Fri, Jun 23, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Gaming firms gear up for summer with new titles

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

With summer just around the corner, local online PC game developers and distributors are gearing up to attract students with new game titles during the peak season.

Soft-World International Corp (智冠科技), the nation's largest game distributor, yesterday officially unveiled its new casual game, Ghost Online (搞鬼Online), hoping to bring more young players, or elementary students, to the virtual world.

Another game provider, Gamania Digital Entertainment Co (遊戲橘子), also announced yesterday new versions of its popular casual game titles -- Maple Story (楓之谷) and BnB (爆爆王) -- to spearhead its battle for youngsters' attention.

"Although the growth rate of the online gaming market in Taiwan has slowed, there are still new players, particularly elementary school students down to the second grade, that continue to join the market each year," said Chung Hsing-po (鍾興博), chief financial officer of Soft-World.

According to a report released by market researcher International Data Corp (IDC) yesterday, online gaming subscription revenue reported by local game providers reached US$210 million last year, up 12.1 percent over 2004.

Excluding Japan, online gaming subscription revenue in the Asia Pacific region was US$1.39 billion, with Taiwan accounting for 15.4 percent of the market, making the nation the third-largest online PC game market in the region after South Korea and China, the report said.

While IDC noted that the 12.1 percent growth rate was considered flat as few games were introduced last year to stimulate demand, Hung Yu-ting (洪鈺婷), a public relations official at Gama-nia, said she believed the market would turn brisk this year.

Gamania's old games such as Lineage, one of its bestsellers, have continued to see revenue growth, while its new game titles, mostly casual games, have also earned a considerable amount.

As most casual games are free, players need to pay for virtual items, Hung said.

Alan Tsao (曹永暉), a senior analyst at IDC, said the income from selling virtual items made up a larger slice of the gaming companies' revenue than subscription fees.

Ghost Online, for example, is expected to rake in NT$30 million (US$919,173) per month in the third quarter, Soft-World's Chung said.

Mainstream online games have also shifted from the massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) to casual games, Tsao said.

Given the low technical threshold for developing casual games, many gaming companies have turned to this market to grab a piece of the action, Hung said.

Soft-World, for one, turned some of its popular Jin Yong (金庸) series of games into casual games earlier this year, Chung said, adding that the saga games have received good responses.

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