6waves’ Stephen Lee offered insights on the nuances of the games markets in Asia during his recent Casual Connect lecture. “The most common misconception is ‘the Asian market,'” he says. “This term in itself is pretty misleading. Asia is not one single market. It’s billions of people in dozens of countries and hundreds of languages.” For his tips and a list of common misconceptions about the region, see the video below.
Stephen Lee is the Executive Director of Business Development at 6waves, a leading publisher of mobile and social games, promoting games in over 150 countries across the world. Recently he described his work and how it can benefit game developers to GameSauce.
Loving Life in the Industry
Casual Connect: Tell us about the work you do at 6waves. How did you come to work there?
Stephen Lee: I lead the publishing at 6waves — finding great games to launch and (hopefully) making them successful. I just happened to be looking for a change in my career, saw the opening and went for it — so I guess you could say I stumbled upon the job through luck!
GS: What is your favorite thing about your job?
Stephen: The favorite part is meeting and talking with fellow gamers and industry folks — more often than not they blow the typical “gamer” stereotypes out of the water and are really talented and fun people.
GS: Have your past career experiences helped you in your position with 6waves?
Stephen: Consulting and working in both North America and Asia has helped me develop the flexibility to successfully connect with people in the industry all over the world. As an entrepreneur, I can also empathize with many indie developers in terms of running a startup and trying to make calculated risks on the path to success.
GS: What inspired you to pursue this career?
Stephen: It’s pretty rare for people to A) enjoy work and B) work in an industry they’re passionate about. As a lifelong gamer, this is definitely my dream come true.
Career Wins & Challenges
GS: What are some of the challenges you have faced in your work with 6waves?
Stephen: The biggest challenges have been adapting to a fast-moving industry. When 6waves first exploded, it was all about social (Facebook) games, which initially grew from very simple viral apps to full-featured, immersive game experiences. We’ve had to roll with changes to the platforms as well as changing trends. In a short period of time, we’ve also made the difficult transition to mobile publishing, which is even more expensive and competitive. I believe we’ve successfully weathered and adapted by keeping a lean team, by taking calculated risks, but also by not being afraid to make difficult decisions and to change direction quickly.
GS: What has been the proudest moment of your career?
Stephen: Probably my first solo lecture, which (if I remember correctly) was delivered to a room full of very intimidating-looking developers in Kyiv, Ukraine. Although we’ve had a lot of success with partners in Eastern Europe, I recall being very nervous, and luckily things went very well. It was pretty exhilarating to get such great reception and feedback, and the experience gave me a lot of confidence moving forward.
The Game Plan
GS: What do you believe will be the next big trend in the industry in the next three to five years? How are you incorporating this trend into your future plans?
Stephen: There’s been a lot of hype around VR and wearables — it’s still early, but the potential is there. A lot of this is also the function of the saturation of the mobile industry and developers looking for new platforms and technologies to stake a claim in early. Hopefully more platforms will continue to emerge, as this can only be good for developers. I also see mobile slowly maturing in emerging markets such as Southeast Asia and Latin America, as infrastructure and handset penetration continues to improve in those regions.
GS: What has been the most effective form of marketing for 6waves?
Stephen: At 6waves we take a “hyperlocal” approach, starting with culturalization of the games to make them as appealing as possible for local players. This has worked really well for us, especially in our home territory of Hong Kong. In terms of marketing, we also like to think outside the box and figure out how to make the biggest impact on the local market.
The Developer-Publisher Relationship
GS: What do you look for in a game?
Stephen: I’m constantly downloading and trying out new games on a daily basis, and unfortunately there are so many similar ones that all “fast-follow” each other. While I can’t quantify a specific element, a game really has to bring something new, unique or interesting to the table for me to spend more time with it. If it retains well, and I still find myself playing it after a day or two, we may be onto something.
GS: What is important to keep in mind when working with developers?
Stephen: I find it’s most important to understand the needs of your developer partners and how you can help emphasize their strengths and augment their weaknesses. As publishers we have the ability to launch more than one title — sometimes a studio may not be able to, so we have to make sure we do as much as we can to try and get it right.
GS: What should developers look for in a publisher?
Stephen: Developers should look for a few key factors: first of all, what is their track record? Does the publisher have the market expertise in the area I’m targeting? How strongly do they feel about my game(s) — will I be getting care and commitment, or will my launch be just one of many? Finally, do they understand my game, and how they can add to what I’m trying to achieve?
GS: Why is it beneficial to work with a publisher?
Stephen: Publishers provide resources, infrastructure and scale that most developers would not be able to replicate easily. They also absorb launch risk and provide valuable experience and expertise in marketing, user acquisition and retention. Lastly, most developers I’ve met really want to just focus on making great games — a good publishing partner can help take care of the rest.
GS: Are you a gamer? What are some of your favorites and why?
Stephen: Too many to list, but in general, I like games that can be played socially/cooperatively, either online or side-by-side with friends. I loved River City Ransom for the original NES. Rainbow Six, Diablo II, Rock Band, Portal and FIFA, of course. Lately I’ve been trying to stick with Destiny. With less time to play these days, co-op is a must — it’s one of the easiest ways to keep in touch with friends!
GS: What do you do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
Stephen: In my free time I like to experience as much as I can — this usually means travel, or piggybacking off of industry events to see or try something new, especially if there is a music festival happening. Finally, this may not be the biggest shocker, but I also play games.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.