10 Cities for Global Gamers to Watch

Where are the world's gamers?

Gaming has come a long way since its beginnings as a niche hobby. In the past few decades, it’s developed into a nearly $200 billion industry with an increasingly diverse array of gamers, developers, and spectators alike.

These days, it’s not uncommon to join an in-game chat and hear multiple languages — there may be players speaking English, Japanese, Russian, and Portuguese, all at once. Video games have become a great equalizer, with the biggest titles attracting players from all over the globe.

So where are gamers gaming? Here are 10 cities for global gamers to watch.

1. Seoul, South Korea

Staking a claim as the most game-obsessed country since before the turn of the century, South Korea’s gaming community is unparalleled in its dedication to the craft. South Korea’s early enthusiasm for LAN centers and MMORPGs laid the foundation for the republic to become the world’s eSports capital.

Though platformers and role-playing games still have their place among Korean gamers, many gravitate toward competitive games such as League of Legends, FIFA, and Overwatch. Young gamers gather in PC bangs — LAN centers equipped with high-performance gaming PCs — to play these titles together as a social activity.

eSports is so influential in South Korea’s social sphere that top competitors are held with near-mythical regard, surpassing even some traditional celebrities. This isn’t without precedent, as the Korean eSports Association (a subset of the Korean-based International Esports Federation) has representatives on the National Olympic Committee of South Korea and even a dedicated television station. As eSports continues to become a more respected and recognizable activity, South Korea’s nearly 5,000 professional players will usher the industry into a new era.

2. Tokyo, Japan

Often thought of as the birthplace of modern gaming, Japan and its game developers have been instrumental in the growth of the industry. The country’s rapid advancements in hardware and software jumpstarted the global phenomenon we know and love today, with founding developers like Nintendo, Sega, and Sony still going strong.

Tokyo’s size, density, and unique culture make it a mecca for gaming enthusiasts. In addition to countless AAA studios, the city is home to the underbelly of the competitive gaming world, where things like speedrunning and rhythm games are king. One of the world’s largest gaming events, Real-Time Attack, is held semi-annually in Tokyo. The event champions gamers’ dedication to their favorite titles, as players learn a game inside and out (often exploiting bugs and glitches) to beat it at breakneck speeds. For example. the current world record for Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time — a game that would normally play through in 30-40 hours — currently clocks in at just under 6 minutes.

In addition to its gaming events, Tokyo houses thousands of arcades, where you’ll find salarymen side-by-side with school students. One popular arcade genre, rhythm games, includes titles like Dance Dance Revolution, Sega Maimai, and Taiko no Tatsujin. These games require players to stick to a precise rhythm, hitting “notes” with their hands, feet, and even drumsticks. Their demand for lightning-fast reflexes and agility makes them some of the most competitive games in the world, despite some having no multiplayer function.

It goes without saying that Tokyo’s unique role in the development of the gaming industry has bred a gaming culture unlike any other.

3. Hangzhou, China

Hangzhou is well-recognized as a hub for Chinese tech startups, with massive conglomerates like the Alibaba Group originating in the area. As the tech and gaming industries are so deeply intertwined, it’s unsurprising that Hangzhou is also a hotspot for video game development. Hangzhou-based publisher NetEase is valued at over $57 Billion and boasts numerous popular titles such as Onmyoji and LifeAfter.

Hangzhou’s influence in the gaming sphere goes much further than housing a few studios — after opening an extravagant eSports town in 2018, the city pledged approximately $14 million in annual funding to support the development of video games and the eSports industry.

As eSports evolves, Hangzhou continues to be an industry pioneer. The city has been selected to host The 19th annual Asian Games, which recently adopted eSports as a medal event. Featured games include FIFA 23, Dota 2, and PUBG, among others. This historic event will solidify Hangzhou’s status as a gaming giant.

4. Malmö, Sweden

Malmö, Sweden’s third-largest city, serves as the country’s IT hub and boasts a robust gaming infrastructure. Local studios like Massive and Mojang (of Minecraft fame) have catapulted Sweden to the forefront of the gaming world, but Malmö’s claims to fame go much further. In addition to over 30 publishers, nearby Malmö University attracts top industry talent and trains the next generation to pioneer the games of the future.

Most extraordinarily, Malmö’s gaming industry is driven by a collaborative spirit. Companies work with one another to foster curiosity, ingenuity, and passion — this sense of community led Malmö’s many gaming institutions to establish Game Habitat, a member organization focused on supporting the development of the region’s gaming economy. In 2017, the organization partnered with startup incubator Minc to break down barriers to entry and encourage diversity within the gaming industry.

“People here are very keen on helping each other. The gaming community in Malmö is the friendliest and most supportive in Europe,” says Game Habitat CEO Peter Lubeck. From Malmö’s The Game Assembly technical arts training program to its Nordic Game Conference and beyond, the Swedish city will continue to strive for an inclusive and innovative gaming world.

5. Bucharest, Romania

Romania’s game development industry is one of the fastest growing in the world. According to the Romanian Game Developers Association, the 228+ game companies in the country generated $312 million in revenue in 2021 — a 17% percent YoY increase which has amounted to the industry more than doubling over the past 5 years.

Bucharest alone is home to over 110 developers including the domestic Amber Studio, as well as multinational giants Ubisoft and Electronic Arts. Ubisoft Bucharest has grown to be the 2nd largest Ubisoft studio worldwide, while EA Romania spearheads development on the ever-popular FIFA games. With its steady growth, the Romanian gaming industry is expected to reach a market volume of $302 million by 2027.

In addition to its impressive catalog of publishers and developers, Bucharest is home to an avid community of players. The annual Bucharest Gaming Week allows local players to compete in eSports competitions and LAN parties, spectate pro-level tournaments, and rub elbows with their favorite streamers and eSports celebrities. Bucharest is also the host of the annual esports summit, which aims to provide participants with an overview of the global eSports ecosystem, trends, and opportunities with an emphasis on Romania’s place within the growing market in Eastern Europe.

6. Singapore, Republic of Singapore

Not to be left behind, Singapore also boasts an impressive gaming culture. Studies indicate that Singaporean gamers spend more time gaming every week than either their Japanese or South Korean counterparts. Unlike in China and South Korea, much of that playtime is split among gaming consoles, PCs, and smartphones. As one of the most multicultural states in the world, it should come as no surprise that Singapore’s gamers are so diverse.

With official languages comprising Malay, Tamil, Chinese, and English, Singapore’s gaming community is also very multilingual. According to Chris Tran, head of SEA Esports at Riot Games, Singaporeans have access to entertainment from all over the globe, which makes the republic a prime market for embracing global trends, including gaming. Despite being smaller than its counterparts by volume, Singapore’s gaming market has massive potential for growth.

The rapidly emerging games market in Singapore is supported by both professional conferences and consumer-focused conventions that champion the variety and accessibility of Singapore’s gaming scene. The annual two-day GameStart event showcases new games, eSports events, and cosplay competitions, while Gaming Matters, a major conference, connects industry leaders with startups, advertisers, and up-and-coming audiences.

7. Los Angeles, United States

With over 900 active games companies that employ 30,000+ people, California may be the game development capital of the world. Los Angeles is home to many industry giants, including studios like Riot Games, Electronic Arts, and Nintendo America. In addition to its many game publishers and developers, Los Angeles hosts some of the industry’s biggest events. One of these events is the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), which is considered to be the most impactful annual gaming exposition in the world. Every year, fans eagerly await announcements from their favorite developers, publishers, and hardware manufacturers at this massive expo.

Los Angeles’ success in the gaming industry stems from its rich pool of local talent, who come from backgrounds in Hollywood and film animation. The city has no shortage of CGI developers, writers, or voice actors, making the game development process more accessible. The presence of former Pixar employees and Hollywood A-listers in games continues to increase new titles’ notoriety and strengthen the idea of gaming as an art form. Rocket Sound, a Lionbridge Games studio based in LA, is at the center of the action, sourcing elite talent from the area to provide top-quality voice production and sound engineering services.

LA’s connection to the world of cinema has culminated in countless movie-based video games, but an emerging trend sees those roles reversed — these days, games function as fresh source material for the big screen. Movies like Sonic the Hedgehog and the highly anticipated Super Mario Bros., two game-based titles, are shining examples of how the Los Angeles gaming scene has cultivated new avenues for game franchises to deepen their connection with fans.

8. Warsaw, Poland

96% of Poland’s video games are exported, making it the 4th largest games exporter in the world. Over 440 game companies are operating out of Poland, with Warsaw at the heart of it all. CD Projekt RED, Europe’s most valuable game company, is based in Warsaw with a market value estimate of $8.12 Billion. This is thanks in large part to The Witcher series, whose third installment is one of the most-awarded video games of all time. Another Projekt RED title, Cyberpunk 2077, became the fastest-selling PC game ever, logging the most concurrent steam players ever recorded within 2 hours of launch.

According to polskigamedev.pl, Polish developers release upwards of 400 games per year. This is partly due to Poland’s exceptionally high IT literacy rate and abundance of programming, arts, and design courses. However, there’s another factor that allows the Polish games market to be so prolific — its gamers. Roughly half of the country’s population are avid gamers, and even the government has recognized the local gaming industry as a source of national pride. The Warsaw Stock Exchange has created a special gaming index to promote growth exclusively amongst gaming companies.

The success and recognition of the country’s gaming industry have opened doors for Poland’s gamers to turn their passion into a career. Warsaw has become a hub for game testing, where players push the limits of (and often break) new games so developers can identify bugs, enhance gameplay, and revise localization before release. Lionbridge Games has claimed a stake in the local talent pool with its Warsaw Lab. As Poland’s gaming market continues to grow, Warsaw will remain a big player in the global gaming scene.

9. London, England

London has long been a major player in game development with over 600 studios, including big names like EA, Rockstar, Ubisoft, and Square Enix. The city is a hotspot for engineering and design talent and provides plenty of growth incentives to publishers and developers through government tax relief programs, Community Interest funding, and games-specific venture capitalism.

Innovative advances in gaming tech continue to drive growth in the UK’s video game market — events like the annual London Games Festival bring developers, investors, and gamers together to champion cutting-edge ideas, support up-and-coming game developers, and inspire the talent of tomorrow. Red Bull also has a strong presence in London’s gaming scene, hosting eSports tournaments, training sessions, and workshops at its public Gaming Sphere studio. The venue aims to enable professional and amateur gamers, content creators, and fans to hone their skills and pursue their passions.

On the consumer side, the London Gaming Market brings retro hobbyists and vendors together every four months in the heart of London for one action-packed day. The event averages hundreds of exhibitors and tens of thousands of visitors, making it Europe’s biggest celebration of gaming history.

10. São Paulo, Brazil

Latin America is one of the world’s fastest-growing game markets, showing steady YoY growth and a projected market volume of $4.3 Billion by 2027. The region’s leading city for gameplay and development is São Paulo, Brazil.

As the 13th largest games market in the world, Brazil boasts millions of players and a plethora of game startups, many of which are domestic. São Paulo is home to many indie developers that have brought the city into the spotlight. Since 2012, São Paulo has hosted the Brazil Independent Games Festival, which serves as the premier opportunity for smaller developers to release and promote their new games.

With the Brazilian games market slated to keep on growing, São Paulo will likely continue to be a hotbed of gaming activity, with many developers aiming to go global. To meet the ever-growing demand for Latin American localization, Lionbridge Games has opened office in São Paulo, complete with state-of-the-art recording and mixing facilities.

The Takeaways

In addition to established players like Tokyo, Seoul, and LA, other cities across Europe and South America are beginning to have a major hand in the gaming industry. The globalization of the gaming industry has opened new avenues for game localization. For example, we’ve seen an increase in intra-Asian translation, which bypasses English as a pivot language. We’re also seeing a continuation of Asian developers bringing their games from Asia to North America, Europe, and South America.

As gaming becomes an increasingly global phenomenon, audiences will grow larger and more diverse. It’s more important than ever for gaming companies to proactively translate and localize their games content for international distribution. With obscure markets expanding and unorthodox language pairs becoming increasingly popular in the games sector, it can be difficult to find a Language Services Provider that can handle your localization needs. Lionbridge Games is an industry leader in video game globalization and publishing services. With over 25 years of experience, we have what it takes to make your game go global. Want to learn more about we can help?

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Abigail Smathers