Is it challenging to start up a games business in the Philippines? It is, according to Altitude Games‘ Gabby Dizon, “There’s a lot of gamers in the country; they’re young, active and vocal, so it’s full of engagement. But what a lot of publishers find challenging is to get a lot of people to pay.”
A former employee at bigwig PC casual game creator Boomzap, Dizon and his colleagues Luna Cruz and Marc Polican formed Altitude Games with one major goal in mind: to create globally-recognizable gaming intellectual properties through mobile. “It sounds silly now, but if you think about the most recognizable mobile IP games now, it’ll be the Flappy Birds and the Hay Days. We eventually wanted to be included in that conversation. It may be with our first game, it may be with our second. But that’s what we’re shooting for: creating an IP that transcends mobile games.”
Speaking of their first game, the company’s upcoming project is called Run Run Super V, which combines the endless runner mechanic with the 70s Japanese sentai genre as its settings and aesthetics. e27 listed the game as one of the more promising titles that cropped up from this year’s Casual Connect Asia.
Dizon and his crew learned a lot from their time making PC games at Boomzap “We learned how to ship games, how to make games that are for a certain demographic, and having the discipline to maintain those skills. You see a lot of development teams with good ideas, but sometimes they’re unable to finish it,” he said. With the US$275K in seed funding it secured recently, the company has a good chance of putting those tactics to good use.
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Even if it can be difficult for publishers to get monetary returns in the Philippines, they may not need to localise much of their content. “[Because the Philippines is primarily an English-speaking market], there hasn’t usually been a need to localise it. What a lot of game companies and publishers do is that they soft launch their games in the Philippines so that they can tweak their engagement metrics before moving it to countries with higher average revenue per user (ARPU) like in North America. Still, it’s always been a challenge to monetise that traffic,” he shared.
Dizon feels that this method is the best bet for getting mobile gaming traction in the region; the company’s strategy is still to hit Asian markets first. “America is very competitive and the best-polished games are out there. But I think there’s a lot of untapped potential in Asia because the typical strategy that you use to make money in America will not necessarily work in Southeast Asia. There’s the usual problems, like low credit card penetration, but I think it’s also because of the region’s alternative business models that work.” In this case, he’s referring to credit services like MOL and Cherry Credits.
“There are things you can control because we’re from the region. I think it’s something we can experiment by ourselves. We’re looking at a self-distributing strategy in Southeast Asia. For territories like Japan and China, we’d want to work with strong partners to ingrain our games to fit those cultures, not just localise them.” Dizon stressed that by releasing its game in Asia first, the studio can improve and polish the game further to prep it for North American release.
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He also believes that the market for long-term games that used to be on consoles and PCs are slowly shifting. “If you look at tablets now, there are now rich game experiences that used to just belong on high-end PCs.” He cited Witching Hour’s strategy games as an example of deep experiences on mobile devices. “Those are the type of experiences that we’re interested in.”
Will Altitude Games go back to their PC gaming roots? Dizon said that he and his team have to think about it, as their focus is on mobile right now. “We’re using the Unity engine for our games, so cross platform is not really a problem. The question is whether the game mechanic is good for the PC. Just because it’s technically feasible doesn’t mean that you should do it. We really have to evaluate on whether the games on mobile are just as good when you use a keyboard and a mouse,” he concluded.