SINGAPORE — Southeast Asia has a number of exciting, growing markets, so most developers entering the region probably wouldn’t think that they should risk entering the country that is still dealing with the fallout of a military coup. But one developer thinks that’s potentially wonderful for mobile gaming.
Thailand is the best Southeast Asian country for developers to focus on, according to Playlab cofounder and chief executive officer Jakob Lykkegaard Pedersen. Since 2014, the country has dealt with military rule following a coup d’état. At that time, the Thai people dealt with martial law and a national curfew (which has since come to an end), but that did not destroy the nation’s mobile gaming business. And Playlab thinks it could even help its upcoming Super Slam: POGS Battle.
That’s right. During a presentation at the Casual Connect conference in Singapore today, Pedersen explained that Thailand is fertile ground for mobile gaming — not despite the coup, but because of it.
“Thailand really has one of the best markets in the region,” said Pedersen. “You have good spending. You have low costs. And you might even benefit from the military coup. That’s because a lot of the global corporations aren’t spending as much on advertising in Thailand because it’s unstable.”
But it’s not just about lower costs. Perdesen thinks that you can succeed in Thailand as a mobile developer specifically because so many people stay at home.
“The great thing about having a military coup is that people spend a lot of time at home,” he said. “So they can play a lot of games. Instead of going to the theme park, you stay home and spend money on mobile games.”
That’s a really grim silver lining, and Pedersen — who lives in Thailand — laughed through that description to indicate he was making a dark joke. But joke or not, developers cannot exactly count on coups for success in Thailand or Southeast Asia at large. And Pedersen points to some key, non-government-destablizing methods that studios should use to maximize their chances in Malyasia, Indonesia, and elsewhere. Google’s Android is the dominant platform in the region, and the Playlab chief notes that it has three features that everyone should take advantage of.
Pricing is crucial for success, and Google’s Android developer dashboard enables studios to change prices by region and even sell items for less than 99 cents. These are relatively new options, and Pedersen says that they are crucial for success.
Developers shouldn’t just sell their U.S. 99-cent item for the exact same price around Southeast Asia. Instead, lower it to something like 29 Thai baht. That’s around 82 cents, but Pedersen points out that players prefer the more beautiful price of 29 baht as opposed to something like 36 baht, which looks random and impersonal to a lot of consumers. And $1 is a lot of money to many people in this region, and cutting the price to something below 99 cents is a way to get more people to spend money.
Finally, Pedersen explained that every studio entering Southeast Asia needs to use Google’s option for direct-carrier billing. This is gives people the choice to pay for in-app purchases with their phone bill as opposed to a credit card. Most people in SEA countries don’t have a credit card, but when they find out that they can pay with their phone, they’re more likely to spend.
“We have info pop-ups in the games now that tell the users they can pay with [their carriers],” said Pedersen. “When you make them aware that they have an easy way to pay, they’ll spend more money than they did before.”
Correction on Thursday: I fixed a sentence that implied Thailand is still dealing with curfew and martial law. That is not accurate. While the nation is still under the control of a government junta, it is not technically dealing with ongoing martial law.
Casual Connect arranged for my travel to its event. Our coverage remains fair.