AIS betting on leading e-sports regionally
Thailand's e-sports market is expected to reach 30 billion baht in value next year, up 10% from 27 billion baht this year, although growth remains smaller relative to other key Asean markets as gaming in Thailand is perceived negatively among members of the public.
Mobile operator Advanced Info Service (AIS) believes Thailand still has the potential to become the leader in the e-sports business in the Asean in terms of market size and the number of players in the future.
Mobile gaming is the most popular gaming engagement in Asean, with mobile gamers accounting for 81% of the total gamers, according to Newzoo, a global games and e-sports market research firm.
In Thailand, mobile gaming players make up 70% of all gamers.
Rungtip Jarusiripipat, head of game business management unit of AIS, said the e-sports sector would open the door for more jobs within the segment and give a boost to the economy.
She said Thailand has the potential to be at pole position in the region's e-sports business, which is being led by Indonesia in terms of market size and number of players.
Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia are regionally competitive.
"AIS supports the country's gaming and e-sports industry through four main strategies -- connection, competition, co-education, and community," said Ms Rungtip.
Connection, she said, involves digital infrastructure and mobile network especially 5G platform, while competition covers support for players in global competitions in collaboration with associations and Sigtel, a Singapore-based communication technology group.
Co-education is done through universities for support to gaming developers and marketing streamers. The community includes the AIS eSport studio in Bangkok as well as seminars and training activities with academies.
On Wednesday, AIS and media content provider Techsauce held the first online gaming conference in Thailand, called "AIS x Techsauce Esports Summit", meant to drive the e-sports industry in Thailand to the global level.
Alistair David Johnston, managing director for new business of AIS, said the summit gathers representatives from the government, the gaming business, publishers, live streamers and e-sports players to share their knowledge in order to move the country's e-sports segment forward and bring lead in Asean.
Santi Lohtong, president of Thailand Esports Federation, said the country's e-sports industry faces slow growth due to negative perceptions among people in society. Many still perceive young gamers as game addicts.
The federation, he said, is trying to shape up the image of the country's gaming industry and support e-sports athletes in terms of sports sciences, exercise and nutrition.
According to him, the federation will groom e-sports players aged 12-17 under its academy programme, as the existing system zeroes in on those aged 18 or above.
The federation needs consent from the parents of young e-sports players to bring them into the programme, he said.
According to Mr Santi, e-sports could offer a career path for athletes on the global level and game development would also help boost the country's digital economy.
The federation recruits some 22 e-sports players as national athletes annually.
Recruits have to participate in the international competition, he said.
"The e-sports industry needs much more support from both state agencies and the private sector. A good perception from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security is key," Mr Santi added.
Chatchai Khunpitiluck, senior vice president and chief operation officer of the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa), said the digital content market, including games, keeps growing every year.
During the lockdown, digital content consumption grew 20%.
"E-sports are the soft power of the country and can create opportunity for Thais to benefit the country as a whole," he said.