Saturday, October 18, 2008

Yes, the Filipino Gamer Can!

It’s been around 4-5 years since I played Philippine Ragnarok Online (PRO). I still remember our (mine and my brother’s) primary character, a priest name Leafar. We operated as a lone wolf providing only the cheapest healing services in the dungeons of Prontera. When we played PRO we only had one goal in make our priest look like some kind of jester. We had everything...swirly glasses, clown nose, etc...ect...EXCEPT...the jester hat. And for around 3-6 months we toiled around the world of Ragnarok trying to find the monster that would drop that specific hat with no such luck. After that frustration, we decided to move on to other games but PRO will always have nice memories for us. We had the PRO Hall of Shame site (with screenshots of the lame tactics people do), we participated in the ‘Happy New Year’ festival where the GMs unleashed all the boss characters in the towns and everyone died, my brother’s friend had some hilarious ‘chiksilog’ moments! To clarify, a chiksilog moment has something to do with a guy using a female avatar and have male avatar stalkers.

So imagine my surprise when I went to Level-Up Live 2008 thinking that perhaps this whole MMORPG thing has passed. I was shocked that there were so many people in that place! And they aren’t just some random cosplayer...the people there actually GET IT. They GET the game! When its time for the country representatives to fight in Ragnarok Online, everyone tunes to one of the huge projector screens in the venue hall. They hoot when something amazing happens on screen when to the untrained eye you wouldn’t figure out anything but some white flash.


This is the lucrative gaming market in the Philippines that extend beyond PC and Console gaming. Every year, there is at least one Massively Multiplayer Online company that pops out of nowhere with a new game. The biggest in the country right now is Level-Up Games and E-Games but there are tons of smaller companies trying to be the next big thing for local gamers offering everything from a chatroom to a dance game.

Some people keep on saying that there is no market in the Philippines...well looking at the turn-out for Level-Up Live 2008 as well as the RAN Online Philippine Event, I say they are NOT entirely correct. But these MMO games offer something different compared to the default PC and Console gaming experience. First the game is actually given out for FREE (complete with CDs distributed across certain publications and internet cafes). Second, is the relatively cheap way of playing the game with the cheapest game time costing around Php 10.00 (roughly USD 0.25). Third, MMOs are a social game and Filipinos love to socialize. Fourth, someone had enough guts to start a gaming business in this country.

While the circumstances are certainly different from 1st and 2nd world countries, the passion for gaming is burning strong in the hearts of my countrymen and NO ONE CAN DENY THAT. No one can say that there isn’t any market when you have legions of Filipinos wanting to play. The problem is very few people have actually tried to find a good business model that actually fits the default gamer demographic in my country.

Now what does that have to do with console gaming? Right now there are some Internet Cafes / LAN Shops setting up game consoles. This is looking to be a future trend in the local gaming market which is positive news for all the gamers here. Console gaming is not really considering as ‘cheap’ gaming in the Philippines but if these internet shops are able to bring console gaming to the mass market, complete with the online experience present in the next-gen consoles, it should definitely expand the view of the casual Filipino gamer.

I was in college when Ragnarok Online was first introduced in the market. It isn't even 10 years and the business has spawned so many others like it and is still going strong. All it takes is a little patience and a good enough understanding of the Filipino gamer.