Asia is home to the largest audience of online gaming players and fans in the world. And things are about to get even more interesting as the market booms with user demand for cloud, network and connectivity services growing as fast as never before.
In 2020 alone, 40 million people were brought online for the first time across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand. This is just an example of a much bigger revolution taking place across the continent which has brought with it new opportunities and considerations for gaming companies on how they can capture these users’ shift to digital consumption and maximise the existing and new players’ retention on online gaming.
In a recent webinar hosted by HGC titled “Game on! Taking Online Gaming into Next Levels for Asia”, experts from HGC, AWS and Macroview – a HGC group company – discussed the several factors changing the gaming landscape across the continent.
From the get go, participants made it clear that Asia is a giant not to be reckoned with. According to Marcello Brescia, Manager - OTT and edge ecosystem of HGC, three of the top five countries by game revenue globally are located in Asia. These are China (also the world’s largest market), Japan and South Korea.
“We expect that over the coming years, several more Asian countries – such as India, Indonesia or the Philippines – will enter the top ten of the largest gaming markets on the planet as a result of technological advancement, economic outlook and large population concentration,” Brescia said.
Asian gamers mostly play US games, games these that consume and produce tremendous amount of data. Take for instance, World of WarCraft which produces 100 gigabytes of data every second and utilises as many as 17 data centres to power the game’s platform and millions of users.
As a global technology and network provider such as HGC, it is paramount to take care of the user experience. For example, through the development of solutions to lower latency in order to generate more enjoyable gaming experiences.
Brescia said: “At HGC we talk about Eyeballs – meaning the users – and we are now reaching >90% of Asian eyeballs with ultra-low latency across the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. We reach more than 150 million internet users with covered ground expanding regularly.”
As the Asian online gaming expands, there is a subsequent growing need to focus on security to ensure gamers, the assets and indeed, providers’ digital assets are kept safe and in line with the local legislation.
A survey by McAfee named “Game Over: The Future of Gaming Security” has found while gamers profess to exhibit good cybersecurity habits there’s still work to do. The survey found that 75% of PC gamers identified security as the element that concerns them most about the future of gaming. The concern from gamers is justified given that 64% have or know someone who has been directly affected by a cyberattack.
According to Martin Ip, associate director for advanced solutions and services at Macroview, a HGC group business, the typical cybersecurity challenges for a gaming company include for instance, fake account creation, especially as a huge number of fake accounts are created by bots every day.
Account takeover (ATO) is also another worry, where fraud on player’s account loyalty point or game point takes place, so is application DDoS, the threat denial of services of the gaming portal.
Lastly, Ip highlights the challenge of “friction to player”. “Security is important, but we cannot forget the user experience,” he said. “Adding 2-step verification, CAPTCHA, and so on is relevant, but what about player experience (UX)?”
He also said that there needs to be consideration for data privacy laws. “Due to the compliance regulatory frameworks for deployment, we can see this growing need to comply and at the same time protect users and the gaming platforms more,” Ip added.
“Part of the consideration is around data privacy such as compliance with the national data laws.
The way they will be keeping all the data in the country is on-premise, the other way is moving to the cloud and their dynamic services. However, there is still considerations to put the data policy in terms of cloud-based approach.”
With the advent of cloud computing, gaming has been swiftly changing as a direct result. Just like Netflix allows movies to be watched on the go or Spotify enables millions of users to listen to music, anywhere, anytime, cloud gaming is democratising the access to gaming platforms for hundreds of millions of users across the planet.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), as the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, powers millions of businesses worldwide, including several gaming companies such as Fortnite.
Taking part in the webinar, AWS, said: “AWS has the most experience when we talk about cloud services providers. We have more than 13 years helping millions of customers. We have a very wide global reach and high availability with 77 availability zones, spanning 24 geographic regions.”
Cloud has proved to be a good model for the vast majority, as it allows for pay-as-you-go consumption, speedy infrastructure scaling and widespread user reach. All topped by an additional series of services that cover software, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and more.
“At AWS we developed Amazon Game Tech which brings together a collection of solutions from across Amazon, for every stage in your game’s lifecycle. We have over 165 services, and with Game Tech we have grouped some of those solutions into categories including Backend Services, Analytics, Developer Tools and Business Success.”
If cloud computing is taking gaming to the masses, 5G is speeding up experiences and expectations. Bringing latency times down is a priority for the industry, said Dennis Chan, AVP - OTT and ICT business, international business of HGC.
“5G is expected to deliver low latency, meaning that [the data transfer] from the mobile phone to the end station would be below 8-10 milliseconds,” he explained. “One of the main use cases for that is indeed cloud gaming.
“You don’t need to install any games on your laptop or on your phone because it is all executed in the cloud. On the other hand the cloud must be close to the end user because the game might be, for instance, displayed in 4k, and that requires very low latency to deliver the best experience. This is where edge computing comes in, as we move this cloud computing power closer to the user.”
As a result, for HGC and from a telco point of view, the company has set up multiple different parts of that network in different South East Asia locations.
“We set up this infrastructure because 5G has enabled a lot of gaming to take place in the cloud. Additionally, a lot of gaming companies want to have more low latency network server,” Chan said.
Although headlines about online gaming have not been scarce in the past year, there are many new businesses popping up as startups come in to disrupt the sector even more. But challenges remain as AWS reiterated.
“Some of the major challenges that startups and/or small businesses face when it comes to gaming and entering a new market, is, number one, cost. Secondly, it’s effort. The team size is usually very small and they usually don’ have that many resources to spend and build things. Thirdly, it’s innovation. These businesses have a limited number of people and budget, and that makes it more difficult to innovate. By leveraging could services, those challenges can be resolved.”
For example, in their quest for scale, cloud can indeed be the answer to a gaming startup. With costs for example, when using cloud services, a business moves its costs from a capital intensive model to “pay as you go”. “You don’t have to go out and buy massive services to host you and your game,” Isibor said.
The discussion began with the view that Asia is a fast growing gaming market, and HGC’s Chan closed the webinar talking about one of the most exciting regions within the continent: South East Asia.
“The South East Asia population size is between 400 to 500 million people, of which, more than 100 million are gamers,” he said. “If I am a gaming company looking to start a business in SEA, the key is to understand how to best give the end-user the best experience. They might be playing on their phone, on their laptop or elsewhere, but how fast the end user can access the game in terms of the game server, is a critical part of the strategy. This is where the telco, cloud and ICT solution provider like HGC, steps in.”
In terms of how fast the user can access the game, the telco plays a critical role in terms of how to access the gamers. For example, HGC is a global carrier network that is enabling most of the tier one gaming companies that thrive, especially in South East Asia.
“We are helping gaming companies build gaming servers in South East Asia, especially in some countries where network connectivity might not be fully developed. Our job is to help them to connect to the end user as fast as they can,” Chan said.
HGC helps businesses by being a one-stop-shop solution, helping gaming businesses build their gaming footprint in South East Asia within weeks and also help them expand subsequently to other markets if they wish so.
To watch the full webinar on demand, register your interest here. If you are interested in learning more about HGC’s gaming solutions portfolio, visit here.
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