eSports is competitive video gaming at a professional level, and the industry is booming with professional teams, players, and fans winning championship titles and prize money. Viewership for eSports grew by almost 20%from 2016 to 2017. By 2021, research by Newzoo predicts the industry will boast an audience of over 306 million people. 

Fans buy tickets to eSports tournaments, watch players online, and tune into viewing platforms like YouTube and Twitch to watch live coverage of their favourite eSports athletes. Twitch alone has seen a 12% increase in the number of people who view live streams on their channel with 3.8 million monthly viewers this year.

 eSports in Southeast Asia is growing faster than other regions. The increase in viewers and the brand marketing potential has contributed to a rapid revenue growth in eSports, especially in a Southeast Asian market that has seen significant foreign investments for startups.

Games are constantly evolving with new technology, and companies see great financial potential in this region. Game developers have taken notice ever since AlphaGo an artificial intelligent (AI) player designed by Google, beat the world champion of the famous Chinese board game Go

Google used machine learning AI with AlphaGo to master the actions of Go’s leading world players. Top gaming companies started using AI in video games, and it’s changing the industry of eSports in Southeast Asia. 

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How AI is changing the game

Technology in the eSports market is developing AI to learn human language, understand data, and develop gaming strategy. AI in video games is changing the way eSports games are designed and played. To keep up with the rapid changes and stay competitive, professional players have to hire gaming coaches.

eSports coaching has become its own industry, with websites dedicated 24/7 to coaching amateur and pro players. Developers like Omnicoach, train AI agents to give their players tips on weapons, and mobility moves to obtain an advantage over their opponents. SenpAI was launched by an AI developer to provide AI-powered coaching from bots designed to train eSports pros strategic offensive and defensive moves. 

Professional gamers who are sponsored by global brands are using computer-generated coaches to help them win because winning games is how they earn a living.  

Enhanced player experience

In video games of the past, if you played long enough, you could eventually memorise non-player character’s movement patterns and dialogue. In role-playing games, players can only ask specific questions because the dialogue is predetermined in game development. 

AI in video games makes it less predictable. It’s harder for players to distinguish between  physical or virtual, programmers have created blended worlds of human and AI allies and opponents. The AI bots can read the player’s stress level and anticipate their next action. Players become immersed in a battle against AI bots that are programmed to make moves in the game that enhance the player’s experience.

Game development

Video games use development teams of over 400 people to meet consumer’s demands for better graphics, enhanced gameplay, and engaging storylines.  Machine learning helps programmers customise games based on a gamer’s preference. Using AI to assist in game development has enabled developers to create better storylines, build realistic worlds or improve weapons and armour.

AI bots can anticipate what a user is going to purchase in the game so developers can design based on need and not speculation. This reduces the developer’s financial risk.

Southeast Asia is the fastest-growing eSports region

eSports in Southeast Asia has the highest projected growth rate and is predicted to reach 400 million users and $4.4 billion USD in revenue by 2021. The region’s growth rate spiked when the Olympic committee announced eSports players will compete at the 2022 Asian Games, the world’s second-largest sporting event outside the Olympics.

Over 98% of eSports enthusiasts live in Southeast Asia nations called “the Big 6,” Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Of the six, Malaysia generates the highest revenue from gaming.

Leading regional gaming giants collaborate

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Singapore’s gaming giant, SEA is the first Southeast Asia tech company to list on the New York Stock Exchange. SEA received investment funds from a multi-national Chinese investment firm, Tencent Holdings, which enabled SEA to license all of its games. 

Southeast Asia’s top eCommerce company, Lazada, brought startup and PC retailer Razer game stores to Thailand. Malaysia’s Streamline Studios, partnered with leading game developers, Square Enix and Capcom in 2017.

Emerging sports tech startups in Southeast Asia

If these collaborations continue, it will make the market in this region stronger and solidify Southeast Asia as a significant player globally.

AI is not a trend that will disappear. The rise in consumer demand for a better gaming experience shows that developers will continue to use technology to make AI in video games smarter. 

Digital gaming’s acceptance into major events in the sports world proves its economic potential in Southeast Asia and it is expected to continue to grow rapidly in the region.