[How do you take a Western MMO and bring it to the Asian market? Consultant Tim Allison, who works on titles such as Pirates Of The Burning Sea for Asia, looks at some of the positives and pitfalls of making your game work for the East.]
Each market in Asia is different, with its own unique requirements; however, there are certain traits both in development and business approaches that can be discussed in generic terms. Omake Interactive deals across all of Asia, Australia, and India with a wide variety of clients and online game-related content.
Great IP and product design can be global, however in Asia, particularly from an online perspective, the delivery must be localized both from product design and business structures.
We break the "Asia" approach into both localization of design, and business structures due to the complexity of online requirements going far past just having a great game. We also emphasize the true success in revenue terms for Asia is not from license fees, but having the title actually perform in-market. This means having both partners share that common understanding.
It also means what licensee fees you do earn you should reinvest those back into supporting your Asian partners. Many western developers would cringe at that thought of spending their license fee, but with the title performing in-market those license fees will quickly diminish in total revenue terms.
There are areas where western developers can have great success in Asia, and this article will touch on that. That success needs to be on the back of a wider understanding of the Asian markets and a longer-term approach to company branding. There is no magic bullet approach, and Asia needs to be treated as its own unique region.
Part 1: The Key Online Markets
The 3 major markets are China, Korea and Japan. Recently, a Korean major very clearly gave us their spin on who rules the online space: "The size of Chinese PC online game market is approximately 1.3 billion USD while Japanese PC online game market size is approximately 1.8 billion USD. The Korean PC online market size is bigger than these two primary Asian markets, with the size of approximately 6 billion USD."
South Korea is the creator of the MMO sector. The South Korean government, both through its late 1990s subsidies for game development and rollout of the broadband network, became the key driver of this segment. Even in 2008 where overall the Korean MMOG content is not up to its usual high standard the Korean companies are still setting the industry terms.
Korean companies are expanding internationally and testing new consumer monetization models both in games and social networks. We believe Korea will need to continue being more global to maintain its dominant position against China. Like any company expanding internationally, Korean firms are experiencing cultural challenges with content.
It is understandable that many Asian companies, in entering the west, make similar content mistakes as the west does in entering the east. The Korean online market is dynamic and companies are willing to take risks; they will test any western IP owner trying to gain success their local market.