Southeast Asia is the world’s fastest-growing games market.
According to statistics provided by Newzoo, Southeast Asia (SEA) is the world’s fastest-growing games market, despite only accounting for 3.1% of the total games market in 2019. That’s because the SEA games market is expected to generate a whopping $4.6 billion in revenue this year, which is a remarkable 22 percent increase from 2018.
Asian Publishers Dominate
With that in mind, it’s interesting to note which game publishers are actually enjoying bigger pieces of the SEA pie in comparison to others. With a focus on six major markets in the SEA region (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam), the top publisher is a local one named Sea Group, or previously (and more popularly) known as Garena.
Sea Group made it to the top by publishing games developed by Tencent in the SEA region. Their most recent achievement was recently releasing Free Fire in 2018, an original IP and the first to be developed by the Southeast Asian publisher. Several of their most popular published games include League of Legends, FIFA Online 3, and Arena of Valor.
Chinese publishers like Tencent, Moonton, and NetEase have also been pretty successful in the SEA region, especially in the currently booming battle royale genre of games. These include NetEase’s Knives Out and PUBG Mobile, the latter of which Tencent decided to publish independently without the help of Sea Group.
Besides that, major Japanese publishers have long enjoyed success in SEA, due to established and popular IP like Dragon Ball, Final Fantasy, and Monster Strike from Bandai Namco, Square Enix, and Mixi, respectively. Japanese publishers are particularly respected and trusted in the region.
Western Publishers Struggle
Now that we know how much of the SEA market is dominated by Asian publishers, how about western game publishers? Only one is actually performing relatively well in the region, and it’s Activision Blizzard. With developers King and Blizzard under their belt, the publisher has capitalized on King’s Candy Crush and Blizzard’s library of games such as Overwatch, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and more. That’s not even mentioning any of the other in-house titles like the Call of Duty franchise.
Meanwhile, other western publishers like EA and Supercell are struggling to maintain a foothold in the region, in large due to their aging and limited games roster, as well as competition from local publishers. In fact, smaller Asian publishers also suffer from these problems, including Singapore’s I Got Games (IGG) and South Korea’s Netmarble.
How Is SEA Different From Other Regions?
Games or IPs that are successful in larger Asian countries like China and Japan, or in the west (the US and Europe), does not guarantee that it will also be well-received in the SEA region. This is so due to how unique and diverse the Southeast Asian games market is, which means that publishers will have to adopt different strategies to tackle the region.
Even if we account for only within Southeast Asia itself, every country has vastly different publisher rankings. A game that is successful in Malaysia might not fare as well in Singapore or Thailand, and the vice versa is true.
The games industry has a bright future in Southeast Asia, but publishers will have to learn new tricks if they want to penetrate the region. Employing their usual strategies won’t always work, especially as the overall awareness of gamers keep increasing as technological infrastructure improves in the region.