MANILA, Philippines — For the first time since announcing their merger, the country’s two biggest online gaming companies faced the public on Saturday to announce their plans for their respective gaming communities moving forward.
Also for the first time in Philippine online gaming history, the top executives of IP E-Game Ventures Inc. (E-Games) and Level Up! Inc. (LUI) shared a stage to announce that this year will be the final edition of Domination, E-Games’ annual offline gaming event.
“Whatever you see here,” said Ben Colayco, founder of LUI, referring to the packed crowd at the World Trade Center in Pasay City during Domination 6, “is basically going to double, and hopefully triple, come November when we do ‘Level Up! Live Domination’.”
This means, according to Colayco, that there will only be one offline gaming event from the merged entity moving forward. Together, the joint event could attract more than 30,000 gamers who are fans of games published by the two companies.
“With this merger, it’s not just about the business. It’s about bringing communities together,” added Enrique Gonzalez, CEO of IP Ventures Group (IPVG), the mother company of E-Games. “And now, finally, E-Games and Level Up! are one. And that will give gamers a lot more people to play with and a lot more games to choose from.”
Gonzalez added that developers of current game titles held by the two companies are “excited about the merger,” and have promised a lot of new content for the games.
Despite their optimism about the online gaming industry in the Philippines, the two executives admitted that the gaming landscape is slowly evolving, especially with the entry of new gaming platforms such as mobile and social games, as was earlier pointed out by analysts.
Colayco said these new platforms are “just another fact of entertainment life” that, so far, has not cannibalized their share of the market.
He noted, however, that they are “really looking at it closely,” particularly in the aspect of potentially expanding into these new platforms.
“We have to, [eventually],” Colayco said, when asked about their expansion plans into other gaming platforms. “We’re not just a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) gaming company, we’re a video game and entertainment company.”
But the young executive admitted they are treading on shaky ground with their possible entry into these new platforms, saying how they are a “totally different animal” than what they have gotten used to with online gaming.
“Based on what we’ve seen, so far the markets are a little different. The people that play are a little different from your regular hardcore RAN players,” Colayco said.
“So, we have to balance it carefully, but we do see an opportunity right there,” he added.
But in the perspective of E-Games Chief Operating Officer Heidi Mendita-Garayblas, these new platforms merely compliment–instead of compete against–their current gaming offerings.
“We’d like to think that the more casual games right now are for acquisition of new gamers, and then later on they would graduate to wanting more satisfaction with their gaming needs,” Garayblas told InterAksyon.com.
But in the wake of this initial apprehension, LUI actually has a lot going for itself in terms of expanding into other platforms since it is partly owned by Tencent, one of the biggest Internet companies in China and a big backer of social gaming company Zynga.
Bringing communities together
But can these new business plans help the joint venture maintain players’ interests in online gaming? As it is, some players who have heard news of the merger were a bit apprehensive of the idea, especially with the thought of having the two communities merged.
“I don’t know, but I don’t really like how the GMs (game masters) from Level Up! manage the games,” said one gamer interviewed by InterAksyon.com in Filipino. “It’s good that there will be more games, but if there will only be one offline gaming event, I don’t think I’ll still go.”
Garayblas said these negative remarks are just “initial reactions of some” regarding the merger, admitting that it’s something that they would have to address later on.
“But there have been a lot of positive feedback that we also heard from our gamers. Because other than the bigger support that we can give to our gamers, the experts of the company are merged, so all the good practices will be employed,” she explained.
The E-Games executive, however, admitted that with the merger came inevitable consolidation of manpower from the E-Games side of the company, especially to avoid some redundancies in job functions.
“Of course, the objective of the company is to have a leaner and more efficient organization,” she said.
Despite these setbacks, the two companies continue to enjoy massive support from online gamers, if attendance to the latest installment of Domination would hold as proof.
Many still participated in the offline gaming tournaments, a lot of attendees came in cosplay attires, and long lines still snaked around the event venue as early as 10 in the morning, even if the main event started three hours after.
Around the country, evidence of the continued survival of online gaming despite the birth of new gaming platforms continue to abound. Just last month, the HyperX.Mineski team of Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) 2 players took home the championship gold in a tournament in Singapore sponsored by Razer, a high-end pro gaming accessory provider.
And with the entry of smaller players into the industry coupled with the increasing PC and broadband penetration rates, it’s not hard to see how online gaming–in spite of the challenges–would continue to enjoy a loyal local following in the years to come.