Marketing Games to Southeast Asia

If you are a game developer and are considering marketing games to an international marketplace, we have two words of advice for you: Southeast Asia! The gaming market in Southeast Asian countries has grown exponentially in the past few years, and the future looks to be just as bright.

Let’s begin by identifying the entire Southeast Asia market. This region is comprised of 11 extremely diverse countries: Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Researchers tell us that the mobile and PC game revenue for Southeast Asia surpassed $5 billion in 2019. And experts expect that number to exceed $8.3 billion by 2023.

If you’re not yet convinced whether or not the Southeast Asia marketplace holds promise for your gaming business, consider some of these facts and statistics:

  • There are currently more than 500 million smartphone users in this area of the world, about 40% of whom are gamers. And that 500 million number is expected to surge to 628 million in the next three years.
  • The percentage of the total population that uses the Internet in Southeast Asia (or the Internet user penetration) was 77% in 2019, but that percentage is expected to be nearly 100% by 2023.
  • The biggest driver of the gaming growth in Southeast Asia is esports. In fact, according to some studies, an estimated 90% of mobile gamers in Southeast Asia engage in esports games.

These statistics make it obvious that Southeast Asia is an exceptionally promising marketplace for game developers in the coming years. But if attempting to market to all 11 countries in the region sounds like a daunting task, you might consider narrowing your focus to the six markets that comprise the majority of Southeast Asia’s gaming marketplace: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Yet even within this limited group, remember not to underestimate the diversity of not only language but culture as well. Indonesia alone includes over 300 ethnic groups and just as many – if not more – languages. Malaysia and Philippines are equally diverse. And while Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are more homogeneous than many of their neighbors, they still maintain independent ethnic and cultural identities. The complicated geo-political history of the region, combined with religious sensitivities and societal norms/taboos make it a challenging marketplace for even the most experienced marketer.

The first step in preparing to enter the Southeast Asia gaming market is also the most obvious: language translation. While English is becoming more and more commonly spoken in virtually every country in the region, you’ll still need to accommodate the vast number of people who prefer their own language. The second closely related step in preparing to expand into this marketplace: localization. Remember the diversity of the region. With every Southeast Asian country maintaining its own unique cultural fabric, you’ll need to ensure that your games are customized to recognize and respect each one. Certain images – even some colors – may be blatantly offensive or off-putting to gamers in this region. While gaming may be a 21st century phenomenon, you’ll be marketing to countries with histories and cultures that reach back thousands of years.

Fortunately, you won’t need to meet these challenges alone. To secure the highest quality translation and localization services available will require a single contact: a reputable translation company with a staff of native speakers who are not only fluent in the target language, but also intimately familiar with the cultural and societal norms of each country. There’s no doubt – expanding your gaming marketplace into Southeast Asia will take some work. But, as we see it, the rewards will be worth every hour of effort.

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