I can still recall spending hours hidden away in my room as child, my only companion a grey box and two little Italian plumbers by the name of Mario and Luigi.
The year was 1988 and I had just received a magical machine that allowed me to race through the Mushroom Kingdom, collecting coins and Fire Flowers in my quest to save the kidnapped Princess Toadstool.
But what was then a revolutionary gaming system, would now be a laughingstock to the youngsters of Generation Z, who plug into the world wide web for their fix of interactive “video” games.
Online gaming — spurred by significant developments made in web browsers and network speed — has turned into a phenomenon that has captured the fascination of Internet users of all ages and hailing from all over the world, including Indonesia.
“The online game industry is growing very rapidly in Indonesia,” said Wida Handoyo, marketing manager of online game publisher Megaxus Infotech.
Research firm Niko Partners confirms Wida’s sentiments, revealing that nearly 20 million players took to the Internet in 2012 for genres ranging from brain teasers to simulations and multi-player, strategy war games.
That year, the burgeoning sector raked in some $88 million.
Since its establishment in 2006, the company has churned out six Internet-based games of various genres that have garnered millions of users around the country. Its most popular release to date is “Audition AyoDance,” an interactive system challenging its players to compete in dance battles.
“We hit the jackpot with ‘Audition AyoDance,’ ” Wida said, adding that the game has attracted more than 11 million fans in Indonesia alone.
Some 40 percent of these players fall between the ages of 15 and 25, and call Jakarta their home.
As a follow up to the game’s massive success, Megaxus recently released a similar product, called “World in AyoDance,” or WIA.
Though WIA may fall under the same genre as its predecessor, Megaxus assures it stands apart and offers users a different experience.
Originally developed and released by South Korean gaming companies T3 Entertainment and HanbitSoft in September, WIA was modified for the Indonesian market, which “is quite large,” said Bambang Budiman, senior content manager of Megaxus.
“And we’re committed to giving new and more exciting games for Indonesian gamers to play,” he said, adding that the publisher is targeting to attract the older range of young adults, which includes ages 17 to 25.
“We’re optimistic that this game will soon become a major hit in the Indonesian market, just like our previous games,” Bambang said.
WIA will also be available next month on mobile devices — both smartphones and tablets — that use the Android and Apple operating systems.
“As we all know, the growth of tablet and smartphone users in Indonesia is quite astounding,” Bambang said.
According to 2013 surveys by Yahoo and Mindshare, the archipelago is home to some 41.3 million smartphone users and 6 million tablet users.
It is predicted that these numbers will more than double within the next three years to 103.7 million and 16.2 million users respective. Roughly 39 percent of these is projected to be between 16 and 21 years old.
WIA is a freemium online game, which means it is available to players for free, but extra costs may be required in order to enhance the appearance or capabilities of an avatar. These add-ons — which range from fashion accessories to game rooms — can be purchased through the game’s “Shopping Mall,” and may cost between Rp 8,400 and Rp 288,000 (68 cents-$23.50) per item.
The great draw from this features is that players would not be required to provide their (or their parents’) credit card numbers, putting to rest any worries about hacking and Internet security. Instead, extra items can be paid for by deducting phone credits or through vouchers available at UniPin.co.id and GudangVouchers.com.
Once users have downloaded the game and registered their necessary details at Worldinayodance.com, they will need to create an avatar.
Finally, a rotating globe featuring various buildings will appear on the screen; beginner are encouraged to go through the game’s tutorial at the Agency building before moving on to the Station icon, where gamers can challenge other online users in a dance off.
“It’s quite fun and relaxing to play the [WIA] game after a tough day at the office,” said Maria Kartika, a junior financial analyst at a private bank in South Jakarta. “I can listen to my favorite songs while playing and challenge other gamers to a dance battle.”
Realizing the massive success of social media platforms in the country, Megaxus incorporated a chat room into WIA, allowing users to interact on a non-competitive level and get to know one another.
“WIA is so cool,” said Widhi Budiyanto, an 18-year-old high school student from West Jakarta. “I’ve made so many new friends from all over Indonesia through the game.”
“I even met my current girlfriend there,” Widhi admitted.
“Avid fans of dance battle games tend to interact socially and become good friends in real life,” Megaxus’s Bambang confirmed.
Megaxus aims to attract 50,000 Indonesian gamers for WIA within the first three months of its release in the country. To reach its target, the online publisher is scheduled to visit several large cities on a roadshow in October and November.
The company will also stage an international WIA tournament in Ciputra Mall, West Jakarta, in December.
“Tens of thousands of gamers from around the world are expected to partake,” Bambang said.