Gam­ing-mad Thais READY to PLAY

THUMBS POISED AS BANGKOK TO HOST WORLD ROV CHAM­PI­ONSHIPS NEXT MONTH AMID CON­CERNS OF CLAS­SI­FI­CA­TION AND AD­DIC­TION

The Nation - - FRONT PAGE - NOPHAKHUN LIMSAMARNPHUN

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 freeto-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.

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