Nexplay Esports recently signed one of the popular Wild Rift esports teams in the Philippines, Aether Rift. This announcement was in line with Nexplay Esports’ total absorption of Akosi Dogie and all the influencers and esports teams under his wing. AFK Gaming caught up with Nexplay Esports' CEO, Gabriel Benito, and Head of Business Development and Partnership, Adrian Rob Son.
Q: What motivated you to sign on a Wild Rift team so early on before Riot has officially announced any tournaments for the region?
Gabriel: For us, being a first-mover in such a game is an advantage mainly as we’re the ones first to invest. If you fail faster, you learn faster. Additionally, I think it’s hinging upon Riot’s credibility (considering) what Riot has done for League of Legends globally. We feel confident when we invest in a team as early as now, and we will also reap benefits for the rest of the esports organization. So we will definitely have a good ROI (Return on Investment) on different aspects of the business.
Rob: For us, one of the key factors why we pursue having an esports team specifically is (because of) who actually is the publisher of the game. On this one, it’s Riot. We all know what happened way back, it's been a decade, League of Legends PC is still flourishing as we see now, so if that happens to their main platform, it could happen to mobile, and knowing the advantages of mobile gaming, it could go beyond what they have achieved. We want to make sure to be a part of it. And not just a part of it, the first one to be a part of it.
Q: What kind of an advantage do you get when you are one of the first movers in the Wild Rift esports space?
Gabriel: Being a first mover is always a risk, mainly because it’s something no one has done, and they have minimal resources to learn from. We want to be the first in doing things, mainly because it allows us to evolve faster than the rest. We know how the ropes work much faster, and we’re able to adapt much quicker. So, (from) a business perspective, we’re able to see far ahead than the rest, and we’ll be able to establish ourselves in advance. We will be the one(s) who are paving the path to how things work essentially, not only for ourselves but also for the developers as we leave a mark on the scene. Being recognized, having the risky plays, having the confidence to be one of the first.
Rob: We have this set of skills that I am pretty sure others might not have or probably much more improved from our side. It’s not because we are really good at it, it's because we’re so keen on the details of what works for others. So there are many other esports teams out there, and there are many things that work and don’t work for them. We managed to have that kind of idea and tweak it (to) fit our own forte and make a concoction of our own recipe to make things work. Based on what we are doing right now, we managed to find that sweet spot that works for us. We want to incorporate that as early as this. We’re going to risk it, and we know for a fact that there might be a lot of things we need to improve. But at least we did it first. We know how to go about it before others come in.
Q: Considering that Riot Games has a franchised league system in League of Legends (PC), Do you have any expectations about a Wild Rift franchised league.
Gabriel: In my opinion, I think it’s very (early to do this) in Southeast Asia, especially locally here in the Philippines, to do that as early as now. I believe it wouldn’t happen any time soon. I think you have to think about it in stages as well. It has to have a larger community first of all. You amass a huge fanbase before actually thinking about it. You need to consider a lot of factors like the market economics of the Southeast Asian region. Are we ready for that? Are the teams ready for that? It’s early to say that everyone is building a foundation, and perhaps in the future, it could be when the timing is right. But for now, I wouldn’t expect Riot to be pitching a franchise model as early as now. I think it’s just something that happens.
Rob: It’s too young. At the same time, there is a lot of function in the game that’s not there for that to proceed on a franchise level. To get to the franchise (level), everything else has to be all set up in a way that could be (turned) into a big league. We here at Nexplay think it is an inevitable part, and it could happen. It might not be any time soon, but it could happen in the future. We want to start early, so we know how to go ahead when that time comes. If it goes in that direction any time next year or in the coming years, we’ll be ready for that. But for now, we’ll try to face what’s going on in the competitive scene for Wild Rift.
Q: What can Riot Games improve on for Wild Rift Esports in the SEA region?
Gabriel: For me, there are two things on how Riot can improve the community to have a significance here in the Southeast Asian region. The First would be their tournaments, and the second would be the streaming side. For the tournaments, I would highly suggest that they develop a tournament pool faster, mainly because it builds communities and enables the communities to develop pocket tournaments around it. And when there are a lot of pocket tournaments, a lot of competitive people are trying to join together and build that competitive scene and a professional league.
I hope that they somehow support the streamers and content creators so that there is more content going out for Wild RIft. So we have to face the fact that in the Southeast Asian region, Mobile Legends is dominant, so on that end, if they are able to incentivize the content creators for Wild Rift, then people will know more, actually, watch the game more. (Riot should consider focusing on) tournaments, streamers, and the tournament mode as early as now.
Q: Nexplay esports has both streamers and esports players. Do they interact with each other regularly, or are they entirely independent entities?
Gabriel: The main thing about Nexplay is that we’re part of one network, so what happens is that there are a lot of collaborations happening, there’s a lot of helping each other that’s happening. I think that’s one of the things that makes us successful. Right now, for streaming and entertainment and being a pro, there is already a blurred line. Essentially when you become a pro, you can also become an influencer in a sort of way. You consider them as only one package and help them out in their career to help with whichever they are good at. So as an example, a lot of our pro players are also very popular. On that end, that popularity helped them forge a career in many other channels made by the competitive scene. That’s the beauty about it, the merging of being a pro and influencer.
Q: Why pick Aether Rift over the rest of the competition?
Gabriel: For us, it's more of what we do. We always have this incubation period at Nexplay. Once they are already, they take on our name, so we are on a path where the team is ready to carry our name, which is sellable and representative of Nexplay. That’s why the change. The Aether Rift team is also brought to us by Dogie, and the owner is under Nexplay. Dogie’s part of it and also helped put together the team, and essentially, when we spoke to Dogie, and we were ready to actually represent Aether Rift as a team under Nexplay, it is the right timing. As we speak now, we’re on our way there.
Q: What are your key objectives for the team in 2021 (any specific events, milestones, etc.)?
Rob: For Nexplay esports, we would like to be one of the most famous esports teams here in the Philippines. We want to share that reputation with our brand partners if they would like to make a mark with us. We are actually looking for those that would like to be a part of our journey. That is one of the things that we would like to offer to everyone. If you would like to be, come and join us. Of course, part of it is to equip all of our creators and make sure that they are ready for weak links; they actually revolve around those figures.
And of course, the consistency and maintenance of what they are, and their professional attitudes and responsibility of being pro players. It all revolves around the improvement of all of our players to make sure that we don’t just maintain what we are but go beyond that to achieve one goal at the end of the year.
Q: Nexplay has expanded to SEA within a short amount of time. What do you think is the secret to your success?
Gabriel: It is no secret. Everybody sees what we’re doing. We’re very open, and everybody sees who we are. Internally, one of the secrets to our success is how we look at esports as a business. We think of ourselves as an integrated ecosystem, so we have teams, talents, tech. What makes us special is how we bring it all together and make it work together like a machine. That allows us to expand significantly in a short amount of time because we have systems and processes that we have developed, and we can scale. We figure out that this kind of formula works for this one, and we replicate that as much as we could, and we have become much bigger than we thought we could be. It’s about how we look at ourselves as an ecosystem of sorts. That’s how we’re able to operate positively, as a company.
Q: What more would you like to see the community do to improve the esports scene in SEA?
Rob: Each country has its own tradition or culture in terms of esports. Some are loud in terms of their scene, and there are those who are subtle who have quite a lot of players. The improvement is quite vague and won’t fit each country within SEA. But, as a whole, it would revolve around the competitive scene, around the players. We really cannot distinguish what could work for (different) countries within SEA. I think it's more about a healthy community for a competitive scene that promotes each other in livestreams or tournaments.
Q: Do you have any plans for official merch?
Gabriel: We already have the merch. We’re one of the top-selling merchandise esports team in the country right now. Actually, our merch is very prominent. You can verify this right now on our Facebook page. We release different designs every drop. Right now, we’re on drop 13. We have hoodies, jackets, jerseys, and you can see it there, buy it from there. We’re happy to send you one as well if you would like it.