Fri, Jul 25, 2003 - Page 10 News List

PC game success a rarity for Taiwan

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Softstar Entertainment Inc (大宇資訊), the nation's second-largest computer game service provider, announced yesterday that pre-sale orders of its computer game Legend of Sword and Fairy III (仙境奇俠傳) have exceeded 12,000 over the last eight weeks, demonstrating a vigorous outlook for Taiwan's PC games market for the summer, a company official said.

"We're pretty happy about the record-high sales, as orders of other games in the market were around only 1,000 so far," said Angus Huang (黃文相), spokesman of the company. "We're optimistic, and believe the market will continue to grow."

Softstar Entertainment reported NT$35.5 million in revenues in the first quarter of the year and is expecting much rosier figures for the second quarter, Huang said.

Profits generated by the nations' gaming industry are expected to reach NT$7 billion this year, up from NT$5.3 billion last year, according to a report by the Institute for Information Industry (資策會).

While standalone games like the Legend of Sword and Fairy series fare well in the market, it is online gaming that is the most profitable, according to Huang.

"Among the annual profits generated by the gaming industry, 60 percent were from pay-for-play online games," Huang said.

Although sales figures paint a rosy picture for the sector, one obstacle local gaming businesses encountered is a lack of locally-produced game software, Huang said.

On average, South Korean game developers come out with over 100 games in a year, while Taiwanese companies barely average 10, Huang said.

In the face of such fierce competition, a survey released earlier this month showed that among the 10 most popular online games, only one, Fairyland (童話), was developed by a local company, while the rest of the top 10, such as Ragnarok Online (仙境傳說), Lineage (天堂) and Cross Gate (魔力寶貝), were imported from South Korea, Japan or the US, Huang said.

"We really need to keep up with these countries in exploiting the rapidly growing market," Huang said. "Taiwan acted too slowly in entering this sector."

Another leading computer-game provider pointed out a shortage of online gaming know-how, causing the nation's market to assume an inferior position.

"Most of our game programmers are from the standalone-game sector, whose techniques don't apply to online gaming," said Hsieh Ming-chuan (謝明娟), chief publicist of Soft-World International Co (智冠科技), the largest game service provider in the nation.

Soft-World International reported NT$1.35 billion in revenue for the first half of the year, a 15.17 percent growth from the same period last year. The company has developed Three Kingdoms Online (三國演義), Jin Yung Online (金庸群俠傳) and others.

One government official said a proposed government-funded digital content academy may help to solve problems businesses are facing now, said Oliver Weng (翁正修), deputy director of Digital Content Industry Promotion Office under the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

The academy, Digital Content Institute (數位內容學院), is slated to open next month within Nankang Industrial Park with an investment of NT$120 million, Weng said. The institute is expected to cultivate 1,000 talented programmers for the industry each year, he said.

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