Originally aired on Channel NewsAsia on March 31, 2018
eSports is big and Thailand is one of the biggest countries in Southeast Asia riding the wave. So much so that the Sports Authority of Thailand has officially endorsed as a sport. Here's my report about the national scene and what the next steps are in order to grow further.
Thank you to Garena Thailand for the access. Special thanks to my team Kittiphum Earthling and Theerapong Puengsook for their help. Transcript below as usual.
The stage is set. The competitors are ready. The battlefield is heating up.
What looks like a colorful flurry is a highly strategic bout of Realm of Valor or ROV- a popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena video game, where teams of five players face off for points and wins, like a high-speed game of chess.
This is one of many games and competitions at the 6th edition of Garena World.
And there's good reason for the organizers to keep coming back to Bangkok.
FORREST LI; Group CEO Sea:
"Definitely I’d say Thailand is probably leading on the frontline. Here [you have] a very strong gaming culture. So it’s like mainstream. And this is a… Thailand is very good consumer market, so a lot of advertisers really have an eye on it. And they know that from the advertisement that the return of investment is pretty good here."
eSports has seen a rapid growth not only in gamers, but also draws in tens of millions of viewers worldwide, making it an emerging industry with an estimated annual revenue of almost $700 million.
SAKSITH SAIYASOMBUT; Bangkok, Thailand:
"Just like video games themselves have redefined entertainment over the last few decades, esports has done the same for competitive sports. Just look around: the hardware, the huge stages, the prize money, the trophies - it’s all very impressive! But what are the next steps for esports to grow?"
Its rapid development has not gone unnoticed by the governing bodies of traditional sports: it has been a demonstration sport at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games and also later this year the Asian Games in Jakarta.
It will even become a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games.
Just last December, Thailand's national sports authority endorsed it as an official sport.
While there is already a high number of weekly competitions, some say now is the time to raise the professionalism of the sport, in areas such as regulation and standardised rules on conduct, pay, and player welfare.
SANTI LOTHONG; President, Thailand E-Sports Federation:
"Some Thais might think that getting prize money is already the biggest of achievements. But we’re still far from excellence. We have to change their attitude to show that greatness is not what their current state is. Being world class level is much bigger than one imagines and requires a lot of care. That’s what we need to teach them."
And established teams like Mineski Infinity Thailand, an offshoot of one of the most successful teams from the Philippines, can lead the way in that process.
Its co-owner says that unlike traditional sports, the barriers to entry in eSports are lower.
KAMPOL SUDAYUWORN; Project Manager, Mineski Thailand:
"I believe that everyone can become a pro player. Because the good thing about esport is that it doesn’t matter if you’re fat, skinny, black, short or tall - it doesn’t matter. If you’re handicapped you can also play esports. They are no boundaries. It all comes down to your readiness, your passion"
No matter what game is being played or on what platform, there’s no question that eSports is here to stay.
But if it's to have an even brighter future, it needs to raise its game.
Saksith Saiyasombut, Channel NewsAsia, Bangkok