The Indonesian gaming industry has reached a new milestone with the rise of e-sports in the recent years.
In the archipelago, e-sports industry has a history that goes back to the late 1990s. However, at the recent Kopi Chat Deep Dive Series: Gaming event at Block71 Jakarta, Eddy Lim, President of Indonesia e-Sports Association (IESPA), explains why 2002 was considered as the official founding year of the country’s e-sports industry.
“We first made a game event in 1999, but [we can say that] e-sports in Indonesia began in 2002 as that was the first time we host an international gaming event,” Lim says.
Within 17 years, the sports gained such popularity and reputation that an e-sport exhibition was held at the last Asian Games, held in Jakarta and Palembang in 2018. Even in the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2019 in the Philippines, e-sports will be featured as a medal games for the very first time at a competition held under the International Olympic Committee.
As the sports gain its momentum, so is the opportunity for athletes and clubs to collaborate with brands and businesses.
“‘There’s a good e-sports player here, I wonder what he drinks?'” says Haryono Kartono, COO of e-sports enabler company Mix 360, pointing out an example of partnership opportunities with brands that e-sports athletes and clubs can take.
“Back then the opportunities are limited to IT companies, but today other products, such as isotonic drinks, are beginning to open themselves up to e-sports,” he adds.
Even with all the available opportunities, gaming companies continue to face challenges in dealing with the different aspect of product marketing. From the event, e27 has compiled how two Indonesian companies –a game developer and a game publisher– deal with theirs.
Here are some of the most valuable lessons that they have learned about marketing games in the e-sports era:
Before we begin developing marketing plans, we need to look at the people whom we are reaching out for.
So who are the primary target audience for gaming companies in Indonesia, particularly those who aim to reach out to the e-sports category?
According to Shieny Aprillia, CMO at Bandung-based game developer Agate, the profile of a typical Indonesian gamer can be seen through the audiences of their title E-Sports Saga: Its 5,000 players are dominated by male audience aged between 18 and 24 years old.
Her view is agreed by Kenken Rudi Salim, COO of game publisher LYTO, who sees that there are reasons why it would be rare to find an e-sports players aged beyond 30 years old.
“There’s no scientific study to support this, but the most ideal age to build a career in e-sports is up until the age of 28. This has something to do with the fingers’ reflexes,” he explains.
Apart from that, e-sports athletes that have gone beyond 30 tend to explore different aspects of their profession. For example, by expanding into content creation.
“This enables former e-sports athletes to make money for themselves. When they were still part of a team, the money that was earned has to be divided among the team members,” Salim continues.
Challenges in product development
With the rising popularity of e-sports, game developers are facing a fresh new challenge in Indonesia: Every single new title that they release has to have an e-sports angle.
“E-sports has become a part of the most successful marketing strategies to increase the games’ [sales] performance. Each developer wants to try their best to make sure that their products are being included in e-sports tournament. If there is no e-sports angle in it, then how are we going to market a title?” Salim says.
“[For games like that] the only solution is to market using advertisement,” he adds.
Another pressing challenge that developers are facing is the fact that the Indonesian game market is still dominated by foreign titles.
In dealing with this particular challenge, Agate chooses to “play it safely.”
“This means, within the next one to two years, we are not going to develop something similar to Mobile Legends, or enter the enemy’s lair in any form. We need to be able to find our own niche,” Aprillia says.
“Out of the 50 million Mobile Legends players, there is got to be something that separates one from the rest. Some of them will like robots more, et cetera. We try to find a segment that is sizeable enough to work on, and find a niche with no major player yet,” she elaborates.
As a game publisher, LYTO is taking a completely different approach. Instead of going against the current, they have to follow through with what the audiences want.
“Unless there is a certain intellectual property rights that prevent us from doing it, we will seek for something similar to what is trending,” Salim says.
At last but not least, game companies in Indonesia continue to struggle with this particular challenge: How to maximise return with a limited marketing budget and average revenue per user (ARPU)?
First of all, it is important to note that ARPU in Indonesia is still relatively low with US$5-7 being the highest possible price a user is willing to pay for.
“ARPU from mid-core games tend to be bigger than those of casual games,” Aprillia comments.
“KotaKita is casual city management game that we have developed. We recently included in-app purchase and after one to two months, we checked the analytics … Even after we lower the price of in-app purchase from IDR9,000 (US$0.64) to IDR3,000 (US$0.21), people are still reluctant to pay and would rather watch ad videos instead,” she further explains.
When it comes to maximising their marketing budget, Salim has one thing to say: It will never be easy.
But from his experience, the COO learned that the “easiest, quickest” way to attract audiences is through offline events such as game competitions. The only downside to hosting such event is that companies need to invest heavily in the prizes.
Salim also stated that there is no guarantee that the more budget you spend for an event, the more successful it will become.
“We have held events at internet cafe where we managed to gather between 200 to 300 people,” he closes.