Weraku Games: From zero to hero
By Chong Jinn Xiung April 6, 2017
- Indie game studio makes remarkable turnaround thanks to an unlikely investor
- Aspires to go beyond mobile games and into the realm of eSports
IT TAKES a lot of guts to take a risk and be an entrepreneur. It takes even bigger guts to look failure right in the face and fight back.
That’s what Weraku Games founder and product manager Ahmad Ashraf (pic above) had to face as the last man out the door of the small indie game studio he founded with two partners.
Ashraf explains that Weraku was founded with the vision of being a game publisher for indie games. At the time the studio was founded in 2014, there were no major game publishers that focused on the indie space.
“It was a noble idea but it did not work out because to be a game publisher is quite capital intensive as there are a lot of costs involved to acquire games and conduct marketing activities,” he said.
After the departure of his two partners by the end of 2015, Ashraf almost had to give up on Weraku and applied to work at N2N Connect as a product manager in its mobile department.
N2N isn’t the sort of company that you would normally associate with game companies. Far from it, N2N’s main business is in the development of online and mobile solutions for the financial industry.
But fortunately, Ashraf’s performance at the company impressed N2N managing director Andrew Tiang. When Ashraf told the story of his experience working on games at Weraku, Tiang was very interested.
“To my surprise, Andrew was really excited upon hearing about Weraku and by the end of our conversation he wanted me to make a presentation and pitch,” says Ashraf.
What happened next was nothing short of astounding as N2N invested in Weraku and Tiang became Ashraf’s investor.
“The idea was that they wanted to grow not just in the finance sector but to expand into lifestyle and gaming as well, hence they acquired us,” explains Ashraf.
Looking back at his journey, Ashraf likened life to a game. In order to complete the game, one needs to gather the right team and function as one entity to beat the final level boss and achieve their dream.
By the second quarter of 2016, Weraku had a second shot at life, allowing Ashraf to continue with his work and games at the same time.
The second chance
Being back on track Weraku finally has the time to work on its games, some of which had to be delayed due to the turbulent times the company faced.
Currently, the Weraku team is hard at work completing its latest game. Cave Guys is a survival adventure game where players must lead a tribe of cavemen on a journey that will take them through a hazardous wilderness, complete challenges and grow their tribe.
Cave Guys has been in development since 2015 but development was stalled during the company’s turbulent period. But after getting back on track in 2016, Cave Guys is due to be released this year for Android and iOS with an Alpha test scheduled in May and a closed Beta after that.
Interestingly, Weraku has also worked on casual sports games that include Super Stick Badminton and Excite Mountain Bike. Both these titles are white label titles, which are titles that can be rebranded with another party’s intellectual property (IP).
This includes Excite Mountain Bike, a Temple Runner-like endless racing game that has been relabelled as Harian Metro Mountain Bike. Similarly, Super Stick Badminton has the potential to be relabelled for a badminton event.
The reason why they chose to develop sports games is because there are fewer games competing against them in this genre compared to others, explains Ashraf.
“We make games that are targeted at niche users. If we make a strategy game that is a clone of Clash of Clans, we won’t stand a chance at beating them,” he said.
According to him, badminton games cater well to markets like Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada, Korea, China and Japan. To date, Super Stick Badminton with downloads that exceed 500,000 downloads globally.
The Thai Connection
Weraku also spread its wings to Thailand where it has a six-person branch that frequently collaborates with the Malaysian team in developing games.
The development work is split 50/50 down the line with the Thai team focusing their efforts on developing 3D games.
When asked why the move to Thailand, Ashraf answered that the Thai game market is one of the biggest gaming communities in Southeast Asia.
“The Thai market is growing bigger and there are more gamers there. Even publishers like Garena are focusing their efforts in Thailand,” he said.
Having a team in Thailand has also broadened Weraku’s scope as the influence from Thailand offers great insight into the active gaming scene there.
Ashraf said he is also better able to tap into what is happening in the game scene in Thailand such as events like Google Developer Day and the Bangkok Digital International Contest that were previously not known to him.
Ambitions beyond mobile
Weraku’s ambitions are not limited to just mobile. Ashraf hints that the next big game the Thai team will be working on will be an eSports title for the PC platform. Admittedly, it is a big challenge to come up with a new title with so much competition out there.
Weraku hopes to take a different approach by not copying or making a clone of popular competitive eSports titles. It wants to make a Free-to-Play game that is similar to the classic PlayStation-era car combat game, Twisted Metal.
According to Ashraf the yet-to-be-named eSports game is estimated to take another two years to develop.
“With an international team, I hope that the quality of our game speaks for itself so it is not a game that can be labelled as a Malaysian or Thai game, but as a good and memorable game that every gamer can enjoy,” he said.