“I walked out of the venue and sat on a bench alone and cried, as I had to let go of competing…there had to be more in esports, aside from just bringing the pride of one nation. It would have to involve developing the industry for the whole region.”
Last year proved to be a watershed year for Philippine esports with three local gamers bagging three of six gold medals up for grabs at the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, which was held in the country from November to December.
Professional gamer-turned entrepreneur Ronald Robins, chief executive officer of homegrown esports company Mineski Global, wants to build on the momentum of those victories by pushing for the grassroot development of the industry.
“The biggest challenge remains to be the notion that gaming does present a viable career option. However, our potential to be a hotbed of esports is very high just by looking at our feats at the last SEA Games,” Ronald says. “One thing I consider that is an area of improvement is giving our aspiring esports athletes, as well as those who want to get into the management side, the avenue with which they can explore the industry as a career.”
Ronald dreams of a sustainable future for local esports and that means growing the community of professional gamers in the country. This is the reason behind the partnership that Mineski Global recently forged with the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) to establish the Youth Esports Program.
“Stigma for gamers, and gaming in general, has generally dwindled, so we think that it’s high time to hit the grassroots development for esports through the program, while promoting responsible gaming. After all, the future of esports still lies within the grassroots, which is the collegiate level,” Ronald says.
Talent development is a key pillar of Mineski Global, whose five business units include Mineski Talents that has top esports athletes and influencers in its roster. “We are starting to build up our talent pool as well as revamp our brick-and-mortar, the cybercafés, to keep up with the evolving nature of the gaming world,” he says. Esports was recognized a legitimate sport in the country only three years ago, after the Gaming and Amusements Board allowed professional esports players to secure athletic licenses in August 2017.
By then, pioneering Mineski Global was already on its eighth year in a business that started running cybercafés across Metro Manila. It has parlayed its initial P4-million capital (which was pooled by Ronald and his circle of gamers) into a thriving enterprise that has branched out into other aspects of the sport.
The company today features Mineski Infinity, the brick-and-mortar, the business unit upon which the company stands with over 130 cybercafés in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. It also has Mineski Esports, its events arm that organizes tournaments as well broadcasts them over our online channels; Mineski Academy, which develops esports curriculum; and Mineski Tech, which develops solutions designed to cater to the gaming community. Outside the Philippines, Mineski Global has full operations in Indonesia and Thailand. It likewise has market presence in Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong/Macau, Taiwan, Myanmar, Cambodia, and India.
Ronald was born the fourth child in a brood of five — the youngest of three boys — to Henreita and Robinson Robins of Cebu. As a high school freshman, he started on the road that led to his unconventional career by becoming an inveterate online gamer. He joined a team that competed in the Visayas Qualifier tournaments for Counterstrike. The fact that they did not make it hardly dent his enthusiasm.
He moved to Manila for his bachelor of science in management of financial institutions degree at De La Salle University, but spent countless off-campus hours trolling the computer shops around Taft Avenue and beyond looking for worthy competitors in the early iteration of the popular Defense of The Ancients (DOTA) game. “We eventually ran out of players to challenge, and so we looked towards international competition. We’d stay up late just to battle guys from across the Pacific Ocean. It came to a point that establishing a computer shop to cater to what gamers needs was a no-brainer. It was an opportunity and we took it.”
It was 2004 when he banded with a group of friends to form Mineski-DOTA, one of the first truly competitive esports gaming teams in the Philippines. “We started off with the La Salle All-Star and won more than 50 local DOTA tournaments, which led to one of our biggest achievements, and that’s participating in the World Cyber Games (WCG). During that era, WCG was the largest global esports event with more than 50 nations represented, all competing against each other,” he recalls.
The thrill of competition pushed him to a five-year stint as a professional gamer. By 2009, Ronald was ready to move to the next chapter of his life and spent the year preparing for his final tournament — the SMM 2009 in Malaysia, where Mineski was pitted against the local favorites in a battle for the semi-finals. “It was also in this trip where I promised myself that I would propose to my then-girlfriend, who is now my wife, after the tournament,” he says.
“After we lost that match, I walked out of the venue and sat on a bench alone and cried, as I had to let go of competing, which was one of the things I loved to do. I then thought that there had to be more in esports, aside from just bringing the pride of one nation. It would have to involve developing the industry for the whole region.”
In December 2009, Ronald and his former teammates established Mineski Global, becoming entrepreneurs with an eye beyond setting up cybercafés for online gamers. “I turned my eyes towards the business side of things as I felt that the esports industry was ripe to be taken to the next level. Where can you see a tournament handing out almost US$40 million in prizes? Or how about brands scrambling to sponsor somebody who is not physically imposing, but is without peer when it comes to console controllers, keyboards, and the like? Also, I wanted to provide what gamers need, because I know the hardship of having no place to accommodate us to train and play.”
Besides being an entrepreneur, Ronald is a family man, raising three kids with Sharon Robins nee Chua at their home in Quezon City. The couple, who will soon be celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary, worked together at Mineski Global where Sharon is controller and treasurer of the franchising business. “Outside work, I spend time with my family and play golf. Being in the outdoors, strolling through hundred-year-old trees, and being under the sun really clears up my mind and allows me to press that restart button after a long week at work. Family time is also very important for me as I have young children who need to be molded with the right values in life,” he says.
He believes that “living a life you want to live brings the best out of you as passion can be a very strong fuel that others won’t have.”
“Every day is a learning day. Being not afraid of failing is an important value to have, as this is the fastest way to learn and grow.”
FIRST PAYING JOB
To make esports the number one sport in the world
Black coffee, no sugar
I see myself as a visionary.
TIME YOU SPEND ON SOCIAL MEDIA
About 10 minutes a day on LinkedIn