It’s undeniable that the gaming industry is very big, especially in Asia. While the overall global gaming market amounts to an estimated US$70 billion with expected steady growth over the next four years, gaming research company Niko Partners stated that in 2013, the gaming market in China was worth close to US$12 billion, while it was worth US$662 million in Southeast Asia. With this potential growth in mind, the world is keeping an eye on Asia, including the Mobile Entertainment Awards’ “Best Social Games Service Provider” in 2013, BoosterMedia.
Competing against sizable game giants such as GREE and DeNA, BoosterMedia is a worldwide publisher of HTML5 games, with hundreds of games both developed in-house and sourced from third-party developers. Founder and CEO Laurens Rutten was in Bangkok for this week’s Mobile Monday event. Tech in Asia chatted with him about his company and how he sees HTML5 gaming industry trends in Asia.
Asian market growing strong
With its head office in Amsterdam, BoosterMedia recently opened offices in Tokyo and Singapore to focus on Asian markets and facilitate its international growth. For Southeast Asia, the company has a special focus on closing HTML5 distribution partnerships in developing markets such as Thailand.
According to Rutten, in terms of revenue, Japan is the number one mobile gaming market worldwide. BoosterMedia already works with some game companies there to bring Japan-made games to the global scene.
The Singapore office, on the other hand, will focus on bringing the company’s HTML5 platform and games to Southeast Asian markets, particularly Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. With smartphones quickly replacing feature phones, BoosterMedia sees the region as one of the most promising growth-markets in the next few years.
China is a different market, entirely. Rutten commented that even though the country obviously has an enormous potential user base, it requires good partnerships and an excellent team to really make an impact there. Thus, the company has no concrete plans to open a Chinese office at this stage.
Of course, being in Asia means the company must localize. Rutten says the company currently applies two types of localization. The first is simple translation of text, for example in Thai, Bahasa Indonesian, Japanese or Chinese. This works for simple games such as match-three puzzle games. For some higher-end games, though, BoosterMedia has to adjust artwork or even game-mechanics for the specific market. For example, the company is now preparing Mobasaka, a football management game from its Japanese partner Mobcast to be launched in Europe, with a completely new ‘Western’ art-style and UI. Vice-versa, it’s also actually looking for some real Japanese game artists for a new version of the company’s in-house games, while partly reusing the existing gameplay and mechanics.
HTML5 is changing the game industry
It is clear that the current app-store model is becoming a dead end for many developers. Too many games crowd the market, and only a few big companies make the vast majority of revenue. So many excellent games are just not being found, and as a result, most games are loss-making.
Rutten believes HTML5 will not replace ‘native’ games, but it is becoming a true alternative technology with its own unique benefits. Most importantly, it gives freedom back to the developers and publishers to choose to distribute HTML5 games in the traditional app-stores (as a ‘wrapped’ app) or via the many web channels.
And with HTML5, mobile game-stores are not the exclusive domain of just Apple, Google and a few others. Media companies, brands, advertisers, web gaming sites and others can now offer games to their consumers too.
The perks of using HTML5
It’s a cross-platform technology
HTML5 can be developed for smartphones, tablets, PC, smart-TVs, in-car entertainment, or even wearable technology in the years to come. If done well, developers can reduce development costs and do not have to maintain multiple source codes for all the different platforms anymore.
HTML5 provides more flexibility in distribution
App stores are no longer the only place to download games from. HTML5 allows developers to distribute games all over the mobile web. Recent research from VisionMobile shows 62 percent of Southeast Asian app developers pick HTML5 as their second platform of choice, just after Android (78 percent).
HMTL5 is still young
Of course, HTML5 is not the one-size-fits-all answer. Rutten recommends developers choose wisely. It might be perfect for most casual and social games, but don’t try to make a hardcore shooter or 3D racing game in HTML5 yet, as it will take one or two more years before 3D is widely supported.
As a young technology, the ecosystem is not as developed as it is for other native apps. This means fewer ready-to-use tools at a time when testing game performance on different devices is absolutely essential. In addition, the use of extensive sound is still limited.
On average, the company sees that many of the classic casual game concepts still work best on HTML5 platforms, like match-three and bubble shooter games.
In addition, when looking at ways to monetize, big international HTML5 payment solutions like iTunes billing for in-app purchases aren’t available yet. But many companies, including BoosterMedia, are working on solutions.
New gameplay mechanics in an already over-saturated market
Rutten admitted that the industry is tough, however, the company’s priority is not to come up with unique new game mechanics that no one has never seen before. Instead, it focuses on acquiring or developing good games while excelling within the dynamics of specific markets. Having the best-of-class ‘native-like’ HTML5 games, creatively distributing those via different channels, and successfully monetizing them using a combination of advertising and freemium billing outside the app-stores are what the company aims for.
Learn from the failures
Rutten commented on his past not-so-successful stories:
Just like any other game company, we had our failures, too. Some of the first HTML5 games a few years back took more time to develop than anticipated, without the desired results. But often it is from these projects that we learn the most, as those lessons are the foundation for our future success.
(Editing by Paul Bischoff)