The Video Game Industry in Vietnam: Opportunities and Challenges
The gaming industry in Vietnam has left an indelible mark on the global gaming map, propelled by hits like Flappy Bird and the rise of technology unicorn VNG. In this article, we take a broad overview of this emerging industry and the opportunities for foreign firms.
Vietnam has emerged as a thriving hub for the dynamic world of video games, capitalizing on its young population and an insatiable appetite for advanced technologies. With a fertile ground for developing gaming experiences, Vietnam is pushing the boundaries of what gaming can offer and captivating audiences and investors.
In particular, the projected market for video games in Vietnam is expected to reach US$922.8 million by 2027, with mobile games accounting for the largest segment, according to Statista. Furthermore, in 2022, Vietnam ranked among the top 15 countries in the world in terms of smartphone users giving mobile game developers plenty of room to grow.
In addition to being a source of entertainment, video games have emerged as a promising career option for young individuals, including in streaming, professional gaming, and esports competitions. Consequently, an increasing number of people are not only playing video games but also taking them very seriously.
With this in mind, Vietnam Briefing looks at what foreign firms should know about this rapidly growing segment of Vietnam’s entertainment industry.
There are a number of factors driving growth in Vietnam’s game industry.
A youthful population
Vietnam’s potential in the video game industry is its large and rapidly growing population, with young people making up a substantial portion of approximately 22.5 percent, according to data from the Vietnam National Youth Committee. According to analysis by allcorrectgames.com, there are around 3.99 million gamers based in Vietnam, over 60 percent of whom are aged between 18 and 30.
Statistics from the Ministry of Information and Communications reveal an interesting trend. Between 2008 and 2023, approximately 87 percent of the nearly 940 games approved by the ministry were imported, with the majority originating from China. It can be seen that Vietnam’s proximity to lucrative markets like China and South Korea further enhances its position and opens up opportunities for collaborations, partnerships, and the exchange of gaming technologies and expertise.
Cooperation deals between game publishing businesses in Vietnam and game production businesses in other countries, especially with the Korean game market, have been increasing recently. As part of this trend, the Vietnamese market saw the official launch of the game “Play Together” following an agreement between VNG and HAEGIN, a Korean game maker. Additionally, in 2023, VTC Game, a member of VTC Intecom, announced a partnership with Wemade Max from Korea, resulting in the exclusive release of the legendary Silkroad Online game in Vietnam.
These agreements have come on the back of increased engagement in the video game industry between Vietnam and its neighbors. One notable example is a trade seminar arranged by the Korean Association for the Promotion of Trade – Technology – Information – Culture (JCIA), in partnership with the Gwangju and Jeonnam Software Associations in Korea, organized in Vietnam. These events serve as a platform for introducing and learning about the gaming industry and virtual reality technology from foreign countries. They also provide an opportunity for investors to gain valuable insights about the industry in Vietnam.
Growing talent pool
The immensely popular game Flappy Bird, created by Nguyen Ha Dong from Hanoi, captivated users worldwide and became a viral sensation. Furthermore, Sparx* studio in Ho Chi Minh City has made significant contributions to the production of many renowned games such as League of Legends or Call of Duty. These individuals and businesses are gradually leaving their mark on the global stage, showcasing the prowess and creativity of Vietnamese talents in the gaming industry.
This is, in part, due to rising opportunities in further education for game developers. Prominent universities, such as Hanoi University of Science and Technology, FPT Polytechnic College, and RMIT University, provide specialized bachelor’s degree courses in Game Design. The proliferation of these training institutions is enabling more Vietnamese students to pursue degrees in computer science, programming, and related fields. This is helping ensure a steady supply of skilled professionals to meet industry demand.
Localization and cultural barriers
All games that want to be officially released must have their content appraised and approved by the Ministry of Information and Communication. However, this can present challenges for international game developers who may not be familiar with the nuances of the local culture. This involves various aspects, such as translating text, adapting gameplay mechanics, or adjusting cultural elements. These efforts are crucial for ensuring that games are well-received and relevant within the Vietnamese market.
Even when games are developed and designed by Vietnamese creators, they can still encounter controversies related to cultural sensitivity. One example is the game Su Ho Vuong, developed in Vietnam, which faced significant backlash due to its character design choices. Although the game designers clarified that the characters were fictional and merely drew inspiration from historical figures, the direct naming of the characters after real historical people and their unconventional appearances, such as blue or purple hair and clothing that deviated from traditional customs, sparked a wave of controversy. This incident highlights the importance of navigating cultural sensitivities and understanding the local context when creating and releasing games in Vietnam.
Moreover, in Vietnam, the gaming community continues to face limited acceptance from society. When discussing game-related publications, the prevailing perception among the majority of Vietnamese individuals is that they are a social menace, associated with negative and aberrant behavior. While there has been some recent progress toward a more open and positive outlook, this particular form of entertainment still lacks the necessary encouragement due to cultural attitudes, thereby impeding the proper development of Vietnam’s gaming industry, despite its considerable potential.
Vietnam’s video game market presents challenges for foreign developers due to its strict censorship laws and complex administrative procedures. Furthermore, foreign ownership in the sector is currently restricted to a maximum of 49 percent under existing foreign investment regulations. As a result, foreign developers must establish joint ventures or enter into business cooperation contracts with local companies to legally distribute their video games in Vietnam.
Vietnam Briefing has published an article that delves into the more stringent regulations within the country’s video game industry. See: Vietnam Moves to Tighten Legislation on Video Game Industry: Insights for Foreign Investors.
In Vietnam, the legal environment surrounding gaming is relatively strict, with regulations in place to combat unlicensed, illegal, and pirated games. However, despite these efforts, law enforcement in this area remains weak, leading to a high prevalence of pirated games in the country. This situation poses significant challenges for game developers and copyright holders.
One of the main reasons for the persistence of unlicensed games in Vietnam is the strong preference among gamers for free gaming options. Many players are unwilling to pay upfront for games, leading developers to rely heavily on alternative revenue streams such as in-app purchases or advertising. Recent data from the Department of Broadcasting, Television and Electronic Information revealed at a conference in March 2023 indicates that unlicensed games still account for a significant portion of the Vietnamese game market’s revenue, approximately 30 percent.
The prevalence of the pirated game market exacerbates the issue of copyright infringement. Despite efforts to address this problem, unauthorized copies of games continue to circulate, depriving developers and copyright holders of their rightful earnings. This situation creates a challenging landscape for monetizing games in Vietnam, as users remain reluctant to pay for legitimate gaming experiences.
Vietnam’s video game industry moving forward
The video game industry in Vietnam presents a mix of challenges and opportunities. To ensure successful ventures and avoid setbacks, strategic planning and a deep understanding of the Vietnamese market are essential. By embracing these factors, investors can navigate the landscape effectively and capitalize on the promising opportunities that Vietnam’s game industry offers.
For more support in understanding Vietnam and its video game industry, please contact Dezan Shira & Associates experts for consultation.
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Dezan Shira & Associates provide business intelligence, due diligence, legal, tax and advisory services throughout the Vietnam and the Asian region. We maintain offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as throughout China, South-East Asia, India, and Russia. For assistance with investments into Vietnam please contact us at email@example.com or visit us at www.dezshira.com
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