Thailand is a country where gaming plays an important part in everyday life. The country has 32 million active gamers, 95% of whom play mobile games, and another 85% play PC games. The competitive element of gaming is also strong in Thailand. This naturally makes Thailand a hub for eSports in Southeast Asia. Neighboring countries Vietnam and Malaysia have also focused on eSports. This trend reflects the strong grassroots movement towards competitive gaming.

Age of Empires is thriving in Vietnam with thousands of players. Games like Dota 2 and League of Legends also have strong local followings. Garena Free Fire is easily the most popular eSports title for mobile and Thailand as well. What makes eSports so popular in the country?

eSports Is About Community and Bragging Rights

Competitive video gaming is now an officially recognized discipline, but it hasn’t always been this way. The origins of eSports goes back to friends trying to beat each other in video games in LAN competitions. Locally hosted tournaments were very modest. Rewards were “bragging rights” and not prizes. Showing your fellow gamers how much better you are was the goal.

The introduction of websites like GosuGamers changed this all. Sites like these created a betting system with a Dota currency known as tangos. Trying to guess the outcome of a game, and if you do – you get even more tangos and rank up in a leaderboard. Essentially the first eSports betting system was created. The social aspect of this system was a powerful bonding tool for non-players. It brings an element of competition to the spectators as well. There are studies that prove that people who watch traditional sports love doing so when fans of the opposite team are in the room. It’s very similar when it comes to eSports.

Are eSports Endorsed by Governments and Organizations?

Malaysia and Thailand are among the strongest bastions of eSports in Southeast Asia today. This is partly due to the way local governments treat eSports. Malaysia has established an official Ministry of eSports. A government institution seeking to promote video gaming. The office is also mandated to encourage education in science technology engineering and mathematics. eSports is only the springboard for a brighter future there.

eSports will also be part of the 2022 Asian Games. This is official recognition of eSports as a form of sport. There has been quite a bit of debate over this issue. Governments seem to have finally realized that eSports athletes don’t care about being recognized as a “sport” per se. The status of ‘sport’ confers the ability to travel for competition without visa restrictions.

Today, eSports is gathering momentum as a recognized sporting discipline. Thailand is one of its bastions in the region. What really makes eSports so popular in the country is not only the grassroots support. Much like Malaysia, Thailand also recognizes eSports as a sport. Good news for anyone who wants to make a career as a professional video gamer. Thailand is now one of the biggest eSports markets worldwide.

What’s Next for eSports in Thailand?

There are many positive signs of the future development of eSports in Thailand. The country has been very open to competitive video gaming, not only on a governmental level. Thailand’s gamers may not have the most disposable income. Despite this, they are very passionate about games such as:

  • Age of Empires
  • League of Legends
  • Dota 2
  • Free Fire

Newzoo analytics firm, estimates that the Thai gaming industry is worth $700 million. There are definitely signs that the industry will continue growing. eSports is an inherent part of this progress as it would allow more people to turn to the game and consume it. eSports is still very young, too. Monetization is not defined clearly but sponsors are flocking to back the industry. These sponsors are taking a long term investment approach. As such they are expecting returns usually years or a decade from now. The additional support that the industry receives from the government is definitely valuable as well. It allows competitive gamers to develop as part of the mainstream, and not be marginalized as “gamers.” Governments and professional athletic organizations have recognized the potential of eSports.