Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Online gaming hits home

Online gaming has quickly become an important market segment in Taiwan, but it is led by South Korea and Japanese companies

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Though Aozora has not held public marketing activities in Taiwan so far, just through the Internet, the company has procured 600,000 members by the end of July.

"Online game portals do not have to issue credit vouchers and can save costs on paper and printing. Plus we have formed alliances with South Korean companies to ensure the continuous supply of new games. This is an advantage which cannot be achieved by a single online game company."

The current way for a player to play a local online game is to pay about NT$300 a month to purchase credit vouchers for a certain game, and then he can play the game without time limit within the month. He also has to pay about NT$600 for Internet line rental to Chunghwa Telecom, plus the telephone fee, so that it costs a player more than NT$1,000 to play an online game a month.

However, on Aozora's Crazy Web site, there are four online role-playing games, and one first-person shooting game. Most important of all, every player is allowed to have his own personal Web page.

"We will be offering more than 20 online games around June next year," Chen said.

PC game first appeared in Taiwan about 20 years ago. Back then Soft-World did not own the agent rights to any games as it only released pirated software. Not until the mid 1990s did several local companies started to sign contracts with foreign companies for the agent rights.

The year 2000 marked the watershed for the industry. Online gaming has become mainstream. In 2001, the market value of the industry grew 250 percent and over 30 companies were set up to develop online games or try to get the agent rights for the games developed by South Korean and Japanese companies.

But due to a lack of management and development abilities, plus the global economic recession and local political instability, most companies went broke, and less than 20 companies survived. About four companies have taken 80 percent of the market, and the remaining 80 percent of the companies have taken up the remaining 20 percent of the market. According to data from the Institute for Information Industry (資策會), the total revenue of online game companies last year was NT$4.1 billion, and Gamania (NT$2.32 billion) and Soft-World (NT$0.68 billion) took up 73%, Fu said.

Taiwanese online game companies are still heavily dependent on the South Korean game development companies and this has become the main reason why the industry has not been growing well on its own.

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