Infofed Co, a Bangkok-based e-sports startup, has ambitions to build Thailand into an e-sports hub in Southeast Asia to capitalise on the US$4 billion global market.
It plans to embrace virtual reality (VR) for gamecasting to debut in Thailand soon.
The company wants to build e-sports into a tourism subset and encourage a new professional workforce.
E-sports is a growing business as there are at least 10 million gamers in Thailand, of which half are categorised as serious gamers who play for competition, said Jirayod Theppipit, chief executive and founder of Infofed, which operates the first e-sports arena in the country.
E-sports offers a form of entertainment, which can attract tourism. Average spending at e-sports tournaments is at least 1 million baht, and its impact on the local economy is three times that amount, he said.
In 2018, there were at least 50 e-sports competitions, estimated to create 150 million baht, said Mr Jirayod.
Last year the local e-sports market grew by 30% because of tournaments held by leading game operators. This year the market is expected to increase 50%, he said.
Globally, e-sports revenue is estimated to be 30 billion baht, of which the US makes up 30% and Asia 40%, mainly China and South Korea.
The company is joining with the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) and other sponsors to organise the University E-sports Championship (UEC), Thailand's first full-scale university e-sports league, in which the majority of gamers are 18-25.
E-sports creates jobs such as event organisers, creative and video producers, and gamecasters. In February, the UEC will offer hands-on experience for these e-sports-related professions.
The UEC is open to contestants from universities nationwide. Those who are interested can apply at http://www.uec.live/. Gamers can choose one of three popular games for competition: PUBG, Overwatch, and ROV. The total prize for the winner is 1 million baht.
The company also plans to launch a CLMV e-sports league (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) this year and another in Southeast Asia by 2020. It wants to develop VR for gamecasters to build new experiences bridging online and offline.
Recently, KK Fund, a Singapore-based venture capital fund, invested in a seed round of the company with a 25% share. The funds will be used to arrange the UEC and develop a studio, production and platform for e-sports competitions, hoping to achieve 200% revenue growth this year.
Santi Lothong, president of the Thailand E-sports Federation and advisor to UEC, said Thailand has 20 national e-sports players and is in the process of selecting some to compete at the SEA Games in the Philippines, the first event in which e-sports will become an official medal event.
Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin, president of Depa, said there are 20,000 ICT graduates annually in Thailand, of which 7,000 go for permanent jobs, and 10,000 work as freelancers or entrepreneurs. Depa encourages youngsters to work in the digital economy. It has scholarships for students to work with companies to build innovation projects and earn a salary.