Through these websites, local punters can show their support for the Vietnamese team and still earn good money. Punters can place their bets on bookies on Dota 2, CS:GO, Overwatch, and League of Legends, among others.
Aside from betting on the outcome of the games, bettors can also place their bets on fantasy eSports. Users form draft teams and form their own leagues. They can earn points based on the performance of the players during games like fantasy football, which gained prominence before live sports betting was introduced.