Mon, Jul 05, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Staking a gaming claim

Renowned Chinese saga novelist Jin Yong may never have imagined his works would be popular with everyone from retirees to schoolchildren. Wang Chin-po, founder and president of Soft-World International Corp, the nation's largest online PC game provider which vitalizes Jin Yong's characters in the virtual world, talked with 'Taipei Times' staff reporter Jessie Ho about his vision to turn online gaming into Taiwan's signature industry

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

TT: Soft-World has not only introduced games made in Taiwan to China; it has also brought Chinese games to Taiwan, such as Kingsoft Co's (金山軟件) Swordman Online (劍俠情緣) last week. How do you measure the response of local gamers to this title, and what differences are there in the products developed by the two countries?

Wang: Swordman Online is the hottest game in China. The theme of the game is traditional Chinese martial arts, which is similar to many of our releases, but I think it will still take some time to find out how local gamers respond to games that are made in China.

The move represents the first step in the relationship between the gaming industries of both sides, and not just purely out of business considerations. The major distinction between the games produced by the two sides is our superior creativity, although game developers from both sides do use traditional Chinese stories, legends, fairytales and saga novels for their source material. I believe that gamers will figure out the differences once they play both games.

TT: In recent years Soft-World aggressively moved to open up markets in Southeast Asian countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia. Not long ago you also announced that you were considering forming joint ventures with your Thai counterparts. What opportunities do these markets offer?

Wang: We established several sales outlets in Singapore and Malaysia going back seven or eight years ago. At the time, we only targeted overseas Chinese gamers there. But starting last year, we decided to carve out local Malaysian and Indian markets and sent our marketing and operations people there with English- and Malay-language versions of our games. In the future, we plan to use local cultural materials in our games to cater to the market.

Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines are rapidly improving their Internet infrastructure, especially broadband, which will soon be advanced enough for the online gaming industry to emerge. Currently, game developers and providers in these regions are not numerous or professional enough to support the industry, so I think there is a good chance for us to gain a foothold there. Another plus with these markets is the absence of political tension, which reduces investment risk.

TT: Soft-World plans to list on the US NASDAQ stock market in the third quarter of the year. But with the US gaming market long dominated by video games, how are you going to exploit it?

Wang: Actually, the decision to apply for the listing is a move to increase our market presence in the international community. Several South Korean and Chinese gaming companies have done so, so we can't miss this boat, especially as our business is not inferior to that of our Chinese counterparts.

In this huge market, we plan to target overseas Chinese or migrants that have experience with and are fond of online PC games. As for non-Chinese gamers, we are still considering what games are appropriate to give to them. After all, most of our product lines contain cultural elements that may not be accepted by Western gamers. I don't worry about US gamers preferring video games. For now, many games are designed to be compatible in both video and PC formats. I do believe there will be more of these games in the future, which will wipe out divisions between the two groups of gamers.

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