Gaming has come a long way since its beginnings as a niche hobby. In the last few decades, it’s developed into a $135 billion industry, complete with professional coaches and huge competitions.
With gaming’s global popularity, it’s perfectly normal to jump on a Steam server and find people speaking Chinese, Portuguese or Russian—or any other language, for that matter. Gaming has become a global phenomenon, with the biggest titles attracting competitive teams from all over the globe.
So where are gamers gaming? Here are 10 cities for global gamers to watch.
1. Seoul, South Korea
Although video games are popular worldwide, the social influence of gaming in South Korea has been unparalleled.
Staking out a claim for the most game-obsessed country since its early enthusiasm for LAN centers and MMORPGs, South Korea is now the world’s capital for eSports events. The Korean eSports association has representatives on the National Olympic Committee of South Korea and even has a dedicated television station.
South Koreans gravitate toward the competitive games that receive the most worldwide attention. These titles include League of Legends, StarCraft, and Overwatch. Young gamers gather in what are known as “PC bangs:” LAN centers equipped with high-performance gaming PCs and the most popular online games. South Korea’s blazing-fast Internet speeds allow homebodies and non-urban residents to enjoy the best of online gaming, too.
2. Tokyo, Japan
Japanese game developers have been instrumental in the growth of gaming. Japanese studios like Nintendo, Sega, and Capcom are household names all over the world. Today, most major Japanese cities have hubs for otaku culture. Tokyo’s size, density, and unique ambiance make it a must-visit destination for gaming fans.
Looking to grab the newest title for the Switch or PS4? Electronics retailers like Bic Camera, Yodobashi Camera, and Sofmap have locations all over the city. What's more, 7-11 even sells code cards for retail games on the Switch and 3DS. On the hunt for an elusive release from a previous gaming era? Take a stroll around Akihabara, Tokyo’s capital for everything geek-culture related and a mecca for game enthusiasts.
Want to get your adrenaline pumping with mech-pilot simulators or a round of Dance Dance Revolution? Head over to a game center like Taito Station, Round One, or any of the various smaller arcades located all over the city. For the Pokémon-obsessed, Tokyo offers four Pokémon Centers within its 23 wards and two more just outside the city limits.
3. Hangzhou, China
Of all the countries represented in this list, China has the most cities that merit consideration. Shanghai hosted Valve’s 2019 International Dota 2 tournament. Chengdu hosts international game developers, publishers, and distributors at its annual GMGC conference.
Hangzhou, however, takes the cake as the top gaming city in China. Look no further than the new and extravagant $280 million “eSports town” the city constructed. The town supports the region’s robust competitive gaming community.
Hangzhou will also soon host the 2022 Asian Games. Instead of constructing one massive gaming complex, the city plans to build 14 new eSports facilities before 2022. These facilities will include an eSports academy and a theme park.
4. Malmö, Sweden
In the south of Sweden, Malmö serves as the country’s IT hub and boasts a robust gaming infrastructure. Local game studios like Massive and Mojang (of Minecraft fame) attract top industry talent. Nearby Malmö University trains the next generation to pioneer the games of the future. Malmö is so influential within the world of gaming that it is scheduled to host Dreamhack's Counter-Strike: Go Masters tournament from 12th to 14th of June 2020.
Malmö also hosts the annual Nordic Game conference, where industry participants and eSports stars network, give talks, and promote the industry.
An a side note, Stockholm of Sweden will soon play host to Valve’s 2020 International Dota 2 tournament.
5. Bucharest, Romania
Romania’s capital and commercial center, Bucharest has a thriving gaming community. Aided by world-class broadband Internet speeds, Romanians mainly enjoy competitive online games like MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) and MOBAs.
Locals celebrate their love of the gaming industry with Bucharest Gaming Week. This annual celebration of the competitive side of gaming embraces titles like FIFA, Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Battlefield, and Fortnite. The 2018 Bucharest Gaming Week served as the location for the first ESL Counter-Strike: Global Offensive open qualifier.
On the development front, publisher Ubisoft maintains a major presence in Romania. Ubisoft uses its resources there to create big-budget games for franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Just Dance.
6. Singapore, Republic of Singapore
Not to be left behind, Singapore also boasts an impressive gaming culture. In fact, studies indicate that Singaporean gamers spend more time gaming on a weekly basis than either their Japanese or South Korean counterparts. Unlike in China, much of that play time is split among gaming consoles, PCs, and smartphones. As one of the world's most multicultural states, Singapore's gamers chat in several languages, including English, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil.
Singaporean gamers enjoy the annual two-day GameStart event. GameStart showcases new games, eSports events, cosplay competitions, and more. From the 15th to 18th of October 2020, the city-state will also have the honor of hosting Gamescom, a major industry event held annually since 2009.
Finally, Singapore hosts the offices of Japanese game companies like Tecmo Koei and Namco Bandai. This makes Singapore appealing not only for hardcore gamers, but also for those interested in game development.
7. Vancouver, Canada
According to the Vancouver Economic Commission, there are more than 170 game development studios in Vancouver alone. These include AAA studios like EA, Nintendo, Microsoft, and a slew of top mobile app developers.
A 12-week summer circuit will soon take place at The Gaming Stadium in Richmond, just outside the city proper. eSports competitions will include League of Legends, Overwatch, Fortnite, and Counter-Strike: Go.
With a beautiful climate and an active local scene, it’s no wonder Vancouver has carved out a top reputation for gaming among North American cities.
8. Budapest, Hungary
After hosting the V4 Future Sports Festival, Hungary cemented its reputation as a legitimate gaming city. eSports like League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Go dominate the Hungarian scene, drawing talented gamers and large crowds alike.
Studies report that, in 2017, as many as 3.7 million people played video games in Hungary, amounting to 58% of the country’s population between the ages of 18 and 65. Most of that game time came from smartphones, with word games, Solitaire, and Candy Crush Saga drawing the majority of users.
9. London, England
London has long been a major player in game development, with major players like EA, Rockstar, Ubisoft, and Square Enix all represented in the city. In addition, the city hosts the annual London Games Festival, which brings developers, investors, and gamers together for an action-packed two-day event.
Red Bull maintains a strong presence in London’s eSports scene, hosting tournaments, training sessions, and workshops at its public Gaming Sphere studio. Special emphasis is placed on games in the fighting and soccer genres.
Game collectors will love the London Gaming Market, which brings retro hobbyists and vendors together every four months in the heart of London.
10. São Paulo, Brazil
Latin America is one of the world’s fastest-growing game markets, with 13.5% YoY growth in 2018. One of the region’s leading cities for game play and development is São Paulo, Brazil.
The 13th-largest games market in the world, Brazil boasts 75.7 million players who spent approximately $1.5 billion in 2018. Since 2012, São Paulo has hosted the BIG Festival (Brazilian Independent Games Festival). With the games market slated to keep on growing, São Paulo will likely continue to be a hotbed of gaming activity.
Bonus: Moscow, Russia
Rounding out the top 10 gaming cities comes Russia’s capital city, Moscow.
Despite (or perhaps because of) rampant online piracy, Russia has become one of the largest gaming markets in the world. In the past decade, video games have become so popular in Russia that the government created an eSports Federation and launched an annual eSports conference in Moscow.
Dota 2 is by far the most popular competitive game in Russia, while Counter-Strike: Go and Clash Royale are also popular enough to feature in the 2020 Russian eSports Championship.
On the development front, Moscow also has a bustling startup scene. Many up-and-coming companies are entering the mobile, VR, or MMORPG markets. While it will likely take time for homegrown talent to begin competing with international AAA studios, Moscow is worth watching in the near future.
Asian cities are heavily represented in the video game industry today, with four appearing on this list. While Japan and South Korea are well-established gaming powerhouses, Chinese cities like Hangzhou are quickly emerging as centers for competitive eSports.
Europe also finishes strong with many of the remaining entries. This is due largely to its highly developed online infrastructure and a packed schedule of conferences and competitions.
If there's one trend to note above all, it's that gaming is only growing more popular worldwide. Gone are the days when companies could expect their games to find an audience in just one or two markets. Thus, it’s more important than ever for gaming companies to proactively translate and localize their games for international distribution.
If you’re curious about game localization, reach out to us today. We have over 20 years of experience, and we’d love to help you bring your game to a global audience.