Cambodia might be a poor nation but esports could make it wealthy. Here’s how.


Cambodia has certainly come a long way since its deadly civil war which happened between 11 March 1967 to 17 April 1975.

45 years later, much of the effects of the war still lingers. The country, though in recent years have been seeing an impressive growth economically, still battles with poverty.

The Southeast Asian nation is ranked 14th overall in the world’s poorest countries and it comes in second after Myanmar as the region’s financially impoverished. According to Asian Development Bank’s report from 2018, 12.9 percent of Cambodians live in poverty.

But there’s still hope.

Cellcard CEO Ian Watson in the middle. IMAGE: Cellcard.

Despite the gloomy outlook, Cambodians are hardy people. The nation is now looking to go fully digital within this decade.

The company that’s paving the path to make this dream become a reality is Cambodia’s first local telco company, Cellcard.

Speaking to Mashable Southeast Asia, Cellcard’s chief executive officer Ian Watson said the company feels that the key to achieving this vision includes esports and gaming.

“Cellcard has been organizing various esports tournaments in the recent couple of years and with strategic partnerships with Tencent, Moonton and NetEase, we’re getting closer to turning Cambodia digital,” Ian said.

The key in ensuring that Cambodians become digital are the diverse affordable packages and plans that Cellcard provides, with an aim to provide accessibility to every person in the nation.

With a majority of the fact that 60 percent of Cambodians are those below the age of 30, this approach is crucial as a driving force for the country to become fully digital very soon.

In Cambodia, among the popular gaming titles that many of its youth enjoy include PUBG Mobile, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB), and Rules of Survival (RoS) and an original content and exclusive ONE Warrior Series that Cellcard offers to its subscribers. The company also launched Cambodia’s first online gaming platform, PlayGame in April, 2020.

It’ll also be bringing 5G connectivity as Cambodia prepares itself for the 2023 SEA Games.

Changing mindsets on gaming, esports, and digitization.

Esports is now a billion dollar industry. IMAGE: European Gaming.

Ian, who enjoys playing the Call of Duty series and Fortnite, sees gaming and esports as a way to usher in a more digitized Cambodia.

He’s lived through two different times. In the past, people used to scorn video games and gamers as a waste of time. Recent years has seen growing change of attitude with many seeing potential in video games in helping humans cope with disabilities and as a learning tool.

Esports in itself is now seen as a billion dollar industry and can potentially spur the growth of a country’s economy. Cambodia, for one, certainly can benefit from it tremendously.

“I think the adoption of gaming has been extremely critical to the local gaming industries and the proliferation of telco companies. I think it’s very important we keep investing and nurturing this ever growing market because it’s got a huge potential as it expand into other areas such as education.”

Ian said the possibilities are infinite especially when it comes to the reach and benefits of gaming. He cited an example of the gamification of the health and safety industry to educate the public on the know hows.

To kick things off, Cellcard has been investing in local gamers so that Cambodians have better exposure when it comes to international tournaments and possibly even become professional esports athletes.

The company recently signed 30 young gamers. Out of that figure, 20 of them are gamers, content creators, streamers, casters who get paid on a monthly basis since Ian sees them as part of the Cellcard family.

For Cellcard it’s extremely straightforward: Convince the Cambodians that it’s possible to make a living by going digital and the rest will follow suit.

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Cover image sourced from Le Crab and Khmer Times.



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