Havson Group banks on sports games, virtual reality
By Chong Jinn Xiung November 17, 2016
- From making mobile games to developing triple A games for consoles, VR
- Targets to open South-East Asia’s first Virtual Reality theme park in 2017
A BURNING passion for improving and growing the Malaysian games industry drove former game design lecturer Havene Liew to kickstart Mediasoft Entertainment in 2012 together with co-founder Rayson Wong.
“During my time as a lecturer, I saw so many young talented individuals having to either go overseas to seek opportunities or quit the game industry altogether due to lack of opportunities,” said Liew.
Taking matters into his own hands, Liew wanted to create those very opportunities, develop those talents and contribute back to the local game ecosystem.
In the company’s early days, Mediasoft developed educational games for the PC. It has since diversified to developing mobile games, games on the PS4 and even developing Virtual Reality games.
The diverse portfolio meant that a new entity was required to hold all these new intellectual properties (IP) together, and hence the Havson Group was formed in the middle of 2016.
“We started as a games company but now are emerging as a technology company. In fact, we are talking to venture capital firms to raise funds,” said Havson Group founding partner and director Kee Saik Meng about the company’s future direction.
Kee is also the CEO of Mediasoft and was brought into the company in 2015. He was invited by Wong and Liew to be part of Havson.
For the Love of Sports
Mediasoft is well known for its badminton game, Jump Smash which claims a total of 6.3 million installs over the past three years. The downloads are calculated with data from Google Play, iOS store, Google analytics and Flurry by Yahoo.
“A lot of people asked us why we made a badminton game? There are other more popular sports like football, tennis, golf and many others. Well, it was because we wanted to concentrate on a niche market,” explains Liew, who is Havson Group’s managing director.
Their bet paid off as the game was met with positive response during its showcase at the Tokyo Game Show in 2012.
“Within 14 days after the game’s announcement we achieved 1.1 million installs, all without doing any marketing campaign. That’s when we knew we had a hit on our hands,” claims Liew.
He said Mediasoft was fortunate to collaborate with partners like sports equipment maker, Li-Ning to release Li-Ning Jump Smash 15 in 2015. How that relationship was built was through a fan of Jump Smash. In this case the fan happened to be the marketing manager of Li Ning.
A meeting between them eventually led to a five year deal to use Li-Ning’s image rights.
Liew credits the partnership to the shared vision both parties have of using games to promote badminton as a global sports.
At the same time, Jump Smash’s exposure at the Tokyo Game Show also opened new avenues for the badminton game as videogame giant Sony expressed interest in bringing Jump Smash to the PlayStation 4.
Liew says the PS4 version of Jump Smash has been in development for over one and half years and is in the final stages of being polished before its release in 2017.
Besides badminton, Mediasoft has also developed a Sepak Takraw game called Roll Spike. Admittedly, it is, even more, niche than badminton but one that represents a truly unique South-East Asian sport.
Surprisingly, the game has even outperformed Jump Smash. Since its launch in April, Roll Spike has recorded a staggering 3.5 million installs claims Liew with Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil and India among the top download countries.
Tapping on new ideas
Liew shared how being open to new ideas allowed Mediasoft to develop its current batch of mobile games.
“Every six months we do an internal pitching process where everyone in the company, even the receptionist, is invited to give their idea and concept for a game,” he said.
“The ideas need to be backed up by what makes the game fun, who is the target audience and what do they hope to achieve. Is it going to be a top download or be the top grossing app? After two weeks we will pick two titles that we feel are most promising,”
Liew is proud of the fact that Mediasoft’s current two titles in development Tappymon, and Phantom Blade, both of which are due out by the fourth quarter of 2016, were the result of the last round of the company’s internal pitching process.
Virtual reality aspirations
Virtual Reality is still a largely untapped market and that makes it fertile ground for Havson Group which had the foresight to venture into the space two years ago, under its subsidiaries EXA Global and Dutajaya Media (DJM).
Now their work is finally starting to bear fruit as the company’s first VR game dubbed Project EXA, is close to completion.
According to EXA Global’s chief executive officer Richard Lee, the experience will largely differ from those offered on mobile devices and consoles.
He likens the experience of Project EXA to a VR arcade where players are better able to fully immerse themselves in a virtual world where four to six people can move around within a designated area.
Once players strap on their VR goggles, backpack and wireless gun, they will be able to engage in co-operative missions to destroy aliens or fight against each other in a virtual arena.
Project EXA is due to roll out commercially early next year making it the first virtual reality theme park in South-East Asia. Theme park is used loosely here as Havson Group does not plan to replicate the size of your traditional theme park but rather the experience.
Explaining this, Liew says: “Our EXA VR Park is an immersive VR experience centre. The flagship will be a 15,000 sq ft centre with smaller centres to be around 2,500 sq ft.”
Here players can find various types of VR arcades and Angkas VR (a free-roaming multiplayer system that provides full body immersive experience). “Our team from DJM has been developing the system since 2014 with investment coming from Havson Group and partners. We will launch the first VR park in Q1 of 2017.”