Vietnam is a small Southeast Asian country with most of its GDP coming from small businesses. Whilst the country is still primarily an agricultural country, it is slowly taking an active role in technological advancements, including mobile gaming.
The country is progressively taking on gaming and gambling into greater heights by offering its citizens a more advanced way of entertainment. The recent approval of gambling in casinos for locals received a positive response and is expected to bring in more revenue into the still-developing country. In 2016, Vietnam’s market revenue from mobile gaming, including online gambling amounted to roughly 136 million US dollars. Experts are looking to achieve a 7.7% growth annually, to reach 200 million US dollars by 2021. Those who are looking to tap into the Vietnam mobile gaming market should first look at the gaming behaviours of the consumers if they really want to cash in whilst the market is still on the uptrend.
The mobile gaming industry of Vietnam has superb potential that it can, in fact, lead the whole Southeast Asia in the revolution as the country already has a large number of players and quality staff. Sure, the country became wildly famous in 2014 when Flappy Bird became a hit, topping in more than a hundred countries and having more than 50 million downloads.
The 50% year-on-year growth in mobile gaming app market can be attributed to the increasing use of smartphones and the progress in the country’s internet company to become the third largest in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and Thailand. The industry is also looking at getting more investors to have their products made in Vietnam. Some foreign developers believe that they can get their money’s worth if they tap Vietnamese engineers to create their product – they cost less whilst having better quality than those in South Korea and the U.S.
Individuals who love playing mobile games in Vietnam spend an average of 2.5 gaming sessions per day, lasting for about three hours. Gamers enjoy and spend most on role-playing games (RPGs), which Vietnam has 35 available major titles widely played by locals. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are also popular among the locals and are among the ones with a high player retention rate.
Foreign mobile gaming app developers who are keen on tapping on the Vietnamese mobile gaming market would find it useful to explore titles following the popular genres. It is important to note that Vietnamese players prefer games with a great user interface. Take for example Chien Binh, a Vietnamese multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game that took the Vietnamese market by storm by having as much as 300,000 users in only its first two months. The game has piqued the interest and retained playership with its international-grade graphics and sophisticated user interfaces.
Vietnamese gamers are highly familiar with gamer with heavy Chinese influence, particularly in the RPG genre. This is the reason why most mobile game app developers who launch in Vietnam often use games with a strong relation to Kung Fu, Three Kingdoms, and the novels of Jin Yong in their player vs player (PvP) and massively multiplayer online (MMO) games. Creating a casual 3-dimensional MMORPGs would do well in the Vietnamese market. Other highly popular gaming genres in Vietnam include strategy and card battle games.
Foreign developers should take advantage that the country has only a few notable local developers, including:
More and more local game publishers are finding success in tapping into the local Vietnamese mobile gaming market, partly thanks to Dong Nguyen and his Flappy Bird game for mobile devices. Since then, a number of local gaming studios have quickly made a name for themselves. Some of the popular titles developed by local publishers include 360mobi Ngôi Sao Bộ Lạc, Gunny Mobi, and ICá – Ban Ca Online. These games are quite popular in Southeast Asia because they have gambling elements.
Whilst Vietnam has few local developers and has a huge potential for growth, particularly when infused with gambling, foreign developers may find it frustrating to enter and explore the market. Foreign publishers often find the country’s strict laws in online gaming market frustrating as they still have to get a special license to operate. One of the hurdles they have to overcome is the cost of paying mobile connection services in the country as most of these are paid through third-party companies.
In addition, very few locals speak and understand English so most of them prefer playing games using their native language. Foreign developers often find it hard to market their games in an industry where their competition can easily win over the larger share of the market because they can easily communicate through the local language.
To date, the country’s highest grossing game is Lords Mobile from IGG. It is a real-time strategy game where players have to build an empire as they take on their opponents. IGG is a Chinese developer that was successful in promoting their game in Vietnam by focusing on localisation. Another title that is doing well in Vietnam is Clash of Kings developed by Elex Wireless, also a Chinese developer.
In Vietnam, titles using the RPG, MMO, and strategy games are the biggest and most popular among gamers. However, more recently, the growth of MOBA games are hitting new heights. The genre, which became popular on PC, like League of Legends, is slowly taking on the mobile gaming market of Vietnam and is becoming a strong driver of growth. Some of the MOBA games widely played by the locals include Arena of Valor or Honor of Kings in China has more than 50 million daily users and players. It has become the top two grossing title in the country. Mobile Legends developed by Moonton, another Chinese developer, is also one of the widely played titles in Vietnam. The MOBA shooting game, War Robots, is also driving the mobile gaming industry upwards as it leads the MOBA genre growth in Vietnam.
More recently, Rules of Survival, a MOBA game developed by NetEase, is taking the Vietnamese local gaming scene by storm primarily because it is greatly optimised for mobile gaming. NetEase became thoroughly patient with their approach in the Vietnam market by first increasing their user base before trying to make a profit through in-app purchases.
NetEase’s strategy may very well work for them. Many of the Vietnam gamers prefer enjoying games without spending too much on them since it is already considered a luxury for most of them. This is the reason why casual games are becoming more and more popular. Since Vietnam has a low average revenue per user, developers should really focus on increasing the user base. Casual games like Roblox is surging in popularity in Vietnam because of the low spend requirement. Much like Minecraft, Roblox allows its users to build their own world and games with the use of bricks. The success of Roblox can be attributed to its appeal with the younger audience as more and more of the younger generation are engaging in online games.