Why Taiwan’s Video Game Industry Never Able to Take Off

Someone has notice the declining state of Taiwanese gaming industry in Liberty Times:  http://www.libertytimes.com.tw/2011/new/feb/20/today-o13.htm

And here are some observation and opinion in a pan-green forum:  http://www.news100.com.tw/viewtopic.php?t=19492

I am glad that some people have notice this and have similar opinion as mine.  Actually, I would say Taiwan’s game industry is not in a very good state for quite a long time, and with the recent decline (in general) of world wide video games sales, Taiwanese companies would perform worse as well, naturally.  Sure, MMO games have been made, but how much money they made?  How many people actually play them?  Comparing to the success from small iPhone games and blockbuster games like Starcraft 2, Mass Effect and Street Fighters, Taiwanese games are in a sorry state.  But they shouldn’t be.  Taiwan has a good pool of human resources in software, art, anime, music and film.  They might not be refined, but with the right polish and training, the result could be quite good.

So why can’t Taiwan game industry really make a big impact internationally?  Why is it after all this year, it is still struggling consistently in general?  I am no expert, but here is just some of my thoughts:

Focus on Narrow Topic/Market which It Has No Competitive Advantages

Like I mentioned before in my blog, Taiwanese video game companies focus too much on the Chinese fantasy stories.  Look at Japan, the US and others, they don’t just focus on one thing.  Japanese companies target western fantasy, anime, Japanese fantasy, sci-fi and others all at the same time.  The US has sci-fi, fantasy, historical, hollywood style games etc.  One UK company (Creative Assembly) is even making a quite authentic Japanese historical game: Shogun 2 – Total War.  Heck, even Chinese companies don’t make every game in Chinese fantasy.  The point is: don’t just look for inspiration in one place.  Taiwanese companies focus too much in one thing and they are running the water dry.  Taiwanese gamers are bored by them, and no one else cares about it.

There are a few attempts by a few companies to break out from it, but the commitments are not big and good enough.  Half-ass attempts cannot make it in any circumstances.  Given the recent success of Taiwanese movie industries’ focus on Taiwanese topics instead of trying to jump onto Chinese market (like what the gaming industries did), perhaps it is time game industries to reconsider.  (In fact, in that article, movie industries insiders point out that Chinese movie market is actually extremely hard to crack, would this also not be the case for the gaming industries?)

Wrong Direction of Expansion

The narrow-mindedness mentioned in the previous section naturally leads these companies into a completely wrong path.  These companies invested heavily into the Chinese market in two ways.  First, they tried to utilize the cheaper labour in China, and second, they try to enter the Chinese market.  They are all quite optimistic.  However, as incident such as the near fatal blow of 大宇 and huge loss of money of other companies after their venture into China can attest, they are too over optimistic.  A more careful consideration would have reveal the great risk behind:

China at first lacked human talents You need to invest significant resources in order to fill the pool first, and even then the quality of your games would be severely hindered.  Games made in China would have lower quality because lower experience overall, and games made in Taiwan would have lower quality because lack of funding and time (resource drained).  Furthermore, they do not have loyalties after you trained them (I don’t remember which companies, but there was one Taiwanese company that lost most of its talents who formed another company).

No Clear Advantage in Chinese Market –  Taiwanese companies should realize that they have no clear advantage in Chinese market.  Sony, Microsoft and others will try to dominate it.  And this Chinese fantasy games, can they compete with the Chinese fantasy games made by Chinese companies?  Not really, after China learned the technologies from foreign companies, it can make all the Chinese fantasy games it desires.  Can you compete with them on Chineseness?  Absolutely not.

Instead, probably what Taiwanese companies should have done a lot more and focused more on is joint venture and partnership with top developers and publishers in the US and Japan.  (As indicated by this interview, Japanese and the US companies invested in other developed countries in order to develop new technologies etc, where as Taiwanese companies focus very heavily in developing countries such as China only.  Perhaps it is time for Taiwanese video game industries to reconsider its overall strategy)  Learn from them and create something unique.  And don’t tell me Taiwan is too small to do that.  If BioWare, a Canadian (Canada pop. approximately 30,000,000, just a bit more than Taiwan) developer based in the middle of no-where, “man, that is cold” Alberta can make it to the big time, why can’t these Taiwanese companies?  This is really something to ponder on.

Hopefully though new generation of Taiwanese game developers can really develop something good and unique.  Develop some sci-fi games, instead of just Chinese fantasy.  Some RTS instead of just MMO.  Some RPG with mecha that uses 2237 AC Taiwan and Asia Pacific as the back drop.  Who knows.  Just give us something fresh that have good quality, and I am sure Taiwanese gamers and gamers from other countries will support them.


4 comments so far

  1. Joe Spenzer on

    I accidently came across your blog. The title struck my attention and regarding the content, I totally agree with you.
    I’m a German citizen who used to live in Taiwan for 2 years and whenever I saw commercials on gaming on TV it said “O N L I N E!!” at the end. Always. Every commercial has a strong Chinese touch and in fact they are all the same. Boring. Extremely cute 3D characters and sword fights, that’s what one can observe for the most part. Taiwanese companies – besides many others – are are obviouly desperate to jump onto the online gaming train that is powered by blizzard.

    I have been to many game exhibitions (such as the one organized by Blizzard in the contemporary art museum in 2010) in Taipei and Taiwan definitely does not lack talent. They merely need the right direction. Gaming companies have to change their concepts.

    I went back to Germany about a month ago because I wanted to gain experience working in the video games indutry. I landed a job in quality assurance and in some years I wanna go back to Taiwan to start working as a (junior) producer. I’m positive that Taiwan can have an impact on this industry in the future. All it needs is some more dedication, new ideas, proper direction and a kick-ass marketing campaign 😉

  2. dannilos@yahoo.com on

    Are there any Game Developers in Taiwan today? Who are they and are they successfull?

    • dixteel on

      Very sorry for the late reply. Yes, there are definitely some game developers in Taiwan. Some of them are doing OK I think…but I am not sure how successful they are. Also, it depends on your definition of success I guess. Some of the more well-known publishers/developers are listed below:

      樂陞科技 – http://www.xpec.com/en01/home01.php
      華義 – http://www.wayi.com.tw/
      遊戲橘子 – http://tw.gamania.com/

      There are others, but you should be able to find them on Google 🙂

  3. Arthouse Auteur on

    One problem is that not everywhere in China has video games.
    Shenzhen obviously does, but Shanghai the store owners think Mario is played on PC. (Maybe they were lying to me. I dunno.)

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