Why start up a game company in Thailand?
The creator of social puzzle games Jungle Cubes and Juice Cubes Pocket PlayLab says cost, talent and lifestyle are the reasons why the country is fast becoming a favourite among startupsBy Jonathan Toyad 12 Aug, 2014
There’s an axiom most of us must have heard before: “stick to what you know.” Thai-based game company Pocket PlayLab seems to be paying a good heed to the age-old adage since all it has on its portfolio are games revolving around cubes and the match-three puzzle concept.
And it’s working great for the company, according to Co-founder Jakob Lykkegaard. Currently, the company’s top game is puzzle game Juice Cubes which has over 20 million downloads and a “high retention of players”, thanks to it being part of the Rovio Stars line-up last year. For the context, the Rovio Stars program is to publish third party games under its wing.
Along with Jungle Cubes and Lost Cubes, its games have been played a lot by the US and Western markets, specifically by females above 30 years old. “They have time and money to spare,” Lykkegaard said. Pocket PlayLab is showing no signs of stopping; he said that his teams are working on five more similar games. “I think all our game teams are aiming to get even better numbers than that,” he added.
So here’s yet another mobile game company aiming to be the next King, hoping to put its Cubes franchise on the annals of gaming history alongside Candy Crush Saga, for better or worse. Only now that it plans to do it all from Thailand with about 13 or so people with two-and-a-half years of experience.
So why Thailand?
Lykkegaard’s startup background in the Southeast Asian country has lasted more than five years, so he knows his way around the marketplace, so to speak. He said that Thailand holds three main advantages when starting up a company: cost, talent and lifestyle.
For the first point, this means that Pocket PlayLab can take more risks with new ideas and gaming experiments. “The saving of cost means that we as a gaming company can afford to fail on a few titles and also afford to build the company up without wasting any time or equity on outside investors,” he said. Manpower isn’t an issue for the company, as Lykkegaard said that he has no problem finding 80 per cent of local people willing to make and design games. “(We don’t need to) fight with other companies (too), as we can afford to treat people better than the local alternatives,” he added.
The startup lifestyle in Thailand is also better for overseas workers, as they can save up a lot more money in a relaxed environment even with lower pay. “It’s easy for us to convince Western top talent to move to Bangkok and find the remaining 20 per cent we can’t find locally,” Lykkegaard said.
Of course, there are challenges in starting up and maintaining a startup games company. The biggest one Pocket PlayLab faced was deciding on the right direction in games-making, according to Lykkegaard. “It was difficult in terms of what game type to go for and what monetisation strategy to pick. We were close to shutting down a few times at the start,” he revealed.
Still, the pros outweigh the cons. As Thailand is big on mobile gaming, it makes sense for Pocket PlayLab to use Thai gamers and audiences as a market to test its cube-laden games to get valuable feedback. Unfortunately, it cannot divulge numbers at this point in time, but Juice Cubes’ numbers at least prove that it has used said feedback well to market its games.
The game development side seems healthy too, as there are a lot of smaller studios which also enjoy some degree of success. And of course, there are always the bigwigs like Asiasoft and ini3 Digital. “It is growing fast,” said Lykkegaard. “There’s a bigger and bigger interest in our gaming-related events like Playspace.”
So what’s in store for the future of Pocket PlayLab? To maintain its current success with the company’s Cube series, said Lykkegaard though not much else is certain. He does have some quick advice to dispense for companies and startups wishing to start in Thailand: “Start out with a small game. You need to make a few games before you land on a successful one. Most of what you learn come after you have a living game you need to maintain.”