Ilonggo-made e-sports startup eyes campus-based growth for 2023

Justin Banusing, Chief Finance Officer and Chief Growth Officer of AcadArena

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

An e-sports startup which started in Iloilo said that they are seeing their industry growing in school campuses across the country, with further expansions in 2023 as pupils and students start returning to school.

Justin Banusing, Chief Finance Officer and Chief Growth Officer of AcadArena, said that campus e-sports has come a long way since he started writing about games and online tournaments as a sports journalist.

He said that the lack of platforms for campus e-sports to thrive was what motivated him to co-found AcadArena with Ariane Lim and Kevin Hoang, who are now Co-Chief Executive Officers of the startup, in 2019 here in Iloilo.

Their organization’s feat has been making a huge impact, enough to land the three of them spots in Forbes’ 30 Under 30.

“Campus gaming honestly wasn’t a thing back in 2014. There weren’t many organizations that encouraged gaming, let alone supported student gamers. That’s the reason why we started AcadArena: to create a platform for dreamers like me, [Lim], and [Hoang] to get their start in the industry through their campus communities. We’re creating what we wish we had when we started out, the support that wasn’t there for us, and many others,” said Banusing.

After graduating from the University of Washington in 2019, Banusing is now focused full-time on AcadArena, which also tapped into other Ilonggos who now work for them.

They hosted the biggest gaming convention of 2022, CONquest Festival, which also traced its roots in Iloilo City as a high school project back in 2017.

Banusing said that campus e-sports is becoming the next big thing in the gaming industry, and is seen to grow given the return of face-to-face classes in Academic Year 2022-2023.

“We’re seeing tremendous growth – in signups, in revenue, in sponsors, and even in expansion opportunities. More and more people are seeing the potential of campus esports, and with the return of physical classes, there’s nowhere to go but up,” he said.

As part of the physical return of students to schools, AcadArena is currently conducting its Academy Homecoming program, which is intended to better connect with students and go beyond their usual audiences.

They have been able to visit their affiliate schools Ateneo De Manila University, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, University of Makati, and National University, among a few.

He stated that while they have been going farther than they expected since the organization’s inception, they are simply happy in making inroads with young gamers and their parents, and continues to work for the responsible development of school-based gaming communities.

“There’s still a long way to go, but I’m glad to say that AcadArena’s biggest impact so far is normalizing exploring a career in games among students and parents,”

AcadArena currently has been supporting more than 700 schools across the Philippines and launched its branch in Brazil last August.