It has become a routine for Lan Anh and her office mates to play Lien Quan after lunch. Instead of sleeping during their two-hour midday break — an essential part of the Vietnamese life — they squat on the floor, eyes on their mobile phones and play the Tencent-published Lien Quan or the Arena of Valor.
After work at six, Lan Anh continues to play another game, Hay Day, one of the most popular farming games today.
“I spend at least three hours for each game, after work or before I sleep. I think games like this are a good way to connect with your workmates beyond work or with your friends,” said Lan Anh, noting that she only got really addicted to mobile games a year ago, when the pandemic started.
Bao Ngan, who’s into League of Legends, also takes a few hours from her business to play with friends.
“I don’t really play every day. But I try to relax my mind once in a while, and recently discovered that mobile games are actually a stress-reliever.”
According to the data provided by App Annie, Southeast Asia is now a major region for mobile gaming growth, and Vietnam leads in both being home to a stronghold of mobile apps and game publishers as well as having a heavily mobile-first consumer base.
The mobile gaming industry in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia (ANZSEA) has seen more than 50% year-on-year consumer spend growth, prompted by the coronavirus pandemic when people got stuck at home and had to do something to beat lockdown blues.
Early in 2020, hyper-casual Vietnamese music game publisher Amanotes had surpassed one billion total downloads of its games, and more than 95 million monthly active users. These outstanding accomplishments helped make Amanotes the number one game publisher (by downloads) not just in Vietnam, but across the whole of ANZSEA region.
Vietnam ranks second across Southeast Asia in terms of downloads, accounting for 22% of all game downloads (after Indonesia with 38%). While Vietnam’s download figure only shows a market growth of 10%, gaming consumer spending grew by a whopping 50% year over year in 2020.
Certainly, Vietnam has the “raw materials” to support a flourishing mobile games economy. This is a country of 97.8 million people (the 15th highest in the world), and it is a youthful one too. The median age in Vietnam is 32.7, which is 7.6 years younger than in Thailand's median age, and 5.7 years younger than in the US, reads a blog by App Annie.
Vietnam-based apps like Amanotes, OneSoft, VNG, and Gamejam rank among top ten game publishers in ANZSEA. Amanotes and Onesoft have even outdone Singapore’s Sea and Australia’s Imperial Arts.
Vietnam is also a “mobile first” culture. It is home to 68 million smartphone owners, 64% of whom are on 3G, 4G or 5G. The average daily time spent in gaming is 3.9hrs — 10% more than for the average user in the US.
The high quality of mobile experiences available in Vietnam enables local gamers to enjoy games that demand more powerful graphics and processing systems, such as midcore and hardcore games.
The future of mobile gaming
Mobile gaming has taken Vietnam by storm, making it a market of opportunity in the mobile economy. According to a report released by Decision Lab, more than half of the online population in Vietnam are now playing games on their mobile devices.
On average, the study found that players spend approximately 51 minutes per session engaged in casual mobile games that involve elements of either strategy, puzzle, arcade play or action; giving birth to a new type of hardcore gamer. So popular has the activity proven, that time spent playing mobile games now accounts for nearly a quarter (23%) of total mobile screen time; more than social networking (18%), streaming video (14%) and even browsing the web (13%).
The local mobile gaming industry’s popularity is forecasted to further explode, and reach a potential $205 million this year, and $326 million by 2025.
New developments of hits like Ngoi Sao Lap Lanh and Hoang Hau Gia Dao, and the emergence of new and more savvy Vietnamese game publishers will take Vietnam’s mobile gaming industry and culture to the next level.