As new industries develop in Southeast Asia, we at Vero aim to surround ourselves with people at the forefront of innovation in their respective fields. In this case, that industry is mobile gaming, which has been ascendant in Southeast Asia in general, and particularly in Vietnam, for the past several years, where its lower cost barriers and on-the-go convenience have made it the dominant gaming platform. We’re proud to have these two innovators as our clients, especially given how they represent two distinctly home-grown sides of a dynamic global industry.
One of those on the 30 under 30 list barely made it under the age limit. Nguyen Tuan Cuong is the 30-year-old co-founder of hyper-casual music game publisher Amanotes, currently the most-downloaded publisher of mobile apps from Southeast Asia.
Amanotes makes “hyper-casual” music games designed to be played in short bursts. Players tap or slide on the screen to match the spare visuals with the beats and melodies of popular songs and original compositions. The games are simple to learn but difficult to master, and Youtube videos of expert players can reach millions of views for popular songs, providing an extra incentive for players to improve their skills. All of Amanotes’ games are free to download and play, supported by ads, in-app purchases, and subscriptions.
While Amanotes’ games are popular in Vietnam, their market is global. Like the pop and EDM music that comprises their soundtracks, the stylish simplicity of these games gives them an appeal that transcends national and cultural barriers.
In addition to internally developed games, Amanotes leverages their expertise in development and user acquisition to help indie developers who create stylish, high-quality music games bring them to global markets. These developers can make use of Amanotes’ large collection of music licenses, so they don’t have to worry about having games taken down for accidentally breaking copyright laws in another country.
That broad perspective is paying off. In Q4 2019, Amanotes was the top-downloaded mobile game publisher from Southeast Asia across both Android and iOS. They also ranked 8th in game downloads for Q4 2019 in the United States. Worldwide, Amanotes is among the top 15 mobile game publishers and the top 20 publishers of mobile apps across all categories.
The other Vero client included on the 30 Under 30 list was also the only group: Team Flash, Vietnam’s premier esports team. Founded in Singapore by Terence Ting, Team Flash discovered a larger, faster-growing, but remarkably under-served gaming scene in Vietnam. Sensing an opportunity, Ting invested heavily in Vietnam beginning in 2018, and the results were so encouraging that Vietnam went on to become Team Flash’s new home base in 2019.
Ting’s key insight was that, despite Vietnam’s highly skilled player base and passionate fans, there was no professional esports ecosystem. To create one, he adopted methods from esports teams elsewhere in the world, treating players as proper athletes with access to counseling, physical preparation, strategy consultation, quality facilities, and nutritious meals.
Team Flash focuses on mobile-based multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game Arena of Valor (aka Lien Quan), the most popular esports title in Vietnam, as well as PC-based MOBA League of Legends and football mainstay FIFA. AOV’s mobile platform has been key to its massive base of casual to hardcore players in Vietnam, where many people cannot afford gaming PCs but most young people own smartphones.
Last July, Team Flash won the world championship at the 2019 AOV World Cup (AWC) in Da Nang, Vietnam, gaining them USD $200,000 in prize money and Vietnam’s first international title for esports. The following November, Team Flash got second place at AIC, just one point behind the winners, Thailand’s Buriram United.
Team Flash earned 11.6 billion VND in 2019, a record high for a Vietnamese esports team, including USD $1.5 million in seed funding aimed at further regional expansion and securing its market leadership in Vietnam. The funding has enabled them to continue recruiting the best esports players and content creators across the region, bringing in brand sponsorships and media partners, and launching a dedicated merchandising arm.