The growth of the Southeast Asian mobile game market has been touted for many years, but the revenue base has been small compared to more established markets. Could 2016 be the year of the fastest-growing region in games? At Casual Connect Asia, this panel of experienced game publishers in Southeast Asia will discuss strategies for growth and revenue in the region. Niel Dagondon, general manager for Philippine-based Anino Playlab, suggests: “If you optimize the payment enough and if you have the right product, and if the game is social enough especially in countries of the Philippines and Thailand where people are social media addicts, it gets to the point where it starts to be profitable for us.”
Niel Dagondon is the General Manager of Manila studio Anino Playlab – formerly known as Anino Games until its acquisition by Playlab in 2014. Niel manages the day to day operations of the Manila studio and looks for other developers that Playlab can partner with for publishing.
“When I started the first Philippine development studio 15 years ago, it was a necessity since there were no other studios at that time,” said Niel. “I needed to give local talent a chance to turn their passions into a career. Otherwise, they would have either shifted to different professions or gone abroad and the local community would have lost them.”
Niel likes the fact that working for business development offers the opportunity to meet talented people from all over the world. Making a game that’s successful is difficult, even with many talented professionals. This is why sharing best practices is so key, and is one of Niel’s favorite parts of the job.
10 Heads are Better than One
Niel was well on the path to making games back in grade school, creating their own games in Visual Basic back when only 12 years-old. They also used a hex editor to change around, save and config files in order to hack games. It wasn’t until college when Niel built a Space Invaders clone for their first project that they knew it was the career path for them.
“I am now more scientific in my approach to game development,” said Niel. “I identify a couple of game design mechanics that I enjoy, and then ask the question, ‘what is it missing’, ‘how do I improve it’. Once I get that ‘aha’ moment, then I build the game around it.”
Niel also benefits from the ideas and inspiration from all their team members. “10 heads are better than one,” they said.
A seminal moment for Niel was being able to release the first retail game developed in the Philippines. They admit it isn’t their best game, but being able to make a path for others to follow was a huge honor. Niel explains that this happened at the time when Internet penetration was very poor in the Philippines and they had to learn game development from books.
While games are easier to make these days, the situation just leads to new issues for Anino Playlab to deal with. “Game development is very unforgiving these days. I believe it’s now something like 900 app submissions per day,” noted Niel. “There is no room for mistakes and getting everything right (not just the development part, but all the other aspects such as social features, monetization features, user acquisition, the right icon, etc) is crazy difficult. Even the most talented teams make mistakes.”
“Metrics aside, reading positive reviews from people you don’t know is still a treat.” they added.
Developers Are Built Differently
From the publishing side, Niel notes that developers should consider what a publisher can do with their resources for localization, Q&A and marketing. They add that the publisher should believe in the product and not just want to diversify their portfolio.
Having had to pick games for business development, Niel looks at titles that have well-made social features that monetize well. The game should be fun, addicting and with lots of replayability as well. As a game developer, Niel appreciates where game creators are coming from as well.
“Developers are built differently,” Niel noted. “It is always important to understand their background and what their motivations are, as well as assess how business-savvy their approach is to creating their game.”
Don’t Sleep on South East Asia
Going forward, Niel sees gaming coming to many unconventional devices, like smart TVs, watches, VR/AR goggles and the like. They think there hasn’t been a killer app yet since people are still learning the strengths of those platforms, though they expect there will be some global hits soon.
“Another trend I foresee is that emerging markets such as most of South East Asia, will become viable markets on their own, as payment gateways become more integrated so developers no longer need to rely on advertising for those markets,” says Niel.
David Radd is a staff writer for GameSauce.biz. David loves playing video games about as much as he enjoys writing about them, martial arts and composing his own novels.