Who’s winning the Asian online gaming war?

Across the region, the number of unique visitors to game sites is high, but actual usage of games applications is relatively low; the only exception is Korea. So who is winning the online gaming war?

This report is generated by Netvalue

Online games: NetValue uncovers the hot new sector.

SINGAPORE – Who says online gaming is hot? Some of the largest corporations in the region seem to think so. Recent deals show major corporations entering the foray of the online gaming world – in Taiwan, Gigamedia’s investment into Gamania made headlines as did PCCW Japan’s recent acquisition of online games developer VR-1 Entertainment.

NetValue takes an in-depth look into the online gaming world within Asia focusing on the growth of games sites traffic, the profile of online gamers and the top gaming sites across the region.

Korea a hotbed of online gaming activity; less interest in Singapore and China

Korea leads the region with 65% of all Internet users visiting games websites in January 2001. This figure has risen steadily over the past 4 months and represents a 10% increase since October 2000 (refer to Figure 1a). Trailing far behind in second place is Hong Kong (39.8% reach in January) followed by Taiwan (34.2%). Singapore and China report the lowest reach where only 29% and 20.9%, respectively, of all users visit games sites.

Across the region, the number of unique visitors to game sites is high, but actual usage of games applications is relatively low. The only exception is Korea: out of the 6,805,540 users who visited a games website, 5,334,000 (or approximately 80%) of these users actually played games over the Internet, either via a game application or directly through the site (Figure 1b & Figure 1c). The actual number of users playing games is much lower in the remaining markets. In Taiwan, 582,000 users play online games while China, Hong Kong and Singapore report less than 100,000 online gamers each.

Clayton Fitts, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, comments on the Korea phenomenon; “In Korea, we have seen a link between broadband access and gaming. From our previous reports, we found that over half of the Korean population is connected to the Internet via broadband access, either through ADSL or cable connection. Within this broadband user group, 70 percent play games via the Internet; among non-broadband users, this figure drops substantially to 38 percent. Online gaming is very popular with broadband access because it gives users instant gratification - images are refreshed faster and more players can interact simultaneously.”

Fig 1a Reach of game sector in Asia
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Fig 1b Unique visitors to games Web sites
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Fig 1c Actual number of online game users
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Profile of Asia’s online gamers

Overall, online gamers in Asia tend to be male, 24 years of age or under and predominantly students (Figure 2). Korea is the exception where online gamers are almost equally represented by males (55.3%) and females (44.7%).

The most significant difference in the profiles of online gamers in Asia relates to the users’ connection year. In Taiwan and Korea, a high proportion of users who played games online were late adopters. Specifically, 42.1% of Korean and 31.5% of Taiwanese online gamers first connected to the Internet in year 2000. In the other markets surveyed, the majority of online gamers had connected to the Internet prior to 1997.

Commenting on these findings, Mr. Fitts said, “Korea has developed very quickly and while much of its Internet population is still very ‘young’ [consisting of mainly late adopters], they are showing very advanced usage behaviour such as playing online games. This is evidence that broadband speeds up the e-learning curve for Internet users. The popularity of the games sector in Asia has shown strong signs of growth over the past few months – Korea is clearly leading the way with Taiwan and Hong Kong building up steadily. "

Fig 2. Profile of the Asian online gamer
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On the whole, no specific game site dominates across the region. Within the games sector, Korean-based site hangame.com has the highest reach (27.4% of Korean Internet users or 2,868,190 unique visitors) in Asia, with users spending an average of 13.3 minutes on the site (Figure 3c). However, the game site where users are spending the longest amount of time is Taiwan-based waei.net. In Hong Kong, the average duration spent on the site per user was 105.4 minutes and attracted 34,200 unique visitors in January (Figure 3b).

Fig 3a Most visited games Web sites in China (Jan 2001) Click here to enlarge

Fig 3b Most visited games Web sites in Hong Kong (Jan 2001) Click here to enlarge

Fig 3c Most visited games Web sites in Korea (Jan 2001) Click here to enlarge

Fig 3d Most visited games Web sites in Singapore (Jan 2001) Click here to enlarge

Fig 3e Most visited games Web sites in Taiwan (Jan 2001) Click here to enlarge