The business was developing serious gaming and gamification activities within their digital agency, so he and his partner made the switch.
Alban Villani, Managing Director at Forever Young Creative, started off interested in the animation and cinema industries, but soon discovered many similarities between what he was doing and the game production process. He had learned to manage creative and technical teams with a strong ROI focus as a result of being in charge of a digital advertising agency since 2008, so felt that he may be able to handle the work that was recently starting at Forever Young Group. The business was developing serious gaming and gamification activities within their digital agency, so he and his partner made the switch. Now he stays in the industry because he finds creating games a breath of fresh air compared to their typical clients’ requirements. He enjoys every day at work as he meets and interacts with amazing people. But if Alban were not involved in this industry he would be opening some other new start-up company.
The release of Forever Young Creative’s main game was a tremendous challenge for Alban, primarily because they were working on it in parallel with their core activity of digital advertising. This required many hours of extra work while their revenues were shrinking. He emphasizes, “You must stay focused in order to survive.” However, he was excited to announce the release of their new game, Clash of Words, during the summer of 2013, which will be cross-platform and fully social. They also expect to announce a publishing partnership with a major regional player in June 2013.
As Alban stays focused on his work, he sees Asia becoming the defining market in mobile gaming. While there are impressive gaming companies in the US and Nordic regions, the mobile consumption in Asia is particularly exciting, especially since many Asian regions, such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, are just getting started in the mobile market. However, he considers that the excitement surrounding HTML5 is a short-sighted analysis of where the market is heading.
As soon as a few developers begin making considerably more money than those who are monetizing solely through virtual currency, real money revenues will become essential as acquisitions costs rise.
Jonathan Flesher is the Executive Vice President for Business Development at Betable, a company that is changing entertainment by merging the worlds of gaming and casino-based entertainment. For developers who want to offer real-money play in their games and apps, Betable legally enables them to do so without having to acquire their own licenses.
Jonathan runs Betable’s business development and partnerships. Because Betable is an early stage start-up, he is involved in many aspects of the business, from signing development partners, to working to obtain licenses in new jurisdictions, to signing vendor contracts. His previous work with Zynga and Electronic Arts has given him valuable perspective in this new company, which is a platform that partners with game developers. He came with a set of contacts and friends in the industry, as well as an understanding of what it is like to be in their shoes and what issues are important to them.
He joined Betable when he realized how deeply the social and mobile gaming ecosystems would be affected by real-money gaming. As soon as a few developers begin making considerably more money than those who are monetizing solely through virtual currency, real money revenues will become essential as acquisitions costs rise. He has already seen the signs of this happening in the UK as online gambling companies start to view virtual as an attractive customer acquisition channel. Betable offers developers a new and complementary way to significantly monetize their user base through real money play. The worlds of real money play and virtual currency are now starting to converge and Betable provides developers with the tools to succeed in this new landscape.
Asia’s Role in the Industry
Asia, as a leader in online and mobile gaming, as well as home to some of the top development talent in the world, is a key component in the game industry as it moves to include real money play. Jonathan believes these outstanding developers will play an important role in making real money content for the global market place. Since online real money play is a regulated industry and not currently allowed in most Asian markets, conferences such as Casual Connect are essential to make connections with local developers that have been successful on a global scale.
Jonathan emphasizes that establishing strong connections in Asia is crucial to Betable’s business, with the ability to partner with developers in this part of the world a major success factor in their real money platform. He says, ”We hope to catch up with existing partners and meet developers interested in learning more about how Betable can help them grow their businesses and offer consumers the best possible real money play experiences.”
What’s the Best Deal?
One of the most significant points in Jonathan’s career came when he learned that the product has to drive the deal or partnership that a company enters into, rather than the reverse. He tells us, “A very smart mentor of mine once said to me that he didn’t care how good the deal was if he didn’t believe in the product. Start with the product first and the deal will naturally follow.” And, Jonathan maintains, your engineering and product teams will thank you.
The best advice Jonathan has for making a better product is to make games fun.
The best advice Jonathan has for making a better product is to make games fun. He claims that, although this idea is simple enough, we often lose sight of the intangible quality that makes a game entertaining. He quotes a great game developer, Mark Skaggs, who told him, “I wasn’t successful in game development until I stopped making games I wanted to play and started making games other people wanted to play.” Jonathan adds, “Once you have that essential element of fun, then you can leverage all the great analytical tools to make it even better.”
Jonathan came from financial services before joining the video gaming world. But it took him a long time to understand that the “best” deal was not necessarily the “right” deal. He insists, “In many ways, getting the best deal terms on either side of the table can be counterproductive to a long-term partnership. It’s not a zero sum game.” He feels the best deal is a “balanced deal”, one which each partner can lean into and invest in the relationship. But there is an art to figuring out this balanced deal and it often requires considerable creativity.
“With servers already available in the US, Europe, Korea, Singapore, our launch in Japan brings Exit Games one step closer to our goal of global low-latency Photon Cloud game servers to players all around the world.”
Exit Games, the technology company that builds Photon – a realtime, cross-platform multiplayer engine – has a passion for making the development of multiplayer, real-time, cross-platform games available to developers around the world. Photon powers some of the most contemporary high-profile online cross-platform realtime multiplayer games like Codemaster’s F1 Online – the Game, Cmune’s Überstrikeand the hilarious Offensive Combat by U4IA. Tom Sperry, as Head of Business Development for Exit Games Inc., shares the passion for making great multiplayer game experiences available on any platform the players want to play.
Photon Cloud Servers now Available in Japan
At Casual Connect Asia, Tom announced that Exit Games that Photon Cloud was now live and hosted in Japan. With this new launch, Photon Cloud’s “forever free” platform for multiplayer online gameplay brings low-latency access to Northern Asia. Tom explains, “With servers already available in the US, Europe, Korea, Singapore, our launch in Japan brings Exit Games one step closer to our goal of global low-latency Photon Cloud game servers to players all around the world.”
Asia: A Key Multiplayer Games Market
Tom believes Asia to be a key global games opportunity in 2013 – “In Asia, multiplayer gaming is enormous, giving game developers and publishers equally large opportunities.” According to Tom, “Exit Games Photon multiplayer engine is the perfect solution, allowing them to make realtime cross-platform games. The launch of Photon Cloud is the single event that has changed my view of my company.” Using Photon Cloud, any developer or publisher of any size can now create multiplayer games for any device or platform without having to host any infrastructure. It has been successful far beyond their original forecasts. “Multiplayer gaming is ingrained deeply into the gaming culture here in Asia,” he believes, “In combination, Photon Server and Photon Cloud coverage in Asia will vastly increasing a multiplayer game developer’s ability to serve this audience.”
“Asia has always been a key multiplayer games market for PC and console games.” Tom reminds us, “With the amazing growth of the smart phone and tablet market and high-speed cellular data infrastructures, there is an opportunity to let players compete and play in high-quality multiplayer game experiences even on the go. All a developer needs is the technology backbone, the server infrastructure, and the creative drive to make it happen.”
Great People Make Great Games
Tom’s experience with Exit Games inspires him to offer this advice to those who are striving to make a better product. “Understand your target customer and target market. Be super focused and build something different.” He also emphasizes the need to hire great people who believe in you and your vision. “Everyone has triumphs and mistakes in hiring. Be sure you reward your great people, and do not be afraid to ‘trim the fat’ if necessary. It sounds harsh, I realize, but in our hyper-competitive industry, your company needs the best of the best.”
If you want to be a global gaming company and really expand your mobile gaming business, you can’t focus only on the North American market, and in India, the market is very small.
Manish Agarwal, CEO of Reliance Entertainment Digital, states that the three largest markets within Asia are Japan, Korea and China. He feels that if you want to be a global gaming company and really expand your mobile gaming business, you can’t focus only on the North American market, and in India, the market is very small. So, from Reliance Entertainment Digital’s point of view, it is imperative to focus on the East Asia market. This is why they have acquired a studio in Korea and why they are establishing a company in Japan, and are looking at partners in this area and hoping to attract talent in Singpore or other East Asian countries; it is easier for the team to work when they are in the same time zone. In addition, they are looking for a company with IP-based mobile games, and their experience leads them to believe that local IPs would be best.
Ups and Downs
There are a number of challenges Manish sees in the game industry today. The first is the discovery of games in the app stores, making the cost of marketing go up. The second is that as the number of developers goes up, the expectations for quality in terms of art, design, and creativity also increases. The result is an ever higher cost of development. The third challenge is that with the number of developers increasing, the shelf life of games is decreasing. So even though your costs are increasing, your revenue is decreasing and the probability of success is going down. Whether companies are indies or large corporations, they will need to keep realigning their strategies in order to survive in such a difficult market.
Manish believes these challenges will work themselves out. Many developers think that by pumping in a lot of money they are making great mobile games and that the probability of success is strong. But people will discover monetization is not automatic, and it will be necessary to be much more diligent in determining whether to go ahead with projects, look carefully at what will work, and be much more frugal in deciding the mode of titles which will come out. The market sense will force people to take action, and prudent companies will take action faster. He also says that publishers will start to consider carefully the ratings from every mobile developer. Right now, developers and publishers are only looking at acquiring more and more users to improve their ratings rather than considering how much revenue they are generating. As a result, it is the ad networks that are really making money.
For Manish, the biggest challenge has been analyzing in the digital space. In the nine years he has been working in this space, he has discovered how difficult it is to be a part of creating some of the trends rather than just analyzing them. The essential part of succeeding in the digital space is the ability to use the analytical data innovatively to create the next product or service to catapult you in front of the trend. He is able to recognize the shifts that are coming, but to find that creative idea to take advantage of the shift is much more difficult. And it is the first few people who create the new idea who really profit by it.
Reading the Trends
He feels it is imperative to be considering what will be happening nine to twelve months in the future, and planning for product and monetization.
To face this challenge, Manish is using industry meetings and conferences to study what is happening and using the net analytical capabilities to connect the dots on what lies ahead. Then he incorporates what he has discovered into the business strategy and company strategy. He insists, “If you’re not ahead of the curve, you are also not learning a lot behind the curve.” He feels it is imperative to be considering what will be happening nine to twelve months in the future, and planning for product and monetization. He believes these two ideas will change his working style and his thinking. He considers that this is the reason Reliance Entertainment Digital is well-positioned to keep up with today’s fast-changing mobile gaming space. Manish also maintains that it is essential to develop a mindset which is constantly agile and changing; in the digital space, you can’t decide on something and do it for the next twelve months. You must always be nimble, agile and flexible in your thinking. And this is a difficult thing to do because it is not normal to be in a constant state of flux; it is a huge challenge.
Working for an extremely ambitious company, Manish would like to bring Reliance Entertainment Digital’s values of scale and fast execution to the game industry. He tells us Reliance Entertainment Digital has the goal of being the most respected and one of the largest gaming companies in the community. He says, “The pleasure of working with this group is that you get complete empowerment in your strategy direction and in your management focus in day-to-day operations. You really feel charged and motivated to create strategies which can help you meet the vision and establish ourselves as a respected company in line with the other divisions within the group.”
Reliance Entertainment Digital owns ‘RELIANCE GAMES’ which is one of the largest mobile gaming companies in the world with a portfolio of more than 600 mobile games including hits like Real Steel, Total Recall, F1 2011 and the recently launched After Earth- The Mobile Game. More information on www.reliancegames.com
“Driven by economic strength, a growing mass of online users and the regional fondness for gaming, Asia is expected to be the world’s largest gaming market in 2013.”
“Driven by economic strength, a growing mass of online users and the regional fondness for gaming, Asia is expected to be the world’s largest gaming market in 2013,” says John Cheng, Co-founder and COO of Playnomics. “This represents a huge opportunity for gaming companies to engage and reach this audience and monetize in this key market. Additionally, the gaming market in Asia continues to mature quite quickly: many of the innovative business models in gaming have come out of Asia. At Playnomics, we see that two of the areas representing great opportunity and promise in this market are game analytics and enabling brand access to players. Specifically, the ability to mine players for segmenting and targeted messaging, and the creation of a real channel through games for brands to access Asian customers.”
John oversees product and team development at Playnomics, focusing on maintaining a close dialogue with customers and tailoring products to meet their needs. Through his past experience as an investment banker, John brings a deep understanding of how enterprise software transforms industries, and for this reason, has focused on building analytics software to transform the gaming industry. He tells us, “This understanding of enterprise software has been instrumental in the ever-changing start-up environment, and all contribute to the creation of an extremely data driven product.”
Adapting to the Asian Market
For companies attempting to succeed in Asia, the biggest hurdle for growing and monetizing is the ability to adapt to this very different market. Asian gamers in major cities have unique preferences and needs in terms of game design and mechanics, content and incentives, and payment methods. Japanese gamers emphasize character design and character building in games, so arcade games are less likely to perform well there. Chinese players prefer in-app purchasing to subsidize their game play costs; in all other markets, subscription is dominant. At Playnomics, they focus on capturing and analyzing all the data points around how people play and engage. Data targeting and hyper segmentation enables developers to customize the gaming experience to players, ultimately resulting in higher engagement and monetization.
Since the ability to adapt is a key success factor in Asian markets, John feels that gaming companies should put more effort into collaborations, including cross-country and cross-platform. Games should be developed to be more versatile and work across platforms. And gaming companies should seek to leverage partnership advantages when entering Asian markets. At Playnomics, they developed the PlayRM Platform to meet this challenge. It enables gaming companies to segment their players into groups based on their observed and predicted behaviors which enables the delivery of just the right message to the right player at the right time. This is particularly useful in Asia where major markets are all different and unique. Leveraging PlayRM, gaming companies can successfully segment gamers in order to monetize their games locally. In addition, Playnomics unlocks key psychographic profiles of players enabling brands to reach their specific target Asian audience.
John tells us that the greatest moment of his career was when he decided to leave the banking industry to start Playnomics. He asserts, “We’ve captured over one hundred million player profiles across our platform across hundreds of social, mobile and web games. We continually innovate and launch new products that support our partners, and work with more and more of the leading companies in gaming – there’s no place I’d rather be.”
The biggest challenges for any start-up, as John insists, revolve around resources and growth. At Playnomics, they have been quite successful in gaining the support for future growth, recently closing the Series B round led by Vandage Capital. John feels they were helped to gain this support by their track record of proven success and their laser-focused vision as an organization.
Big Ideas in Store
Due to their focus, they have some big ideas that John announced at Casual Connect Asia:
As the market has shifted from boxed products more to free-to-play online experiences, the need for real-time marketing has dramatically increased.
First, PlayRM Behavioral Push is available for iOS and Android developers. A key feature in the Playnomics suite of proactive audience management tools, PlayRM Behavioral Push enables developers to increase user engagement by sending targeted, real-time messaging to individual players based on in-game behaviors. As the market has shifted from boxed products more to free-to-play online experiences, the need for real-time marketing has dramatically increased. Playnomics identified this market need; specifically that a real-time personalized response to players for retention and monetization is the key to success in the free-to-play market.
Second, PlayRM Revenue is a new product offering that enables game developers to monetize players effectively and brands to engage new audiences in a meaningful way. Developers can reach over one hundred million dynamic player profiles across social, mobile and browser games already in the PlayRM platform. Game publishers face the challenge of maximizing revenue from all players – driving revenue from loyal customers and whale spenders – while other players go un-monetized. Within PlayRM Revenue, publishers can protect their best players, and show only third party ads to the player segments they want to monetize to the fullest potential. Brands create demand in the market place by selecting key audience segments to engage with advertising. John is excited that both these products will now be available.
Over the past ten years of teaching game development, Hilmy has discovered through hard experience what works and what doesn’t.
Hilmy Abdul Rahim is a lecturer at KDU University College, Malaysia, teaching game development. He instructs game design, game history and game production processes, focusing on how the game industry works, how past incidences influence present designs and how to do game development projects. Over the past ten years of teaching game development, Hilmy has discovered through hard experience what works and what doesn’t. He is now able to guide other teaching institutions on how to teach game development, as part of the service he and his colleagues offer in Malaysia.
Hilmy’s background includes working as a producer in two different game companies, where he learned how different markets can be. If a game development program focuses only on making games the way AAA games are made, it is ignoring the many other ways games are made and sold. Focusing only on one method is an error because graduates may not work in an AAA company. If they choose to freelance or start their own company, the knowledge of the various ways games can be sold will be vital. Hilmy claims, “As educators, we have to pay attention to odd new ways of making and selling games, since we have to determine if that is what our graduates will eventually need to know.”
Building For the Future
Hilmy admits he got into the game industry by chance rather than choice. In his first job, he was given the responsibility of creating a game development degree program, which was the biggest challenge he has faced so far. Resources were scarce, there were very few game development companies in Malaysia, there were no established textbooks, and there was no support for schools teaching game development. And he was alone. Nevertheless, he created the program. However, the education institution then began using the program without due diligence. He stepped in to teach and improve the material, since students had already signed up to earn a degree in this program. Knowing the material for the program was insufficient, he began making connections with game developers in the industry and constantly learning from them, determined that it was the best way to teach the students and to ensure that they would have what they needed to join the industry upon graduation. This took work, but the work paid off. He passes on this lesson to his students, where they learn the value of creating their own network. Hilmy emphasizes the importance of remaining in touch and current with the industry to anticipate what will be coming in the future.
Over the years, he grew to know people in the industry and how the industry worked. When he left his position, he was invited to join a game development company, and he chooses to remain in the industry because it is filled with people who are willing to help each other. Members of the industry stepped up to help him and his students learn enough to work within the industry. Hilmy believes this kind of support says a lot about their character, and it is a pleasure to work with such people. And, it is fun! Hilmy finds the zaniest conversations in game development studios. Game developers create virtual worlds. Hilmy reminds us that you can’t do this without studying the real world and developing your own unique perspective on how the world works. He says, “Just discussing it is already bizarre, but we have the ability to make something out of these outlandish notions.”
Yet Hilmy still finds excitement in working in the industry, the most exciting part being seeing his students go on to gain positions within the game industry locally and overseas.
But if Hilmy could not be making games, he would still be doing some sort of multimedia programming and artworks. He is interested in both programming and art, and has always been curious to see how they could work together. He would be interested in doing what Yugo Nakamura and Joshua Davis did with interactive art; they made art and tech combinations that capture people’s interest. Yet Hilmy still finds excitement in working in the industry, the most exciting part being seeing his students go on to gain positions within the game industry locally and overseas. He particularly enjoys seeing them featured in videos talking about their products and seeing them succeed in careers they had told him they wanted when they started learning at age eighteen.
He is now working on a project to document how people join the game industry, since this is a common question his students ask developers. If anyone is willing to share, he would like to record and post it online.
Android was a new platform then, but Rovio’s commitment to the platform indicated to Gewben that there was indeed mobile revenue to be made on Android.
Gewben Wu is a Business Development Director at Fortumo, Ltd., an international provider of mobile payment solutions for web services and mobile applications in more than 70 countries. Like other companies at Casual Connect, Fortumo is focus on emerging markets. Gewben states that his entire view of the company changed at GDC 2010, when their close association with Rovio began. Android was a new platform then, but Rovio’s commitment to the platform indicated to Gewben that there was indeed mobile revenue to be made on Android.
At Fortumo, Gewben is responsible for the Asian office, where be brings six years game industry experience in management, sales and marketing. Before joining Fortumo, he helped set-up overseas businesses for several leading Chinese game companies, including Snail Game, Renren Inc. and Perfect World, helping. He feels this experience gives him an advantage in his present position.
“The greatest moment in my career came when I joined the Fortumo team,” Gewben says. “I was able to bring global payment solutions to well-known Asian developers and phone manufacturers. Together, we created totally new things that have benefited the industry.”
Joining Fortumo meant a significant change in direction for him, as the payment solution was quite a departure from a more traditional online game industry. His new role requires him to think differently about industry trends and consider the best ways to promote the Fortumo service to Asian developers and app stores. Now the Fortumo Asian team not only provides a global payment channel, it also helps developers release apps to the worldwide market. The key aspect of the Fortumo service is that it is free.
Focusing on the Big Picture
Gewben has learned to understand what developers are thinking, and discuss what developers want to know, enabling him to help them in different ways. He emphasizes helping people holistically by focusing more on the big picture rather than only what is directly in front of you. He points out that the economies of Asian countries are growing at a phenomenal rate, with over half the population of the world living in this area. By contrast, the Western game market is much more saturated, competition is tough and it is difficult to gain visibility. He says, “Game companies which have been successful in the West have huge revenue potential in Asia simply because of the enormous base of potential users. The greatest difficulty they will face is adapting games to the local culture and playing habits.”
Gewben suggests that mobile operators should carefully consider how they want to be involved in the app ecosystem. He also notes that change in market takes time because the huge telecom companies are working with some solutions that are more than a decade old. In order for operators to stay relevant and provide competition to credit card companies, they must update their payment solutions in cooperation with app developers and mobile payment providers.
At Casual Connect Asia, Gewben announced Fortumo’s partnership with a large Asian phone manufacturer. This was also announced in the Western media.
“Each week, these millions come to us looking to have fun. That’s an awesome responsibility that we take very seriously.”
David Worle is VP of Content Acquisition with WildTangent. He and his team source games for the WildTangent Game Service and work directly with developers to license and publish their games. David continues to be impressed with the scale of this business, in awe of the huge numbers of people playing the games on their service. He says, “Each week, these millions come to us looking to have fun. That’s an awesome responsibility that we take very seriously.”
David has had many milestones in his career, including his first multi-million purchase order from Costco, his first retail game launch, and the first time he produced a game. He says these were all fantastic moments, but what really excites him is the next moment. He insists, “My current list of goals is what really gets my blood pumping when I get drive to work in the morning. How many people get to work in the game industry doing what they enjoy? It’s a privilege I never lose sight of.”
But David’s career has also included challenges. One that stands out to him occurred when he was Director of Sales for a retail software company. His boss wanted him to place a title in a particular store in the US. “I had tried several times with my practiced and somewhat formal sales pitch and had been turned down each time,” he says. “My boss/mentor simply would not accept ‘No’. He just said I had to get it placed. It became a daily point of contention between us. I became desperate and very stressed out. Either I had to give up and quit this job I really loved, or I had to find another way to achieve this objective.”
“Focus on what you want to achieve and make it happen. Kick the door down, climb through the window, do what it takes to reach the objective.”
Running out of ideas, David decided to ditch the formal pitch and try to act more natural. “I called the buyer up, and believe me, she was not eager to hear from me, but after five minutes we were both laughing, and finally, she said ‘Yes,'” he says. “What I realized was that I gave up on myself too early. When I told my boss it was placed, he simply said, ‘I knew you would get it done.’” From then on, David has always focused on the result as more important, rather than the steps taken to get there. “Focus on what you want to achieve and make it happen,” he says. “Kick the door down, climb through the window, do what it takes to reach the objective.”
Additional advice for developers is to take the extra time to polish your game. He tells us, “Nine out of ten titles we see lacks the final effort to make it as good as it should be. That last effort separates the good titles on our service. Also, the monetary performance of a well-polished game versus a game not polished can be one hundred times better. Literally.”
Asia and Beyond
David points out that Asia’s importance in the game market has become increasingly evident. It has become a great source of new games and new monetization models. Free-to-play games were pioneered in Asia, so anyone not paying attention to this area is going to miss out on important trends that will find their way into every market.
At Casual Connect Asia, David announced that WildTangent has new carrier and OEM distribution partnerships, adding AT&T, ASUS and Sony to their other partnerships. He believes the explosion of mobile gaming is the most disruptive opportunity of the past ten years. This opening led WildTangent to expand their game service from PC to Android and to extend mobile into their advertising products.
Through his experience in programming, he is able to serve as a bridge between the technical and creative team members.
Sherman Chin, Founder and Producer at Sherman3D Multimedia Inc, is positive and optimistic about the games industry in Asia. He emphasizes that opportunities abound with a rapidly growing market as well as how accepting players are of different types of games. At Casual Connect Asia, Sherman announced the release of the Japanese version of Alpha Kimori Episode One, a game that has been meticulously localized for the Japanese market and is launched directly from their official website. Seeing the expanding mobile market for games, they are working to expand their mobile development team, as well as working with their cloud gaming partner, OnLive, to make their PC downloadable game immediately available on more platforms, including mobile.
With the help of a talented team of developers, Sherman is the producer of Sherman3D’s games and oversees the entire game development pipeline. Through his experience in programming, he is able to serve as a bridge between the technical and creative team members. As the one responsible for business opportunities for the company, he draws from the insight into the Japanese game market that he developed as a game producer in Tokyo. For external business development, he finds it useful to tap into his large network of contacts in the game development industry.
Highs and Lows
As with most people who are involved in this industry, Sherman has experienced challenges and disappointments, as well as high points in his career. For him, one of the best experiences was having Sherman3D featured in New Strait Times with a full color center page spread and cover in their technology pullout.
Yet what started out as another high point ended up being one of the biggest challenges he has faced. A 3D demo he had coded was to be showcased at E3 2003, but it had to be cancelled when the technology company they had partnered with closed down. He realized then that he needed to focus on the content of game, rather than putting too much emphasis on the technology. Sherman offers this advice on how to make a better product: “For indie JRPG game developers who have grand ideas for their first JRPG, it would be best to flesh out the story using a simple JRPG development tool like RPG Maker XP before being too caught up with the technology.”
“Our experience of working with clients and game publishers enabled us to grow quickly.”
When Founder and Managing Director Reza Razali started Terato Tech four years ago, the company consisted of him and his brother. During these four years, they have grown to a team of thirty-one. They are now able to maintain a positive cash flow and have received many awards for their accomplishments as a company which develops mobile applications, focusing mainly on games development and daily basis software. Reza describes the company as starting out building enterprise mobile apps for clients, serving both domestic and international markets. From there, they grew into building their own IPs. He says, “Our experience of working with clients and game publishers enabled us to grow quickly.”
He has faced many challenges, but one that stands out most to Reza is when a well-known publisher dropped one of their games only a few months after they had signed the contract. It was still necessary for them to continue servicing that IP, but the company and the team persevered. Fortunately, they had healthy revenues from other parts of the business with which they could continue to fund their IP development.
Discoverability and Fundraising
He insists that discoverability is also a problem unless the company has an adequate user acquisition budget or the backing of a well-known publisher.
As for the greatest challenges in the game industry, Reza believes it is discoverability and fundraising. The majority of companies in the area find it necessary to supplement their revenues from IP development with servicing work. It is difficult to raise sufficient funds, and fundraising too early leaves a company vulnerable to a low valuation. He tells us, “I have met various game development companies which gave up 50 percent of the company for less than $10,000 US.” He insists that discoverability is also a problem unless the company has an adequate user acquisition budget or the backing of a well-known publisher. At Terato Tech, Reza works to mitigate these challenges with publishers, partnering, and funding user acquisition. They work with numerous publishers and have successfully launched games in this way. They have allocated adequate funds for their user acquisition activities. And finally, they have partnered with companies such as DeNA which assisted them in producing their next IPs.
Reza emphasizes the need for the industry as a whole to find ways to work with these challenges. He sees Casual Connect Asia as a great initiative, allowing developers within SouthEast Asia to connect where there was previously no similar opportunity. He points out that there is a need for more regional platforms for regional developers to connect. Rather than the challenges, Reza sees tremendous opportunities in Asia. Since SouthEast Asia is home to 550 million people, it is a huge market for game companies. There are now many up-and-coming game developers and exciting IPs coming out of the region, which is way Reza is excited about Terato Tech’s new development, a game development accelerator based out of Malaysia. This accelerator is designed to assist game development companies in South East Asia with accelerating and launching games globally.