With around 18.3 million e-sports players, Thailand has the 19th largest gamer community in the world. It has the potential to become Southeast Asia’s e-sports hub, and Bangkok-based virtual reality (VR) service startup Infofed wants to be at the forefront when that comes true.
Infofed will apply its VR services to game-casting soon, Bangkok Post reports. The company expects this move will mint more serious gamers in Thailand and even attract foreign players to join local tournaments.
According to a report released by market analysis firm Research and Markets, the global VR gaming market reached US$8.2 billion in 2017 and is projected to hit US$32.8 billion by 2023. In all, the global e-sports market was valued at nearly US$493 million in 2017, and this number could reach US$1.49 billion in 2020, according to Statista.
Infofed’s longterm plan is to create a new workforce—video games professionals—in Thailand, and turn e-sports into a tourist attraction in the country. As a step toward realising these plans, in April 2018, the company invested THB 50 million (US$1.6 million) to open the Thailand eSport Arena, the country’s largest venue of its type.
Infofed chief executive and founder Jirayod Theppipit is a firm believer of e-sports as a draw for tourists. Speaking to Bangkok Post, he said each e-sports tournament in Thailand sees an average of THB 1 million (US$32,000) in total consumer spending, with its impact on the local economy being triple that amount. Last year, the country hosted more than 50 e-sports competitions, providing over THB 150 million (US$4.73 million) in revenue, Theppipit said.
Last November, Thailand’s Ministry of Mental Health reported a fourfold increase in game addiction, and indicated that the surge started when the Sport Authority of Thailand (SAT) began classifying video games as a sport. In 2018, the SAT allocated THB 300 million (US$9.4 million) to train more than 2,000 e-sports athletes in the country.
Aside from introducing VR for game-casting in Thailand, Infofed plans to launch a CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam) e-sports league this year, and an additional tournament for all of Southeast Asia in 2020.
Thailand faces competition from Indonesia in its quest to become the region’s e-sports hub. Indonesia has more than 47.7 million active gamers, and its professional players receive support from the Indonesia e-Sports Association (IeSPA), a government institution run by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Editor: Nadine Freischlad & Brady Ng