IGN Asia Pacific recently published an “overview” article written by Ms. Danielle Ordoñez to describe the gaming scene in the Philippines, and while the picture it painted is pretty accurate as far as PC gaming is concerned, it also presented a narrow and faulty generalization of console gaming in the country. Additionally, other facets of the local gaming scene like arcades, handheld/mobile gaming, the used-games market, and the issue of piracy were left out. This article was written in response to Ms. Ordoñez’s piece and aims to provide a more complete overview of the Philippine gaming scene.
Most local gamers would agree that PC gaming is the most widespread form of gaming in the Philippines. As Ms. Ordoñez’s article mentioned, DotA , a Warcraft 3 mod, is indeed the most popular game here. Like Counter Strike and Ragnarok Online before it, DotA has been single handedly filling computer shops with players both young and old for almost a decade (8 by my count). Personally, I’ve had friends, classmates, and now co-workers who passionately play DotA on a daily, or on an almost daily basis. However, local PC gamers aren’t limited to just DotA and various MMOs. There’s a smaller amounts of gamers who buy/build gaming PCs (sometimes with Steam installed) to play other types of games that are also released on the PC (Call of Duty, Arkham Asylum, Skyrim, etc.)
The aforementioned article also states that the reason PC gaming is so widespread in the country is because of three main factors: access, price, and the multiplayer aspect. It’s hard to argue against these points as computer shops are virtually everywhere in the Philippines, the price of renting a PC for a couple of hours and playing DotA/MMOs is relatively cheap, and multiplayer-centric games offer unlimited replay value (playing with friends and foes is always fun).
On the other hand, I can’t help but think that the original article’s take on console gaming in the Philippines is uninformed and does not accurately describe the local console gaming scene. This is made evident by the paragraph below:
“Even if every Filipino gamer had the resources to get a console, most would only go so far as to buy games that they’re comfortable or familiar with. That means games that are common and popular like the MGS series, NBA 2k13, not to mention the usual FPS games. Of course there are several Filipino gamers who would love to get out of their comfort zones and play something new like Mass Effect, Catherine or Yakuza, but again, these games are too pricey for the majority, that or too experimental for their taste, which is why they lean towards the comforts of PC gaming”.
The idea that Filipino console gamers aren’t willing to buy and play games outside of the more popular genres like basketball and first-person shooters because they are outside of their “comfort zone” (and are not familiar with them) is an insult to all local console gamers, as it implies that they are afraid to try anything new (and see how far the video game medium has progressed). Even more offensive is the line which states that games like Catherine and Mass Effect are “too experimental” for local console gamers’ taste because it suggests that they are not able to comprehend and/or enjoy more unique gaming experiences.
On the contrary, Filipino console gamers like variety and are not afraid to try out and master different genres such as Japanese and Western RPGs (Final Fantasy, Fallout 3),open-world/sandbox games (Grand Theft Auto), third-person shooters (Uncharted, Gears of War), horror/stealth (Resident Evil, Splinter Cell), fighting games (Tekken, Soul Caliber, Street Fighter), platformers (Mario games, Little Big Planet ), music games (Guitar Hero, Rockband), racing and car-combat games (Gran Turismo, Twisted Metal), and even experimental games like the aforementioned Catherine and IGN’s game of the year, Journey.
As a testament to how active and progressive the Filipino console gaming scene is, one only needs to look at Datablitz and how it has become the prominent retailer of original console gaming merchandise in the country. The release days for triple-A games such as Assassin’s Creed 3 and Resident Evil 6 sees many gamers lining up in Datablitz branches to buy PS3 or Xbox 360 versions of the said games. The fact that Datablitz continues to sell original console games proves that there is a demand for such items.
Of course, since always buying new original games is quite expensive, a second-hand/used-games market is also present in the Philippines. Gamers on a budget usually buy/sell/trade used-games with the help of sites like TipidPC and Sulit (just try searching for any game mentioned in this article on TipidPC or Sulit and you’ll see that the used-games market is indeed thriving). The dedicated online communities for Filipino PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo gamers also have buy/sell/trade forums.
Dedicated gaming handhelds like the PSP/PS Vita and the Nintendo DS/3DS also have a presence in the Philippines. It may not be a common to see people playing the aforementioned handhelds but from time to time, people can be seen using their gaming portables on buses, trains, malls, and other outdoor venues (there is also a smaller used-games market for portable games). However, like in most parts of the world, mobile devices like phones and tablets are a much more common sight here and both kids and adults are usually seen playing popular mobile games like Temple Run and Angry Birds.
Arcades may not be as popular here as they were back in the day but local arcades like Timezone and Tom’s World (both are usually found inside malls) still serve a dedicated market. Small to large crowds still flock arcades especially during weekends. From memory, the most popular arcade games are Dance Dance Revolution, fighting games like Tekken 6 and Marvel vs. Capcom, and racing games.
Piracy, which is an economic and legal issue, is still prevalent in Philippine gaming circles. There are stores inside malls that openly sell pirated copies of console/PC/mobile games, and also offer “modification” services, which is a fancy way to say that a gaming device is to be chipped/hacked/jailbroken in order to play pirated copies. In relation to this, there is a sizeable amount of gamers who only buy/download pirated copies because opting for the more expensive original versions are not within their financial means. Lastly, It can be said that piracy is the issue that links all of the gaming sectors in the country as it can take place regardless of the device used to play games (sans arcades of course).
In closing, an overview is supposed to be a summary, a proper look at all the parts of whole. I appreciate the points brought up by the original article, but I think some parts of the whole Philippine gaming scene were not given a proper look. Sure, the majority of gamers in the Philippines mainly dabble in PC games like DotA and MMOs but console, handheld/mobile, and arcade gaming isn’t as backwards or non-existent in the Philippines as the original article makes it out to be.
So what’s the gaming scene in the Philippines like? Think of it as a pizza comprised of slices of different sizes. PC gamers who mainly play DotA and MMOs make up the largest slice, console gamers are also represented by a significant chunk, and handhelds, mobile devices, and arcades all get their piece of the pie.