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Video Games in Vietnam: Cheat Sheet 2024

Video games in Vietnam are very popular to both play and produce. In fact, one of Vietnam’s biggest companies, VNG, draws most of its revenue from Vietnam’s video game sector. Furthermore, as internet and smartphone penetration continue to grow mobile games in particular continue to pull in millions of dollars in revenue. 

With this in mind, this article covers key regulations, rules, and realities with respect to producing and distributing video games in Vietnam.

Regulations for video games in Vietnam

Video game development and distribution are governed by several key laws.

The Personal Data Protection Decree outlines how data collected by digital service providers should be stored and can be used as well as the rights that consumers have to access their personal data and the right to have their data destroyed on request. 

Data localisation is detailed in the Law on Cybersecurity. This law essentially outlines a firm’s obligations with respect to protecting a user’s information. In particular, for foreign firms, it dictates that Vietnamese user data should be stored in Vietnam.

Furthermore, the law also states that cross-border service providers must establish a local office in Vietnam.

On top of that, video games in Vietnam are also regulated by the Ministry of Information and Communications per Decree 72. This is with respect to the content contained therein, for example, games set in the Vietnam War must follow the Government of Vietnam’s official narrative about the war.

Distributing video games in Vietnam

To distribute video games in Vietnam a company needs to establish a local office. If a foreign firm establishes a company in Vietnam to produce or disseminate video games it must be a joint venture and the foreign firm can only own a maximum of 49 percent.

That said, in practice, a number of firms have failed to comply with the establishment of a local office, yet continue to provision games online.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Communication told Netflix it will need to stop advertising its video games on its platform and that it would need to remove them from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store by April 15 of this year. Netflix, however, to date is still advertising video games on its platform.

That said, these laws are sometimes enforced.

Video game distribution platform Steam went offline earlier this month reportedly at the request of local game developers, but technically because it did not have a local office. This, however, may have been more of an act of protectionism rather than a problem with the content Steam was providing–decisions of this nature are notoriously opaque.

Access to video games in Vietnam

Cyber cafes

Video games are played widely around Vietnam. There are cybercafes in the big cities on just about every corner. These are almost always filled with young Vietnamese playing a broad range of video games.

Mobile games

By far the most popular means of playing video games is via smartphones. Vietnam had a smartphone penetration rate of 71 percent as of 2020. It also had an internet penetration rate, as of January 2023, of 79.1 percent. These two technologies have made mobile gameplay hugely popular and common all over Vietnam.

Making video games in Vietnam

Coders and video game designers are relatively cheap compared to developed markets like the United States or Europe. That said, skilled workers can sometimes be hard to come by and demand generally outstrips supply which is pushing up wages in the sector. It is not uncommon for workers in game design and production to have no formal coding education.

Wages for developers in Vietnam can be anywhere from VND 17 million or US$688 to VND 43 million or US$1689 a month, with a median pay rate of VND 27 million or US$1061, according to data compiled by Glass Door.

Ubisoft Vietnam

French video game developer, Ubisoft, has been producing video games in Vietnam for a number of years. With offices in central Vietnam’s Danang, it employs upwards of 100 creatives on a number of tasks for its product lines.

Sky Mavis

The creators of the NFT-based video game Axie Infinity, Sky Mavis, which went viral back in 2021 when it was valued at over US$1 billion, are based in Ho Chi Minh City. This is one of the more successful video games created in Vietnam and saw a huge boom in NFT-based game production in Vietnam. That said, this boom was only temporary with many of these games abandoned after running out of motivation and/or money.

Flappy Birds

The mobile game Flappy Birds was possibly Vietnam’s most well-known video game export. It’s estimated that the game was pulling in upwards of US$50,000 a day for its creator Nguyen Dong. Dong, however, took the game offline back in 2014 after it became ‘too addictive’.

What’s next?

The video game business in Vietnam can be tricky. There are a number of rules and regulations that firms need to navigate in order to produce or distribute their games.

That said, Vietnam’s economy is developing rapidly and rules, regulations, and realities are prone to change quickly. With this in mind, video game makers and aficionados can make sure they are abreast of all of the latest developments by subscribing to the-shiv.

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