Despite the challenges it faces, The Nationals is looking to start its second season this September.
Originally slated to start way back March this year, the league has been making the necessary adjustments as the coronavirus pandemic placed sports in the back seat.
Among those changes is the plan to shift the games online.
Esports is a non-contact sport to begin with, and moving the games online allows the league to run while completely eliminating physical human contact.
League commissioner Ren Vitug said The Nationals is well aware of the country's situation in the fight against COVID-19. Still, he believes that competition and sports can bring joy and hope to the people – and out of all the sports, esports is one of the best equipped to do that while still maintaining the distancing protocols.
"We think that there is an opportunity to inspire," Vitug said. "Not just in giving joy to the people, but also by using the platform that the teams and we have to spread awareness.”
“Of course, the league also generates jobs for a lot of players, their support staff, and in many other interfaces," he added.
While online play seems synonymous with esports, The Nationals is unique in that all of its tournament games last year were played in a studio setting. That opened opportunities in production like live audiences, captured player reactions, and on-the-spot interviews – something that long esports events and leagues rarely have.
For the year, The Nationals plans to line-up the three games it featured last season, namely Tekken 7, Dota 2 and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. Pending approvals, the games will be played for a conference each in that order.
Because of the current health situation, the league plans to have a shortened season where it will only have the three conferences this season compared to the six it had from the last.
This condensed calendar is not any different from the approach, or at least to the plans of various sports leagues seeking to resume play this year.
The Nationals have been working closely with the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) to ensure that if and when the league resumes, it will not be at the expense of the health and safety of its stakeholders.
The recently signed Joint Administrative Order of GAB, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Department of Health (DOH) is the primary benchmark on which the guidelines are being tailored from.
The Nationals is the country's first franchise-based esports league. It inaugurated in the year 2019 featuring three games, opening opportunities for more than a hundred local professional athletes.
Aside from the regular salary of the active players, the league also incentivized the top performers by handing out more than P5,000,000 in cash prize in its first season.
The league's players also helped secure medals for the Philippines in the esports competition of the 30th Southeast Asian Games for all the games that The Nationals featured.