Starcom launches game unit in Asia

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[Hong Kong] Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group has opened Starcom Play, a unit dedicated to leveraging video games to help marketers reach consumers in Asia. Cities such as Beijing and Tokyo are teeming with gaming cafes, though many Asians are moving from computers and consoles to hand-held devices enabled with SMS-based games. In the U.S. SMG opened SMG Play in Chicago last year. Asia's online-gaming market, excluding Japan, generated $761.5 million in subscription revenue in 2003, and the market is expected to grow about 19% annually, according to IDC, led by South Korea with 2003 subscription revenue of $397 million in 2003, and China, with the world's fastest-growing pool of online game players. To tap this market, Starcom Play will develop marketing opportunities such as promotional programs, virtual events, sponsorships, in-game product integrations and marketing alliances. "We need to be in that space and we'll be the first ones in Asia doing it," said Blaise D'Sylva, Starcom's CEO Northeast Asia, Hong Kong.