Asian gaming opportunities are drawing in operators from all corners of the global industry, says Peter Greenhill, head of egaming at corporate advisory firm Equiom. Yet western firms should be mindful of cultural differences.
You recently attended ASEAN and the Asia iGaming Congress. Describe the scene and what were your key takeaways from the events?
The inaugural ASEAN Gaming Summit in Manila drew together the region’s leading operators, regulators and suppliers. Equiom, a global company helping operators to establish themselves and obtain licences in multiple jurisdictions, along with data centres and regulators met with operators and suppliers who are successfully developing the next generation of gaming offerings, both terrestrial and online. The attendance topped 300 and the response from the audience was very positive. The topics focused on loyalty and reward programs, future trends in game design, technical and regulatory standards, industry threats such as money laundering, match fixing, cyber-attacks and Bitcoin gambling. The choice of holding the event in the Philippines was timely and significant considering that the Philippines has been increasingly important as a major player in the gaming industry. One week later, the iGaming Asia show opened again in Macau. The number of attendees was significantly lower than ASEAN but the discussions on esports were very significant. I moderated a panel session on this topic with executives of companies from Indonesia, Korea and Macau. The key points discussed were the size and growth of the market, how to address match fixing, betting by players, drug taking and finally the vision for the future of esports. The panel also debated the somewhat controversial question ‘is computer gaming really a sport?’
There is clearly a lot of interest in Asian markets this year, for various forms of interactive gaming. In your view which sectors show the most promise and how do they differ from their equivalent Western markets?
The Asian market attracted representatives from many other countries worldwide during these shows. Sports betting operators always have to recognise the Asian Handicap Football model for players who have developed their skills around that model, rather than the very different European betting alternative. The opportunity is still growing for Asian companies to introduce a base, typically in the Isle of Man, and with a subsidiary company in the UK to grow their operations. On the other hand, software skills are of a very high level of quality in the Philippines and a number of companies in Europe are creating subsidiaries there – so the world turns.
Western operators have not been overwhelmingly successful in the region. Why is this and what are the difficulties in attracting this different cohort of players?
In the past many games offered by Western companies have been immediately rejected by players. Before creating quality and attractive products for Asian players, software houses and operators should fully understand a number of important points. In addition to the difference between Asian Handicap and European Betting types, western companies also need to look very carefully at specific content in their games. Black, white, green, red and yellow all have specific meanings in Asian culture and so care must be taken regarding how these are used. In addition, the use of certain characters, for example Dragons, must be designed very carefully. For example, the number of claws used is very important in order for players to accept the creation of the form is correct.
At Equiom you provide a range of corporate services, of these which are the most requested by igaming operators targeting Asian jurisdictions and why?
At Equiom we carefully discuss with potential clients exactly which services they wish to offer as a B2C or B2B and which countries they wish to offer them to. In the Corporate Service Provider market our staff have a unique level of actual CEO and managing director experience with operators and software suppliers to the gaming industry. We therefore have the ability to provide true consultancy and guidance to our clients. We can then assist fully in the correct formation of a company structure, obtain licences in the correct locations and then help the client to manage the operations in those countries, to whatever extent that they originally require. As they grow and recruit more of their own staff, we then take a step back and let them manage their own business themselves.