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The growth in popularity of eSports is seeing games players turn professional and earn incomes as respected and disciplined athletes, as well as driving a new business sector into rapid growth. Thailand has around 18.3 million gamers, putting it at number 20 in the world, according the 2017 Global eSports Market Report, conducted by Newzoo. The global eSports industry is worth about US$905.6 million (Bt29.6 billion), and has the astounding growth rate of around 38 per cent yearly. Newzoo also forecasts the 2020 global eSports market value will reach $1.48 billion, up from $696 million in 2017. Meanwhile, global eSports viewers are expected to growth by around 50 per cent in 2020, increasing from 385 million viewers – 191 million of them fan-club viewers and the remaining 194 million general viewers. In parallel with the global market growth, Thailand’s eSports gaming market was estimated at Bt9.7 billion in 2017.
According to one survey, Southeast Asia’s gaming market is growing fastest with the highest rate. The region is also the world’s fastest growing region for eSport audiences, with numbers expected to increase to about 290 million by 2021 from 167 million in 2017.
In Southeast Asia, the eSports audience is expected to more than double from 20 million in 2017 to over 40 million by 2019. As audiences grow, e-Sports are pushing into the sporting mainstream. The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) said Thailand’s game software industry is worth over Bt10 billion, with 12 per cent growth per year. Allen Hsu, country head for strategic partnerships, Garena, said that eSport in Thailand is experiencing continuous growth since every stakeholder, especially the government and the education sectors, have devoted effort and support to drive the sector.
Public interest has widened, driving the popularity of eSports. Many universities have signed memoranda of understanding (MoU) with Garena to launch and to improve eSports related curriculum, including Bangkok University, Sripatum University, University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Dhurakij Pundit University. Other businesses have shown an interest in supporting eSports through sponsorships, hosting eSports events and tournaments, and supporting eSports athletes. For example, Buriram United announced its own eSports team. Other examples include the Workpoint TV channel’s eSports programme called “King of Gamer”. Said Hsu: “Truemove H and Oppo also joined our RoV Pro League season two. It is clearly the scenario that eSports keeps growing and expanding to other businesses beyond the gaming industry.” Around 380 million people around the world now watch eSports competition. Thailand is new to the game compared to China and South Korea, which are the number one and number four largest eSports markets globally.
The new eSports market is the result of games and sports being tied together by technology, said Hus. “Businesses are eyeing it, seeking to utilise the growth of eSports to enhance, and expand and otherwise benefit from eSports.” To drive eSport’s growth requires competitions, eSport athletes and eSport content. Nitipat Praweenwongwuthi, marketing director of Acer Computer, said that his company played a role for the past two years as a leading hardware vendor dedicated to promoting and supporting e-Sport in Thailand. The company helped establish the Thailand E-Sports Federation, as well as establishing a regional and national tournament called Predator League. Initial, Acer emphasised educating people, helping them understand what eSports is about and the differences between professional eSports athletes and game addicts. In the future, the company plans to support a country-level eSports league, said Nitipat.
The last two years have seen eSport become widely accepted and continuously expanding from a niche group to a large viewership who watch tourneys via online platforms, including YouTube and Twitter, said Nitipat. There are so many often eSports events every week in Bangkok and throughout the country. Rapidly growing in the country now, eSports has recently experienced the debut of many eSport teams, along with many sponsors. Players can now make a career of their gaming skill. As well, in the past two years, many eSport clubs have started up, and eSport study programmes have been launched at universities. There are factors driving the growth of eSports. First, the omnipresence of high-performance home computers and games directly led to its emergence and growth. Therefore, eSports have created economies of scale for high performance computers. In the meantime, Advanced Info Services (AIS) has joined with Singtel Group and other regional partners to launch an e-Sports tournament, the PVP E-Sports Championship, with the aim to encourage the development of a region-wide ecosystem for eSports. Under the PVP E-Sports Championship, teams will compete at local qualifiers in each country. The winning teams from each country will move on to battle professional teams from North America, Europe and China at the regional tournament in Singapore in October.