6Waves Co-Founder Arthur raised USD$30M+. “It’s not that glamorous of a job”
6waves is a leading publisher of independent games on social and mobile platform networks. Startup IO’s founder Billy Yuen and 6Waves’ co-founder and CEO Arthur Chow chat about the reality of being a founder and his take on the game industry.
Bill: What pushed you to launch your company?
Arthur: I’m actually just one of the co-founders. We started back in 2008 because it was the time when Facebook was a good platform for developers. We saw it as an opportunity and tried it out. Initially, it wasn’t even games, just simple applications. The revenue was coming mostly from advertising so we put those networks into our app to generate views and revenue. Very soon, we realized that the games were getting more complex and decided to publish a third-party game. That’s how we started.
Bill: What’s the biggest surprise you learned in this industry?
Arthur: It’s tougher than it looks. Most people think that gaming or creating games is cool and fun and gets a lot of revenue, because the general conception is that a lot of people play games and pay for them. It’s true to certain extent but it’s also very competitive. There are so many games out there and so many companies, so in a way, you really have to navigate and bring new games and genres to your users to keep them interested.
Bill: What is the biggest challenge you had when you launched your company?
Arthur: There was a lot, but I think we are lucky because our timing was right. For some time, we did a little bit of service for clients to create their apps and we had to forego the revenue model. It was very challenging. As we grew, the new challenge now is hiring talents. It’s difficult to convince people to join your startup. I think that’s generally the challenge for startups. Before you even get funding, how do you convince people to trust you and your startup? We were lucky because we had our own networks and knew people from companies that we worked at before. These were people that we personally knew; we knew what they’re good at and their weaknesses. That’s how we hired our first batch of employees. There are also some entry-levels who are willing to work for you but you’d want someone who’s already experienced. Going to conventions and pitching events also help because you meet a lot of people. Additionally, getting the right chemistries for teams was also a challenge.
Bill: I always tell people whom I give advice to: there’s nothing glamorous about being a startup CEO. Do you have any stories about having to do that kind of work when you started your company?
Arthur: For anyone who’s thinking about building a startup, you’d have to agree to grind through all that. It’s not that glamorous of a job. For me, I’ll do what my partner is not willing to do. We’ve got a good division of labor, but sometimes you just have to do everything. We’re already funded and grown and more established but we still have that startup mentality. I still get my hands dirty and do a lot of things on my own. When we go to conferences, I help the crew bring along props and swags. You just have to have that mentality so that everyone in the team can work very well together.
Bill: New technology is emerging in the world at a fast rate. As a mobile game startup, are there any technologies and/or technological trends that your industry is looking at ?
Arthur: I think, currently, everyone is talking about Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI), but I think that a lot of applications for AR and VR are game related. As a gaming company, we decided to also experience some of these new technologies. We did a game on the VR platform for Google Daydream and Oculus Rift.
Bill: Are there any challenges or difficulties you had in your company when you used these technologies?
Arthur: In the gaming experience perspective, I think the overall experience in these platforms are getting better and better. However, the challenge comes from the number of units in the market. It’s still not a lot. For example, we got featured for a game that we created for Google Cardboard. Initially, we thought that we’re going to get a lot of installs because of that, but it was just a fraction of installs compared to being featured on Google Play. And I think it comes from the problem that there aren’t enough units used for these installs. It’s very hard for gaming companies to continue to invest and develop games in the VR platform. It’s a bit different for AR because it’s a little bit more interesting. You don’t have to immerse yourself in closed space or need a gear for it so I think there’s a lot more opportunity for companies to incorporate AR into their games.
Bill: In your opinion, why do you think VR isn’t taking off in terms of development?
Arthur: I think it has a lot to do with the hardware. There are gears that are supposed to be VR-enabled but the quality isn’t as good, which is a huge factor. And you’d have to buy HTC-VIVE or the Oculus Rift but they cost a lot of money. These are good hardware but most people aren’t going to forego that much money just to install an application. Until the cost of these top-notch hardware actually come down, until then people might actually consider installing different VR games.
Bill: Can you tell me more about your approach in the development of games in your company? What direction are you heading with your products and games?
Arthur: Currently, we have a “wait-and-see” approach. Our specialty right now is mobile game publishing and the business still expanding. We are looking forward to bringing more games to the markets that we are already in, like Japan. We are also looking to expand geographically and enter more markets. When we first started, we were on Facebook and, thus we had the western market. Now that we’ve shifted to mobile, and focusing more on Asia. It was a challenge to do that at first but I think we are getting the hang of it. Right now, we are also trying to bring more games back to our western market again. There’s a lot of things that we can do in the mobile game market so I think, for now, we’re not going to invest too much in the VR space.
Bill: One last question about the VR space: what about talent? Is it difficult to find talents to create VR games or developers who have experience building VR applications?
Arthur: In general, it’s hard to find mobile game developers here in Hong Kong. If you limit it to just VR, it’s even harder. What we do is we’ve set up a development studio in Beijing because I think there are more talents there. And there are actually a lot of game developers who can give you the 3D art or the actual coding, but the design the whole game such as the core loops, mechanics, balancing, they all require a lot of experience and it’s really hard to find those kinds of coders.
Bill: Let’s talk about E-sports. What are your thoughts on it?
Arthur: Yes, I’ve read about E-sport events and game conventions. I think, in Asia, there’s been a lot more of it recently but it’s been around for a longer time in the West. People started from FPS to strategy games to mobile games. There are a lot of fans who fall for that. We haven’t involved ourselves in those yet because I think these games are either using console or PC because it needs fast connection and we’re more focused on mobile. What we do instead is we create features in our games that gather people and have a team play against each other, like a play-off. Our users really enjoy it. It’s not E-sports per se but there are certain elements to it.
Bill: I always say “the best people don’t work for you”, as a startup, how does 6waves tap into the innovative minds outside of your company?
Arthur: Technically, we’re not a startup anymore since we’ve been around for 9 years already, although, we’re not as big as a corporation yet. However, what we’re considering instead of funding games is to invest into game developers. That’s a core in our business. We help them to publish their games to the markets we are serving and I think there’s more relevance there. I know some corporations give office space for those in IoT or AI. We’re not like that yet. Instead, what we do is we invest in a developer to complete their games and help them publish it.