Singapore: Welcome to the new world. Video games on personal computers, mobile phones and other devices are bringing people together in a new community and Asia is playing a huge part in the fast-expanding sector, industry leaders said at the first Games Convention Asia, which lasts until 9September and brings together regional industry figures and games developers who will be exhibiting their latest products for the public.
“This is a high-growth industry with worldwide estimates worth $48.9 billion (Rs195,600 crore) of which 40% is from the Asia Pacific region” Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, said in his opening address.
“This is the industry that is really able to create a new world, a digital media world. It is also bringing people together,” said Wolfgang Marzin, president and chief executive officer of Leipziger Messe GmbH.
This convention has come to Asia after being staged for six consecutive years in Germany. Attendance at the European event has tripled while the number of visitors has risen five-fold.
Aroon Tan, chairman of the industry group Games Exchange Alliance, told AFP that Japan and South Korea are contributing “huge amounts” to global gaming revenue.
“And even markets like China, where it is not easy to penetrate without strong partnerships, do offer an incredible market.”
Sensing opportunity in Vietnam
Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines already provide “quite a strong little market” and the industry is now turning its attention to Vietnam.
The fast-growing country has “very strong middle-class development. The population is young, outwardly thinking and education is strong as well,” said Tan, who is also chief executive officer of 10tacle Studios Asia, a developer of computer and video games.
But why have games gained such wide appeal across borders and cultures? “It’s actually a new kind of fellowship,” Tan said in the noisy exhibition hall where the latest games fought for visitors’ attention. Some featured medieval-looking animated characters. A game called Need for Speed Pro Street gave players the feel of a nitro-fuelled road race, while Medal of Honor Airborne featured World War Two-style urban warfare.
“It’s actually a part of belonging to a common group where your physical strength or your appearance doesn’t have to matter so much. You can be yourself in an online and interactive experience,” Tan said.
In China, online games have the further appeal of being an alternative to state-controlled media, Desmond Lu, of Shanghai-based Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd, told the conference.
Internet cafes and their online games provide a rare form of cheap entertainment in the country, said Lu.
The Games Exchange Alliance chaired by Singapore’s Tan was initiated by the city-state’s Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), the body that aims to cultivate the industry locally.
At the conference opening ceremony, the Alliance signed a memorandum of intent with representatives from various regional game associations to promote closer ties among themselves.
Balakrishnan said Singapore has committed $327 million over five years to fund research and development in interactive and digital media. “This is a high-growth area. Singapore intends to be part of the action,” he said.