The difference in gamer attitudes toward such practices may stem from a difference in cultural norms that have developed as a result of the paths taken by the countries’ gaming markets.
Those industries in the East (with the exception of Japan) and West started at very different points, with legislation and purchasing power playing a role in what games ended up being favored by gamers.
The early days of gaming in the West began with watershed moments such as the creation of Atari’s “Pong” arcade machine in 1972 and the company’s subsequent release of “Space Invaders” on its 2600 console. While those titles ushered in a new era of video gaming in the home, the medium has played out quite differently in Asia.
In some instances, gaming consoles were not even legally recognized by the state and were only available on the black market, as was the case in China from 2000 to 2013, said Lisa Cosmas Hanson, managing partner at Niko Partners.
When the ban was officially lifted in 2015, the price ended up being too high for many Chinese consumers, and not many AAA-titles — blockbuster games — were released in the country, she added.
Instead of playing home consoles with major franchises like “Sonic” or “Mario,” many went to cafes, where personal computers were the device of choice.
“In Asian territories such as South Korea and China, the traditional consumption model has been via the PC and originally internet cafe pre-paid game time or subscription,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, director and head of games research at IHS Markit.
Since many of the consumers in those markets were used to paying recurring costs to game, they have “largely migrated to free games with micro transactions” today, Harding-Rolls added.
Micro transactions are in-game sales made with real money in exchange for additional features such as enhanced abilities, characters or content.
In contrast, he said, legacy markets such as the U.S., Western Europe and Japan tend to have a business model that is more mixed in nature, with micro transactions gradually gaining traction.