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Online games find a home

Online games find a home

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A man plays an online game at a coffee shop in Phnom Penh yesterday. Online gamers are increasingly logging on at home.

Cambodia's online gamers are increasingly logging on at home rather than at gaming centres, industry insiders said yesterday.

Widespread connectivity has significantly boosted the domestic gaming industry, according to CIDC Information Technology Chief Operations Officer Mike Gaertner.

CIDC-IT, which counts JusticeX War Online and Attack Online among its most popular game offerings, currently sees about 20 percent of its 16,000 customers accessing the games from home during afternoon peak times.

“That’s a lot more than there were last year. Last year, you couldn’t even measure the number of people gaming from home,” he said.

And much of that growth is being driven by users from telecoms operator Metfone, he added.

Gaertner said the major development for CIDC-IT in 2010 and 2011 has been Metfone’s growing market share among his customers. Thirty percent of its customers use Metfone to access the internet, and many of them are doing so from home, he said.

Among CIDC-IT customers who play games via their third-generation mobile technology, Gaertner said Metfone users are the largest, with close to 1,500 users playing during afternoon peak times through its service. The closest competitor is Mobitel with 300 users, and Hello with 60.

“So you can really see who is pushing to get those technologies into the market,” he said.

Metfone officials did not return requests for comment.

Cambodia’s largest Internet
Service Providers echoed claims that gaming was increasingly coming from home users.

Bill Merchent, Chief Executive Officer of Online ISP, claimed the firm had seen similar growth in home-based gaming.

He said there had been a “significant increase” over the past six months.

“Gaming is a big thing for us,” he said, adding that Online was presently seeking to license games made by various Asian developers and bringing them to Cambodia.

The firm is specifically trying to court university-age customers, as they are a key part of the gaming market.

Cambodia’s online gaming business has bounced back from a temporary shutdown of the country’s gaming centres a year ago, industry officials said.

The centres were closed after Prime Minister Hun Sen last spring called for a gambling ban, in which many government officials included computer gaming.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith later clarified that online gaming centres did not constitute gambling and allowed their operation.

CIDC-IT has rebounded since then, Gaertner said, with some games seeing higher user rates than before the ban.

He said the industry right now is strong enough to warrant

increased competition. But only six games have been launched since CIDC-IT released JusticeX Wars online in late 2007, and two of them are no longer available.

“So it surprises me that there hasn’t been a bigger entry into the market and someone hasn’t pushed the newer games,” he said.

CIDC-IT plans to release a new game in 2011, he said, but he declined to reveal the title.

VTC Online Cambodia Marketing Executive Meas Sokha told The Post that while there have been intermittent crackdowns at provincial gaming centres, “the online business right now is growing very fast.”
“We believe that the online

gaming market in Cambodia is still growing, so we will bring more games here,” he said, though he declined to disclose specific titles.

Telecom Cambodia’s Metlaor, a recent entrant to the country’s video-game space, is also planning to introduce new games to the market, said Marketing Manager Sin Vannarith. However, the firm hasn’t yet decided which titles it will license.

Telecom Cambodia’s attempt to diversify its primary businesses with Metlaor, he said.

“I think that it will help Telecom Cambodia because day to day there are so many people online. And offering these games serves to meet customer needs.”

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