So I've been catching up on some required reading, to wit, the entire corpus of the slides from the first Austin Game Conference. Too much fabulous stuff to list here, so let's pick one at a time.
The reading for today's sermon is from John Lee, Director Corporate Development and Strategy, Softbank Corporation, and is an "Overview of the NE Asia online gaming market - China, Japan and Korea". As we've noted elsewhere, as outsiders it's hard to get a handle on what is happening in the gaming world in SE Asia. Of course there's the standard texts and commentary which, understandably, are almost always about South Korea, PC baangs, and Lineage.
Lee's overview covers Korea, Japan and China, and this latter market is the most interesting one for me, since I've seen so little on it. Some personal highlights:
- 68M Internet users and counting
- Similar dynamic to Korea in 1998, principal usage in PC cafes, not household
- Primary users in inner China, where no alternative forms of entertainment exist
- Average Chinese Internet user spends 14 hours a week online, 8 hours of it gaming
- Concurrent usage for #1 game in China is currently 800,000 users!
Apart from the numbers, I'm interested in the nature of the gaming in SE Asia as against the US. Clearly there are differences in the communal nature of the gaming (in PC baangs or PC cafes) and also in cultural differences between these Asian countries and Western countries. At the risk of being ridiculously coarse and ludicrously coarse-grained, the US (and to a lesser extent) emphasizes the individual as an atomistic, independent actor, whereas the asian nations tend to emphasize the individual as an actor within a community. This goes some way to explaining why Lineage and other MMORPGs that emphasize communal action are so successful in Asia, and have struggled in the US.
Bruce Woodcock, Mark Jacobs and Dave Rickey note that eventually the US market is going to feed off itself (though they differ on when it flatlines) and so the developers are going to need to look to new markets. If these markets are in Asia, what is the future of MMORPGs?