Charlie, you are the Co-Founder & Chief Commercial Officer for Ampverse, overseeing Singapore and Thailand. I also read that you come with a wealth of experience, most notably, as the Head of Digital for Universal Music. Tell us about you.
My background encompasses a mixture of time spent in the entertainment, media and gaming industries. This has included a number of years at Universal Music, looking after digital marketing and brand partnerships for their roster including the likes of Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Rihanna.
More recently, I held a number of roles within the media and advertising space, including Managing Director for APAC for a publicly-listed adtech and influencer marketing company, before going on to co-found Ampverse alongside three others.
Ampverse is a gaming and esports media company, working alongside leading gaming talents, enabling them to create partnerships with brands, game publishers and agencies. Walk us through how this works, Charlie.
We created Ampverse to encourage and support the growing population of gamers in this region. More so, we want to develop and support their careers through brand sponsorships, merchandise lines and partnerships with gaming publishers. We also help both gamers and brands to take control of the space and create powerful, authentic ways to connect with gaming audiences.
We recently signed Bacon Time, one of Thailand’s most reputable esports teams with a highly engaged fanbase of nearly two million social media followers. We see a huge opportunity to raise the gaming and esports bar by unleashing its creative and commercial potential.
This is just the start as we have plans to sign more teams and gaming content creators across the region, as well as developing our own portfolio of gaming media assets.
Since our launch, we have worked with over 25 advertisers and brands including Samsung, Garnier Men, Shell, DTAC, Tesco Lotus and Electronic Arts Inc – to name a few!
Let’s talk about gamers, their opportunities and various partnerships. Will 2020 see any movement in this area?
We have partnered with over 200 influencers across a range of campaigns that resulted in 80% of customers being repeat buyers. This serves as proof that despite being new, gaming is a great channel for brands to start investing in.
With proven results, more brands will realise its commercial potential as gaming unlocks access to huge audiences of highly engaged and tech-savvy consumers.
The opportunities of partnering with brands range from creating branded content which is syndicated to their online fanbase, to incorporating product placement into their live streams.
In 2020, we are increasingly seeing brands invest in building branded content formats that collaborate with gaming influencers. We are also seeing brands partnering with gaming and esports talent for a period of time – or even longer depending on the alignment between the brand and the talent, be that teams or individuals.
How can brands tap into this new category of content creators?
With gaming and esports content creators, brands must be authentic in their approach as it is important for brands to align themselves with the right talent who can help them reach and resonate with the right audiences to achieve their business objectives.
However, more importantly, brands should take the time to try and understand the space. Marketers don’t need to be active gamers themselves, however, if they take time to understand what games are popular in their target markets, the style of those games and audience demographics, it will help in crafting more authentic activations.
Additionally, brands can consider influencer activations, sponsoring online tournaments, creating branded content, or even partnering with a competitive esports team or league.
There is a rapid expansion in mobile gaming, especially in the south-east Asian region, which will eventually see revenue increase exponentially. Tell us more, Charlie.
Mobile gaming is the platform of choice for casual gamers here in SEA, particularly in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. This region has some of the most active social media users globally as gaming and esports are highly social activities. You now see people of different ages playing games anywhere, with the convenience of a mobile phone.
Esports marketing is really booming in the Asian region due to growing regional incomes. In fact, not too long ago, Singapore was named as one of the countries that account for 99 per cent of the region’s esports revenue. Can we expect the Asian-boom to continue, Charlie?
I believe that the gaming market in Southeast Asia will continue to grow, as it is expected that the number of gamers will increase to over 250 million by 2021. Gaming and esports is not a new industry given the fact that it has been around for decades. It will only grow bigger from here and I am excited for what’s to come.
We are starting to see more investment from game publishers into building local leagues, be that ROV (Arena of Valour), PubG Mobile or Mobile Legends to name a few. These are important steps in building a stable ecosystem which will ultimately lay the foundations for a significant scale of growth in the coming years.
Why is that so?
Gaming and esports is no longer just a child’s hobby, it has become a lifestyle. It finally made its way to be part of the Southeast Asian Games 2019, suggesting that it is gradually being perceived as a professional sport and considered mainstream entertainment. Even those who aren’t playing, are watching live streams on platforms such as Nimo, Facebook or Twitch.
With support from government bodies, gaming and esports increasingly have a platform for gaming fans to come together and support their players and teams. We can expect more gaming conventions, events and competition being held in different parts of Asia.
With the introduction of artificial intelligence and 5G mobile, what kind of changes can we expect in the esports and gaming world?
AI in gaming and esports are rapidly changing certain elements of it, including player experience, performance, and game design. Besides it being an advantage for gamers, it enables game publishers to produce far more immersive and engaging experiences as well.
Fast-approaching 5G networks will certainly redefine the experience of gaming on mobile as it offers faster speed and more reliable connections. Therefore, 5G plays a big part in opening up gaming and streaming to new mobile audiences.
Charlie, let’s sidetrack a little – globally there are 43 esports game developer companies. Will we see an increase in this number due to the esports boom?
There are a large number of developers, as you say, with those leading the way from a mobile gaming perspective largely coming from our region. While there will no doubt be more and more game developers popping up in the coming years, ultimately the esports ecosystem and popular titles will be led by the major studios. For esports to really thrive, there needs to be a real ecosystem and long-term financial support from the developers, which is typically the realm of the major players.
Any parting words, Charlie?
This is such an exciting time for gaming and esports as it really starts to penetrate mainstream popular culture, coupled with the evolution of esports and broader technology developments such as 5G that will further accelerate growth.
My parting words are, therefore, get stuck in, take time to understand the players in the space, market dynamics, popular games, teams and influencers as it will really help as you start to shape your thinking from a marketing perspective. You’ll also find it’s not as alien a world as you might think!