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APAC’s future is online gaming, say data miners, agencies & media houses

If there’s been news about companies investing in online gaming in the last few months in the Asia Pacific region, they have very good reason to do so. Data from sources such as comScore, Cisco and DFC Intelligence indicate that the future of online gaming, especially in markets such as APAC, is bright. Audiences in the region are investing time in staying connected and playing, creating a range of new opportunities for marketers.

APAC hooks on to online gaming, says comScore
According to comScore Data Mine, there are 47.9 million internet users in Asia Pacific accessing an online gaming site daily. Worldwide, nearly 671 million people played an online game using a desktop or laptop in April 2013, with 145 million gamers playing on a daily basis.

Europe is only next to Asia Pacific with 45.6 million daily players. North America comes at the third position with 30.3 million internet users playing games on a daily basis whilst Latin America and Middle East – Africa complete the rankings with 14.9 million and 6.2 million respectively.

However, when it comes to spending time online, North America leads the charts with each visitor spending an average of 107 minutes (in the month of April 2013); whilst European gamers spent 97 minutes and visitors from Latin America played online games for over an hour during the month (67 minutes).

Media houses interested in the pie too
Last month, one of the leading media houses in Singapore, MediaCorp, acquired a majority stake in Cubinet Interactive (MSC) Sdn Bhd, a Kuala Lumpur-based digital games publisher. Cubinet has been a pioneer in both casual and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing games (MMORPG), including the popular 9Yin and Forsaken World and has a base of mainly young adult gamers in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam.

MediaCorp hasn’t just been looking at the gaming sector but a platform to reach out to the youth. “Our investment in Cubinet rides on the burgeoning MMORPG and casual games market in Asia, but it goes beyond that. It’s a strategic fit with our outreach to youths, who spend a lot of time online,” said Shaun Seow, CEO of MediaCorp, after the investment.

Clearly, MediaCorp is also looking at developing television shows from the content Cubinet has to offer. “Cubinet’s reach provides a regional audience for our youth-oriented services. In turn, MediaCorp is keen to see how for example, Cubinet’s content could be turned into popular TV shows. The possibilities are endless,” Seow had said.

Earlier, in April, Philippines based gaming solutions provider, PhilWeb disclosed its plans to expand its operations to six more Asia-Pacific countries this year – the countries of interest include Thailand, Myanmar, Palau, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Mongolia. Besides Philippines, the company has businesses in Timor Leste, Cambodia and Guam.

PhilWeb’s Asia-Pacific subsidiary, which operates scratch card businesses in Cambodia and Timor Leste, and Sweeps Center in Guam delivered the fastest growth. Asia Pacific contributed 9 per cent to PhilWeb’s total revenues, which drove the firm’s consolidated revenues to P1.5 billion, up 27 percent from 2011.

The agency interest
The agency side isn’t unaware of the huge potential the online gaming sector has and the opportunities it presents. In April, this year, Aegis Media acquired China based, Beijing Wonder Advertising (WonderAd), a digital planning and buying agency specialising on online gaming industry, with clients such as SNDA, Tencent Gaming, NetEase Gaming, RenRen Gaming and Perfect World.

A believer of a different kind in gaming, PHD is an example that has injected a layer of gaming in its own operating system, Source. Game mechanics is at the heart of the system which means that all 2,500 PHD employees are part of a massive multi-player online game that encourages collaboration and helps solve clients’ advertising briefs.

The widening definition of online gaming
However, let’s be warned that the term ‘online gaming’ today, is used in a much wider sense and includes online gambling too. In South Korea, online gaming has fuelled the online and mobile payment methods too.

Meanwhile, Sony, when it comes to its stakes in the console gaming sector with PlayStation isn’t ignoring the online gaming potential. A PlayStation Plus account would be needed to play games online with its PS4 (unveiled a couple of days back at E3 2013 – The Electronic Entertainment Expo – in Los Angeles and would go on sale by November later this year), much like Microsoft’s Xbox, which too demands a fee to play online. The fee would apply only for multi-player gaming and single-player games still would be free. The Playstation Plus account comes with an option to save games and provides a 1GB cloud storage and synchronisation of game trophies.

According to Cisco, online gaming, which on average consumed 22 PB (peta byte) per month in 2012 at the global level, will go up to 59 PB per month, a CAGR growth of 22 percent.

The massive online gaming revenues
The global online gaming market is estimated to be over $117 billion by 2015. Going further, online gaming is set to grow on mobile too and revenues from games on mobile and portable devices – both offline and online – according to research group DFC Intelligence, is expected to grow about 38 per cent to $8 billion in 2013 and touch US$20 billion in 2018.

At the regional level, a report by analytical market group, Niko Partners, expects the Chinese online gaming market to touch the US$11.9 billion mark by the end of this year – a surge of 175 per cent, considering that the market raked up US$6.8 billion, the previous year.

Meanwhile, DFC Intelligence estimates South Korea’s online gaming revenue at US$2.7 billion in 2011 and hopes that it will hit the $5 billion mark by 2016. DFC also places South Korea as the biggest online gaming market not only in the Asia Pacific region but in the entire world, and dubs the market as the “most advanced in the world.” DFC may not be wrong if South Korea is compared to China, which is almost 27 times bigger in population and almost 96 time bigger in geographical area, and yet, when it comes to online gaming revenues, China was not even three times bigger than South Korea in 2011.

The craze for online gaming in South Korea, over-arches to an extent that the government has proposed a bill that would label online gaming as an addictive substance. The bill, if it becomes a law, may have an impact on advertising, release, promotion, and development of games in the country, as the section of the bill states: “The governing body shall have the right to regulate manufacturing, distribution and sale of addictive substances and can also limit promotion of them as well.”

Another big market for online gaming in the Asia Pacific region is Thailand, where MMORPG capture half of the online gaming market, followed by FPS (first-person shooter) games at 26 per cent. Thailand’s online gaming market is estimated to reach US$132 million by 2014.

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