The online gaming industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the business world. With almost 700 million worldwide users and over $12.7 trillion in revenue in the first half of 2019 alone, the industry shows no sign of stopping. This number speaks a great deal of promise as the world is now ruled with and almost by the internet—a great change by the analog-governed world 50 years ago.
The countries of South East Asia, not wanting to lose on this sector and banking on the huge number of growing number of people who are connected and active in online gaming, have come up with interesting ways of promoting the sector to its locals.
Online Gaming Industry by Countries
In Brunei, online gaming is widely popular in both male and female young adults with a huge gap of male players over female players. Culture plays an important role in this findings made by the Washington Post-University of Massachusetts Lowell. With strict laws against online gambling and illegal online activities, online gaming is limited to solo-type of games and tournaments both private and public offer few incentives. Nevertheless, online gaming attracts a lot of gamers with up to 47% of the population are active a few times a week.
Cambodia faces similar issues with Brunei where online gaming is often associated with gambling. It is worth noting however, that Cambodia has released world-class mobile gaming apps which specially cater to their citizens and adhere to the special laws of their country. The online gaming industry which is relatively a new sector in Cambodia debuted only in 2015, continue to rise as young adults share their love for their own mobile apps and help erase the bad connotation it has from the previous generations.
Holding the 16th largest market in video gaming in the world, Indonesia may have a say or two about the gaming industry with its neighboring South East Asian nations. The country is famous for its competitive gaming, where computer-based tournaments are held since 2002. Mobile gaming on the other hand grows stronger and remains extremely popular in the country with the increasing average internet speed provided by both private and public sectors. The government plays an active role in promoting the online gaming industry with the establishment of the Creative Economy Agency—a government body responsible for aiding in and managing the development of the gaming industry. This way, Indonesia seeks to maintain and improve its online gaming industry and even share its strengths among other South East Asian countries.
Among the countries in South East Asia, Laos gaming industry seems to be the most limited. With the country’s internet users as low as 10% and ranked 169th in the world, Laos has yet to break open its potential in the internet world, much less in the online gaming industry. There are a number of online players in their capital Vientiane where internet connection is most reliable than other locations in Laos.
Another country where online gaming has been affected by the status of the gambling industry is Malaysia. While online gambling is illegal, the online gaming industry has paved its way through the nation and even changed its gambling industry. A huge chunk of mobile usage in Malaysia is attributed to mobile gaming where it generates billions of dollars annually. This is done with micro game transactions which is strictly speaking is an easier method of gambling. Promotional materials are directed the phones themselves, aside from the conventional TV ads and billboards and posters.
The World Bank sites Myanmar as one of the growing economies in South East Asia which makes it a ripe market for the online gaming industry. Though poverty rate is still high, the online gaming industry has been established in the industry through computer-based games and mobile apps alike. Massively Multiplayer Online or MMO, is popular in the country where tournaments are held featuring level challenges. Just like Cambodia, Myanmar braves its lack of facilities and formal education with studios specifically designed to create games which cater to its locals. These startups by private developers help shape the online gaming industry in Myanmar today.
In the Philippines, gaming in general has been an established sector with its regulating body, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation or PAGCOR created way back in 1976, an early bet made by the then government. This has truly paid off as the industry has gross over $3 billion in 2017 alone. The PAGCOR even created the POGO or the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators to capture the previously unregulated online gaming pie. Moreover, the government has created the Philippine eSports Organization which is the official representative to the international eSports Federation. With these bodies, the Philippine government pursues to expand its reach and promote fair and honest online gaming which is already big in the country.
Singapore, the richest country in the region, unsurprisingly, holds the record for the most time spent playing video games, not only on South East Asia but all of Asia, study finds. They beat other rich Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea by a margin. The same study finds that Singaporeans prioritize games over their social and professional lives. Gaming on-the-go is the most popular mode of gaming which means that they enjoy single-player games over multiplayer and group games. This study pushes the government on promoting a healthier programs which are not detrimental to their citizens’ social and professional lives. Truly, a first-world problem that none of its neighboring nations suffer.
The video gaming industry in Thailand is a rising sector, with over $334 million of revenue, in 2015, it rivals some of its neighboring nations. Thailand also produces its own mobile apps which gave way to a faster growth in its gaming industry as young adults play most of its local games other than international apps. Private companies such as Sony Thailand and AsiaSoft, helped created the huge gaming industry Thailand has today. Though not heavily backed up by the government, these private companies arose amidst competition and still the standard in the country’s online gaming industry.
Timor Leste is one of the least connected nations in the world with only 13% of the population who uses the internet. The online gaming industry in the country is virtually inexistent and fairly new. The government however is in the talks of adding internet providers which will greatly enhance the country’s internet capacity and give way to a much more conducive conditions for an online gaming industry.
In Vietnam, online gaming is banned from 10pm to 8am, which the government made to fight against gaming addictions experienced early on by its locals though the industry is still in its infancy. The government has also banned private companies from publishing their own games in the country. The private sectors have found a loophole in the government gaming ban by designating their games not as online games but as internet resources—same designation as simple websites. Through this loophole, publishers and developers alike has provided the locals its gaming needs.
The South East Asian nations are a group of diverse cultures, beliefs and government styles and it is shown clearly in its online gaming industry. However, one cannot attribute the differences in a specific set of factors, the industry’s future much less so. Thailand is a strict country yet their online gaming industry is booming while Timor Leste has technically no restrictions but are way behind in the said industry.
In this game, the true winners are the government which helps and promotes the online gaming industry as the return of investment is high as shown in countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. However, the stakes is also high as shown by the current issue in Singapore.
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