If you played a game on your smartphone in February, there’s a good chance it was Flappy Bird, a Vietnamese mobile app that took the gaming world by storm.
According to Mary-Anne Lee for Games in Asia in Singapore, even professional gamers in Singapore couldn’t help but take notice.
“The internet just blew up with news of Flappy Bird. It was ridiculously difficult and ridiculously addictive. I think what Flappy Bird has done for the country is given it the courage to realize, hey, we may not be Japan or Korea, but we do have the ability to produce something as groundbreaking as Flappy Bird. And I think after this, it’s very possible for a lot more companies to follow.”
Flappy Bird brought Vietnam some global fame but Ngo Luyen, who founded DivMob to develop apps, says the gaming industry here was under way long before then.
“In the past year, the mobile phone market in general and the gaming apps market in particular have developed really quickly. A year ago, there was a huge gap between the quality of products here and Japanese products. But the quality has changed rapidly — it’s constantly getting better.”
Vietnam has many ingredients for a potential gaming industry: a young population; wide internet penetration; and more phone subscriptions than there are people.
Ngo Luyen explains that gaming also attracts Vietnamese because it’s not expensive. “The cost to develop a mobile game is really, very low, compared with the cost to develop a computer or online game. For PC games, a group of three or four people would really struggle to make a good product. But with mobile games, the same group could create a product of international quality.”
The low barrier to entry is what allows independent developers like Nguyen Tan Loc to experiment with new ideas for game apps.
“The greatest feeling comes not when we finish the app, but while we’re developing it. For example, we finish a design, but then we get another idea, and we change the design around and try it out. And if it works, it’s really exciting. What’s really special is, if we give our game to other people to play and they like it, we’re really happy.”
The government is investing in the technology sector, too. It has laid out a roadmap to make Vietnam a technology hub by 2020, according to Tech in Asia writer Le Dang Hieu.
“The way it affects the gaming industry is, they are supporting IT and there are also a lot of programs for educational purposes. And you can see that there are a lot of games training courses, and institutions are starting to pay attention to the game industry.
The world is paying attention to Vietnam’s gaming industry, too — and wondering if there could be another hit like Flappy Bird in Vietnam’s future.