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    OPINION: Don’t let the TikTok vids fool you. Nexplay is on the rise

    Jun 22, 2021

    WHEN Gabriel Benito, the president, founder, and CEO of Nexplay, officially announced the partnership between his organization and EVOS Esports during the Nexplay Uncovered event, he sent a massive shockwave throughout the local Mobile Legends community.

    He said that the partnership would be a “game changer” not just in Philippine esports, but also in Southeast Asian esports.

    Acclaim and congratulations followed the announcement… as well as a massive amount of blowback, which you can easily see in the comments from the live broadcast of the press conference.

    “Puro hype and marketing lang yan!”

    “Pang-artista lang players ng Nexplay!”


      These have been long standing criticisms of the fan-favorite squad ever since the MPL-PH Season 6. Exiting early in the playoffs against a scappier, younger Bren squad, Nexplay were considered a laughingstock in the Mobile Legends community, no thanks to their trashtalking and TikTok antics.

      Though they were able to increase their fanbase with their rowdy and loud behavior, they became the biggest villains in the Mobile Legends scene. The squad was criticized for seemingly encouraging toxicity among fans, and for players who looked like they were more interested in acting like wannabe celebrities than professional athletes.

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      Though they improved in MPL-PH season 7, the end result was still disappointing as Nexplay was the only team in the first day of the playoffs that failed to impress. You’d expect that their veteran status would have given them an edge over rookie team Work Auster Force.

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      But the matchup wasn’t even a close encounter. It was the only series that day that never went the distance.

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      The results bothered me, as it was clearly evident that Nexplay’s preparations for the playoffs were below par compared to their rivals. If a young, up-and-coming team nearly swept them, what more if they were up against a contender like Blacklist International?

      Was hyping something like, say, the Mika Salamanca-John Paul “H2wo” Salonga tandem more important than winning the playoffs? Was Nexplay born to win or were they born to be a social media hype circus?

      Perhaps, I thought, they were geared for the latter.

      Look to Real Madrid

      But after their Nexplay Uncovered event, I began to realize that maybe the organization’s obsession for marketing and celebrity may be leading to something bigger.

      In fact, I slowly made comparisons between Nexplay and my favorite football team, Real Madrid.

      When Real Madrid acquired David Beckham back in 2003, his arrival was heavily panned and criticized.


        First, Madrid just recently lost their defensive ace, Claude Makélélé, so replacing him with an offensive player doesn’t seem to make any sense. Second, Madrid already had Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo, two star-studded players that occupied Beckham’s position. And last, Beckham just had a fallout with his previous mentor Sir Alex Ferguson, as the latter was extremely frustrated with the former’s celebrity stature.

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        Immediately after his arrival, the club went in a different direction, where they focused heavily on marketing above everything else.

        While their European rivals underwent their pre-season schedule against tougher opponents, Real Madrid followed a more Hollywood-esque approach by travelling to Thailand, Hong Kong, and Japan for celebrity-themed friendlies.

        In the end, the club’s new approach never led to the best results. Madrid ended up crashing out of the UEFA Champions League in the early knockout stages, and they never seemed to have any foothold on their domestic campaign.

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        In fact, they only won a La Liga title during the Beckham era — a massive disappointment for a club that boasted the highest net worth on their roster.

        However, a closer analysis revealed that Real Madrid’s decision to pursue David Beckham was centered on the club’s financial future.

        Even in his days with Manchester United, Beckham was already a commercial commodity given his numerous public appearances and endorsement deals.

        Seeing his overall value, Real Madrid capitalized on his marketing appeal, which in turn skyrocketed their revenues from 93.2 million Euros in 2001 to 186.4 million in 2005.

        Eventually, they used their financial earnings to expand their resources, which in turn allowed them to build a trophy-laden team in the next generation, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, and Karim Benzema.

        And maybe this is where Nexplay is currently headed.

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        Enter the hype man

        To begin with, they already have their own version of David Beckham — Setsuna “Akosi Dogie” Ignacio.

        While Beckham capitalized on his looks, Dogie added an abrasive personality.

        Given his background, there were questions circulating about how he fit he was to serve as Nexplay’s head coach, even after his accomplishments leading Aether Main in MPL-PH Season 1. Unfortunately for Dogie, these skepticisms grew worse when Nexplay got outplayed by Work Auster Force in Season 7.

        Yet, amid their sputtering season, Dogie’s marketing value has yielded the most optimal results for the organization. What many don’t realize is how much harder he had to work to pull others up with him.

        Beckham didn’t need to put a lot of effort in marketing Real Madrid; he was already surrounded with superstars like Zidane, Figo, and the Brazilian Ronaldo.

        Dogie, on the other hand, had to develop the shy and socially awkward H2wo, as well as the young and unproven Renejay “Renejay” Barcarse and Tristan “Yawi” Cabrera, to greater heights.

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        Eventually his efforts made a difference.

        It was Dogie who spearheaded the Mika Salamanca-H2wo movement. It was Dogie who propelled Renejay to become a recording artist. It was Dogie who gave Yawi the confidence to be more than just a professional player showing his highlights on YouTube.

        This actually made Nexplay more than just a one-man show. Beyond their larger-than-life coach, the other members of the organization have already made headlines, further enhancing their community growth and their marketing prowess.

        With his work done, Dogie is now no longer coaching Nexplay. Given the organization’s decision to appoint John Michael “Zico” Dizon, Dogie has more leeway to help the other teams like Nexplay Tempest and the other parts of the organization.

        Plus, we have to mention his promise of enhancing the Philippine esports shoutcasting scene, which has been heavily underdeveloped due to the lack of growth and opportunities.

        And with EVOS coming in, expect a big bang to follow.

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        Perhaps it was wrong to misjudge them as a team that basically wants to create YouTube drama and content. If their efforts will yield a better esports ecosystem, maybe this is the revolution needed to enhance the scene.

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