Exclusive: Sea Group gaming arm eyes future in live streaming

While the company is still far from bringing a product to market, Sea Group, through its gaming arm Garena, is exploring a future whereby the company can fit itself into the live streaming ecosystem.

We are considering it, yes. We are exploring it,” said Nok Maneerut Anulomsombut, the CEO of Sea Thailand, in a conversation with TechNews

If it comes to fruition, the move would make sense for a company that is working towards building independent IP across the gaming value-chain. At the moment, it makes most of its money via publishing, but last it developed its first game called ‘Free Fire’ and its payment system AirPay is a core pillar of the company.

In Southeast Asia, the company is in pole position across the gaming industry especially with its ‘right of first refusal’ agreement to republish Tencent properties in the region. But, it doesn’t have a live streaming product, which means Garena loses the market at during broadcast.

The reason live streaming feels like a natural fit is because the company clearly has a large, and loyal, customer base.

During Garena over the weekend, the company attracted nearly 300,000 participants who visited Bangkok’s BITEC center to watch various eSports tournaments in person. The place was packed, hundreds of people sat on the floor to watch big matches and a significant number of visitors had spent a lot of time and money to dress in cosplay.

, the Free Fire final attracted almost 1.5 viewers on YouTube. That is a lot of people who could have been using some form of Garena live streaming property.

That being said, a future product may not look like a simple copy/paste of Twitch.

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Currently there are big players in this space, so obviously this is a crowded place. We are trying to figure out how we can be a useful player in the ecosystem,” said Jason Ng, the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Garena Online. 

One primary objective for Garena, according to Ng, is to maximise the reach of the it publishes, and live-streaming is a crucial part of the equation.

At this moment, any product or ideation is not ready for a public announcement.

We don’t have anything super concrete but we are interested in being relevant in this space for sure,” said Ng. 

One of the challenges for newcomers in live streaming is building a brand in a space that is not restricted by national borders. Unlike industries like logistics, fintech or e-commerce, gaming products play on a global scale almost instantly. This is why properties like Pokémon Go and Fortnite can single-handily carry development companies to new heights.

It also means brands like Twitch can grab hold in the US, but also in Russia, Brazil and the United Kingdom. Twitch only gets around 20 per cent of its traffic from its country (America) and the other 80 is spread across the world.

Furthermore, Google has recently launched a new game streaming service called Stadia (compared to Netflix but for games) and as proven by the Free Fire statistics YouTube remains a popular place for people to watch games.

So, while Garena is definitely exploring a role in the live streaming space, it may not look like how we imagine.

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