Southeast Asia’s mobile gaming boom & the potential impact on esports

Mobile gaming is absolutely exploding in Southeast Asia. It’s predicted to grow to an impressive $7 billion in revenue in 2019, according to a report by Esports.net. This is a seven-fold improvement from the $1 billion reported in 2014. This region accounted for nearly half of the global mobile gaming scene this year. But could this phenomenal boom in mobile gaming lead to integration on the global esports scale?

Mobile gaming in the region has exploded in just three years.

Southeast Asia and language barriers in mobile gaming

The first major barrier between the Southeast Asian and global market is language. The region, while considerably adept at English, prefer their own languages. For example, Vietnam ranks 34th out of 80 countries on the English Proficiency Index. Thailand and the Philippines, as well, prefer local languages to English. Over 70% of Indonesian mobile users, as well, browse the net under their native tongue.

Another issue regarding integrating Southeast Asia into the global market is one of the economic kind. Gamers in the region also tend to shy away from English-only websites. This greatly restricts the options for purchasing software and for developers to utilize in-game transactions.

That being said, many developers are already optimizing their websites and gaming titles to cater to the area. The message is clear: If the mountain won’t come to youthen you must go to the mountain.

Mobile gamers in Southeast Asia still face considerable language barriers on the global scale.

Fortnite’s already joined the party

Playing Fortnite with Southeast Asian gamers originally posed problems at first. The high ping deterred SEA players – and global players in return – from playing together. Fortnite publisher Epic Games, demonstrating considerable insight, recently offered sub-region matchmaking for the region. This feature automatically selects the most optimal servers for the best connection possible. The first data center for sub-region matchmaking was launched on September 11 in Singapore. Epic Games has stated plans to expand this feature on a global scale in the coming years.

Sub-regional matchmaking means better connections for SEA gamers and the rest of the world alike.

How can a developer break into the SEA market?

As indicated earlier, dominating a new market can be challenging – especially one with a lingual and cultural divide. The first step is to localize the mobile title for the specific marketplace. Gamers find it far more appealing to play a game in their native tongue than a second or third one. It also pays to do a lot of research, and introduce certain cultural elements into your title. For example, in an open-world or battle royale kind of game, add Southeast Asian architecture or an Eastern-themed character or two to the terrain. For a MOBA title, adding more Eastern media-inspired Heroes could help gamers identify with your title.

A familiar face goes a long way

Social media and customer service is crucial, as well. If you’re looking to integrate a popular Western title with Singapore, it would pay off to have a social media presence that speaks their language and knows their culture. Similarly, a customer service center in the area to help local players with in-game issues and other support issues pays off as well. As opposed to other areas in Asia, Southeast Asia is far more receptive to Western-themed games. This means that a considerably less amount of resources will be required than one initially would expect.

Eastern-themed elements have proven to have considerable appeal among SEA gamers, making it a consideration for developers.

A bright future in SEA’s mobile market for developers

With smartphones and tablets becoming mainstream worldwide by 2019, there’s no better time to get involved in the massive Southeast Asian mobile gaming craze. Both gamers and developers alike have a lot to look forward to to in the region. Another consideration is the fact that the top mobile game in almost every SEA market is usually the same. This is an interesting development because this rings true with the global market trends also. If the language and cultural barriers can be overcome, the mobile superpower that is Southeast Asia may soon join the world stage, as developers integrate the region into global mobile gaming trends.

Have any thoughts about the SEA market and the massive boom in mobile gaming? Do you think Southeast Asia will soon have a place on the world stage? Chime in and comment below.

Programmer. Writer. Digital media specialist. Competitive gamer in the sense that I’m competing with the constant urge to throw the controller across the room.