With more than 28 million Thais downloading the widely popular mobile multi-player game RoV (Realm of Valour) over the past two and a half years, the Kingdom is set to host the world championships next month.
The domestic online gaming market is estimated to be worth Bt10 billion per year, with an annual growth rate of about 20 per cent.
According to Sarut Vanichpun,
country manager of Garena Thailand, the game’s publisher, next month’s event is officially known as AIC – for AoV International Competition. RoV is known as AoV (Arena of Valour) overseas.
The game is specifically designed for mobile phones and like devices and has so far registered more than 100 million downloads around the world, with Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam among the major markets.
Sarut said the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (Bitec) in Bang Na will be the venue for the world championships, which will be streamed live on Garena’s YouTube and Facebook channels.
Sixteen teams of five to six players from 11 countries including Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, the United States and some European nations are expected to compete in Bangkok.
This is the second global event of its kind after the inaugural championships in Los Angeles in July.
Owing to huge domestic interest in mobile gaming, Sarut said, Thailand has joined the ranks of major markets for the Moba (mobile multi-user online battle arena) segment, which is outgrowing PC-based games due largely to the high penetration of smart phones here.
Gaming on mobile devices, especially smartphones, has outpaced the PC gaming segment, accounting for 45 per cent of market share against 30 per cent. Gaming on consoles and Play-stations accounts for the rest.
In Thailand, Garena uses the free-
to-play business model for its games
and generates revenue from the sale of necessary in-game items such as characters, which cost Bt300 to Bt500 apiece.
As part of an e-sports promotion, the Tourism Authority of Thailand recently held a national contest for the best design of digital hero “skins” inspired by Thailand’s tourist landmarks such as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Thanks to the growing popularity of online games, people are now getting jobs as professional e-sports players and commentators during live streaming of major competitions.
Sarut said most players in Thailand are aged 15 to 35.
In a related development, the LoL World Championships were held in South Korea from September 22 to November 5 and the final round ended with the Invictus team of Chinese and Korean players beating the Fnatic team from Europe 3-0.
Chinese retailer Tencent is a shareholder in both Garena and game developer Riot Games, while Garena is part of Sea Group.
Sea, the parent company of Garena, operates the digital entertainment platform also called Garena, e-commerce service Shopee and digital financial service AirPay.
Online gaming and other electronic sports have also evolved into a new segment of competition recognised by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) as a medal event slated for the 2022 Asian Games in China, having been a demonstration sport at this year’s Asian Games in Indonesia.
The OCA has also introduced Moba games as one of the e-sports for the Asian Indoor and Martial Art Games.
However, official recognition of online gaming and e-sports as part of the traditional sport programme has been controversial, with some critics opposing the classification.
In Thailand, there have also been concerns about game addiction among young people.
Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat said e-sports should be developed to require more physical movement like players actually having to hit balls, run on treadmills or jump over specially designed electronic obstacles.
He said the process of “gamification” had a wide range of benefits, but there should be more developers focusing on new applications, such as those aimed at helping senior citizens maintain their health, and making traditional activities more challenging and appealing. Education, training and other mundane activities also benefit from gaming, he said.