Gaming in 2023: Asia’s influence on a multi-billion dollar tech industry
- Gaming in 2023 is where the industry faces transformative trends with Olympic Esports inclusion in Singapore.
- Asia’s market dominance shows cultural influences in Eastern gaming.
Let’s face it, even if you’ve never considered yourself a gamer, it’s impossible to ignore the evolution of the gaming industry. Remember the days of ‘Pac-Man’ in the 80s? Those simple, pixelated graphics were once the height of gaming technology! Fast forward through the enthralling universes of ‘The Legend of Zelda,’ the intense conflicts of ‘Call of Duty,’ and the boundless creativity of ‘Minecraft,’ and you’ll realize how far we’ve come.
Each of these legendary titles heralded a new epoch of immersive storytelling, breathtaking visuals, and interactive experiences, showcasing the gaming industry’s unyielding innovation.
But the journey didn’t end there. Transitioning from 2D to 3D was merely the start; we’re now exploring the realms of all-encompassing virtual reality (VR) experiences. Gaming today transcends merely staring at a screen; it’s about embodying the game, interacting with a digital world as though you were truly a part of it. This revolutionary technology has captivated more than just gamers; it’s changing the game in sports realms, too.
Consider, for instance, the Olympics. This global spectacle has always been more than a showcase for top-tier athletes; it’s also been a platform for technological breakthroughs. Take Singapore’s recent initiation of the world’s inaugural Olympic Esports Week. Here, over 100 international athletes vied in 10 virtual sports, marking the first live, in-person iteration of the virtual sports series sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Competitions ranged from mobile archery games reminiscent of tic-tac-toe, to Taekwondo contests played out through motion-captured avatars, to virtual cycling races through Scotland’s picturesque landscapes via the interactive platform, Zwift.
2023’s Olympic Esports controversy
Despite the innovative spirit of this initiative, it wasn’t without criticism. The game selection for the Olympic Esports Series faced particular scrutiny. Titles like Gran Turismo and Just Dance were globally recognized, but the inclusion of less-known games baffled many. Polygon labeled the choice of nine games as “odd,” though the IOC insisted they reflected Olympic Values and had the backing of international sports authorities.
The Esports community’s response to the game roster was one of widespread disappointment. They accused the Olympic committee of missing an opportunity by not partnering with notable game publishers or well-known tournaments. The decision was seen as a push for newer, less-established mobile games, causing disillusionment and, for some, embarrassment in the community. Platforms like Dexerto extensively reported this backlash, especially highlighting the severe criticism from Western audiences on social media platforms like Twitter (now X).
However, some voices in the Esports world, like Chester King — the vice-president of the Global Esports Federation and the CEO of British Esports — backed the IOC’s decision. He labeled it as “a very sensible first approach,” pointing out the need for the IOC’s stakeholders to support the game selection.
The debate took another turn when Fortnite was added to the 2023 roster, but not in its typical battle royale style. Instead, players would engage with targets, veering away from the direct combat known in the standard mode. This change stirred further conversation within the community.
Gaming in 2023: The Asian influence
But even amidst these controversies, it’s undeniable that the gaming industry in Asia has solidified its position on the global stage. What’s behind this meteoric rise? A closer look at Asia’s gaming scene reveals a dynamic combination of cultural heritage, cutting-edge technology, strong government backing, and the strategic moves of industry giants.
The affinity for gaming in Asia isn’t a recent trend. Traditional games like Go in China and Shogi in Japan have been cultural staples for generations, laying a foundation that appreciates strategic thinking, competition, and the joy of play.
This cultural tie has taken on new dimensions with the modern influences of manga and anime. Current games from Asia often weave in stories and characters familiar from these genres, merging contemporary culture with gaming in a way that deeply connects with local audiences.
Additionally, the Esports influence in Asia, particularly in South Korea, is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, with leading players enjoying fame on par with celebrities. The excitement surrounding these events is a testament to the deep-seated cultural love for gaming.
This passion is further exemplified by Japan’s influence through gaming consoles by tech giants such as Nintendo and Sony, setting the country as a significant player in the industry. Despite the enduring success of console games like Animal Crossing, these companies are keenly aware of the shifting dynamics of the gaming market. The rise of mobile gaming and the advent of technologies like cloud gaming and 5G are redefining traditional console gaming concepts.
Mobile gaming: Asia’s 2023 love story
The romance between Asia and mobile gaming is legendary. Mobile gaming has not only overshadowed PC and console gaming in the region but also captured the attention of developers and investors. It’s easy to see why: mobile games are more cost-effective and quicker to develop than their PC or console counterparts. This economic efficiency has attracted major companies like PUBG Mobile, NetEase (Onmyoji), and ByteDance (Mobile Legends: Bang Bang), offering a less saturated market compared to the volatile PC and console sectors.
The diversity in mobile gaming in Asia ensures there’s something for everyone, regardless of their interests. Whether it’s the thrill of speed, a love for fantasy, or a penchant for strategy, there’s a game and a community for every player.
This prominence is underlined by the fact that five of the top ten mobile gaming companies are based in countries like China, Japan, or Singapore. With mobile use on the rise and 5G networks on the horizon, the potential for growth is immense. This tech leap promises to break down existing hardware limitations, making cloud gaming accessible to billions of players.
Moreover, mobile gaming is perfect for capitalizing on Asia’s fragmented daily routines. Activities like commuting or waiting in lines are common, and mobile games, enhanced by 5G, offer an ideal, quick entertainment solution that fits into these moments, unlike the dedicated time and space required by PC or console gaming.
For 2023, mobile gaming is set to account for an impressive 56% of global gaming revenue, dwarfing the expected 22% from console gaming and 21% from PC/Mac gaming. This staggering figure highlights the era of mobile gaming that we’re living in.
However, 2022 witnessed an unexpected dip in mobile gaming expenditure, an unprecedented event since the birth of app stores. Yet, 2023 is showing signs of a vigorous rebound, signaling a possibly bullish run for mobile gaming, despite the numbers potentially falling slightly short of the past year’s highs.
Wild Rift: The mobile gaming phenomenon
One game standing as a testament to this resurgence is “League of Legends: Wild Rift” from Riot Games, which has raked in over US$1 billion in global player spending since its launch in 2020, according to data.ai. This remarkable achievement not only catapults the game into an exclusive league of mobile games surpassing the billion-dollar mark on iOS and Google Play, but also underscores its runaway success.
Incredibly, “League of Legends: Wild Rift” ranks fourth in the highest-grossing games within the Action-MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) genre, outperforming other popular titles such as Onmyoji Arena and West Arena 2. Data.ai’s detailed analysis, powered by its Game IQ technology, ranks Wild Rift as the fourth most downloaded game in its category, surpassing heavyweights like Marvel Super War and Pokémon Unite.
From September 2022 to August 2023, China has positioned itself as the leading market for the game, with Vietnam and Brazil following closely. The game’s global downloads have soared to an impressive 22.4 million during this period, pushing the total lifetime downloads to a whopping 111 million.
The first half of 2023 proved to be exceptionally profitable for Wild Rift. It clinched the third spot in the global grossing charts among Action-MOBA games, accumulating over US$188 million in player spending worldwide.
An in-depth look at the revenue streams reveals China as the top contributor, pouring in nearly US$141 million, while the United States followed with a respectable US$8.2 million.
So, what has propelled “League of Legends: Wild Rift” to the pinnacle of mobile gaming, considering the intricate nature of its PC version?
The secret lies in its uncompromising adaptation for mobile devices.
“Wild Rift” retains the essence of the original game, featuring familiar champions and the classic three-lane map, but it’s expertly optimized for mobile play with touch-friendly controls. Matches are shorter, typically lasting 15-20 minutes, perfect for gamers on the go. Despite the smaller screen, the game loses none of its visual appeal, boasting high-quality graphics and animations that faithfully represent the PC version’s epic battles.
For newcomers, “Wild Rift” offers comprehensive tutorials, ensuring an accessible entry point into the League of Legends universe. Meanwhile, veterans will appreciate the revamped progression system, designed to provide a fresh and engaging experience. Essentially, rather than eclipsing its PC predecessor, “Wild Rift” complements it, presenting a fully-fledged League of Legends experience on mobile.
East vs. West: Gaming preferences in 2023
A side-by-side examination of gaming trends in the East and West uncovers distinct preferences, but also shared passions among mobile gamers worldwide.
A wide-ranging study by Coda, which surveyed 3,600 individuals across nine different markets, revealed that Eastern players favor battle royale and MOBA genres, with “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang,” “PUBG Mobile,” and “Free Fire” dominating the leaderboards. On the other hand, gamers in the West show a preference for “Call of Duty: Mobile,” “Free Fire,” and the football juggernaut, “FIFA.”
This comprehensive survey encompassed participants from a variety of countries, including Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and the USA, highlighting the global reach and appeal of mobile gaming.
In Malaysia, “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang” leads the pack with 11.7% share, followed closely by “PUBG Mobile” with 10.9%, and “Call of Duty: Mobile” rounding out the top three with 7.2%. Developed by Moonton, “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang” commands a vast active player base, with over 80 million monthly players, proving its universal appeal across all demographics.
2023 stands as a pivotal year for the gaming industry, marked by transformative trends and unprecedented milestones. The gaming preferences between the East and West, while distinct, also indicate a universal human penchant for interactive storytelling, strategic competition, and virtual escapism. As we navigate through 2023, the gaming industry continues to break boundaries, redefine entertainment, and unite players across continents, solidifying its role as a powerful cultural force in our modern world.
6 December 2023
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