iAsk Wu Guoliang: Is Ourgame Inc. still "alive"?
There was a wide-spread online articletitled "Rivals Killed by Tencent in the Last 15 Years", which tells the story about how Tencent beat the competitors one by one during the last 15 years, and Ourgame.com was one of them, the former overlord of casual games.
In 2003, Ourgame was the world's largest casual gaming platform.At its peak, it had 200million registered users, 15million monthly active users and up to 600,000 peak concurrent users. It had servers in China, the United States, Japan and South Korea. Indeed, it had its big time for quite a while. Ourgame together with Chinagames and Gameabc were called the three giants in domestic casual game market.
However, a good piece of cheese will always be moved by someone. With the entry of Tencent, Netease, Shanda and other independent game leaders, Ourgame ignored the importance of innovation and upgrade due to the company’s blind arrogance. Within less than two years, Ourgame lost control of casual board games.
"Sold itself” to NHN, South Korea's largest online gaming group, and transformed itself into a MassiveMultiplayer Online Game(MMOG) developer, Ourgame spent several dismal years.
It was not until 2010, when the company bought back its shares, spun off its MMOGprojects and set up an offline E-sports platform, that it gradually returned to the public's sight. The leader of the series of revival plans is Wu Guoliang, CEO of Ourgame. Gloria Ai, founder of iAsk Media will join with this contrarian to foresee the new future of E-sports.
Will E-sports leave a way out for Ourgame?
A decade ago, E-sports enthusiasts were seen as ignorant and incompetent. Professional gamers stayed up late fighting for RMB3,000 a month.
Ten years later, the scale of China's E-sports industry has approached 80billion Yuan.The 2017 China E-sports IndustryReport predicts that the next five years will be the "golden five years" of China's E-sports market.
Tencent, Netease, Alibaba, JD.com, Suning, Sina, if you see these Internet giants in a certain field at the same time, that field is definitely a headmost industry.Plus,Giant Network, Perfect World and other established game manufacturers, E-sports has become anarena where thousands of people are fighting for a share. By comparison, Ourgame, which was founded in 1998, is more like an old onlooker?
In response to such questioning, WuGuoLiang told iAsk Leaders: “we must find our own space.So, in the past several years, we were trying to search some places of our own, places that belong to us, in other spheres of the entire gameecosystem.”Wu Guoliang hopes to rely on his past experience in board games and live broadcasting to leadOurgame to the international stage and build a new offline ecosystem.
The so-called international stage is the 2018 International Consumer Electronics Show(CES) where iAsk Leaders "met" Wu Guoliang.The interesting thing was that Ourgame did not make its show in Las Vegas by an eye-catching showroom or booth -- in fact, they're more geek.This time, they drove a big truck.
In the casino town of Las Vegas, North America's first mobile E-sports caravan was unveiled. Its body is 25 meters long, equivalent to 6 private cars. Inside the caravan, E-sports stage, director’s cabin, multimedia center and a VIP lounge are all available.Just push a key, a fully equipped mobile E-sports pavilion will be presented in front of you. Wu Guoliang told iAsk Leaders that this mobile E-sports pavilion will allow e-sports to go deeper into the community, travel across North America, and bring a new experience to the players and audiences.
Just as how it became the first to lead the popularity of online board games in China, Ourgame is eager to get back into the limelight.
Gloria Ai: when Ourgame was listed on the stock market, its main business was still board games. Five years later, it suddenly appeared as an E-sport company in Las Vegas. What exactly has happened?
Wu Guoliang: After we went public, we had more money. Board games are a good business, but I think we have a lot of genes that can be extended to other fields. Board games are also E-sports, like mahjong, there are alsomahjong championships. Actually, we have been engaged in mahjong competitions for more than ten years, so we are actually very good at holding various types and scales of competitions.
From Audit Assistant to Chairman of Mahjong International League, who is Wu Guoliang?
The transformation frommahjong game to E-sports is still seen as a "crossover"by many of others. Yet, Wu guoliang managed it effortlessly, which has to be attributed to his unique life experience.
On April 5, 2017, IMSA held its first Executive Board Meeting in Aarhus, Denmark. Chen Zelan, Associate Director of China General Administration of Sport Chess and Card Sports Management Center was selected as the president of IMSA for the new term. The meeting also selected six vice presidents, among whom Ourgame's CEO and Chairman of Mahjong International League, WuGuoLiang was one of them.
During the time when Wu Guoliang served asChairman of Mahjong International League, he actively pushed forward the preparation and establishment of MIL, promoted the global spread of mahjong culture, and helped MIL to formally join IMSA.Many Chinese people feel hard to believe that the quintessence of Chinese culture mahjong, not only hasan international league, but also has absorbed memberships from 40 countries and regions in five continents who officially registered in the mahjong association.
Wu Guoliang, who graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and worked as an audit assistant in a company located in San Francisco in the United States, perhaps had never had the thought occurring in his mind that one day he would carry forward the "quintessence" mahjong culture in the world.
The transition has to do with Ourgame.In July 2004, Wu Guoliang joined Ourgameand served successively as Chief Financial Officer and Vice President. In 2007, he formally became CEO of Ourgame.He helped the company introduce new investors and complete MBO at the end of 2010 and completed its listing on Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2014.
Wu Guoliang, who has more than 10 years of experience in the board game industry, has a deep understanding of this intellectual sport, but what is more admirable is that Wu Guoliang has the capability to face failure soberly. He once said there was a good chance for Ourgame, because it was the first to enter the game market. The reason why it was overtaken by Tencent and other Internet giants was that Ourgame failed to seize the most essential part of the industry, and meanwhilethe company invested a lot of resources to do other things, such as SP business, etc.And it adopted the investment diversification theory to manage the company's investment strategies. Allof these combined resulted in the company’s development today at an inferior level compared with Tencent and the likes.
Today, Wu Guoliang told iAsk Leaders: "There are a lot of things we want to do, but it's all about gaming."
Gloria Ai: Are you inspired by the acquisition of World Poker Tour that you began to engage in E-sports?
Wu Guoliang: TheWorld Poker Tour has been in operations for 16 years, and its TV shows have been broadcasted on Fox Sports Channelfor 16 years, which still has the highest audience ratings. So, we got a lot of inspirations.For example, WPT used to produce live broadcasting and TV programs. And it was able to change a simple live environment program into something that are enjoyable to anyone when they turn on the TV. This is very essential.
Bet offline E-sports, success or failure?
A hero is nothing but a product of his time. Wu Guoliang caught up with a good era.Ten years ago, even if he had a deep understanding of the game industry and was able to make his layout in today’s ecosystem with a forward-looking perspective, he would not have survived the long and exhausting period of the industry growth.Because, at that moment, the platform he built was not approached by any player.
"In China, the traffic concentration phenomenon is an obvious situation, which I believe is known by all internet insiders."Wu Guoliang told iAsk Leaders. Therefore, Ourgame wants to build an ecosystem that will serve the future of the game industry.
This is a very pragmatic business - because there are so many domestic game companies, and the numerous games they produce will have to be exported to the overseas market or have a share in the market by E-sports competitions. In this case, the service platform built by Wu Guoliang will be exceptionally needed.“They always want to promote their games by making TV shows.And I have been sponsoring all of these channels. I've built a global network of E-sports pavilion which has a very clear first-mover advantage.”In Wu Guoliang's view, his ecological circle will satisfy the rigid demand of the future E-sports that no one would omit. In a way, it's more like Steam, a game network platform that has been turned into reality.
And as E-sports is developing ever closer to the Olympics, Wu Guoliang had new ideas."compared with Olympics, we're more like a Broadway."In Wu Guoliang's vision, what he hopes to present to the players is a colorful game space, where game makers can get more attention or more users.Wu Guoliang believes that it is hard to find a second companyin the world like Ourgame that can run a six-month event in dozens of cities around the world.
"In the future, the game industry may yield one trillion Yuan of production value. Even in the end, there will be 200 billion Yuan in reality,I would be very satisfied to take a big piece out of it."That's Wu Guoliang's art of making money. And under his efforts, Ourgame is offering the gaming industry a viable way to "foresee" the future.
Gloria Ai: in the game industry, a lot of companies are relentlessly developing game experiences that interact with people. Would it be possible that no one would want to go offline?
Wu Guoliang: I don’t think so. Rather, I would provide a platform or an ecosystem to help these game technology companies showcase their products.Because ultimately, they all want to have millions of viewers see their interactive games in front of their TV sets, and to have tens of millions of viewers know about their products on their live platforms.