Inside Asian Gaming speaks to TGG Interactive co-founder Raymond Chan about the incredible potential Japan offers in regards to creativity and innovation for the gaming industry.
By Ben Blaschke
It may already be the hottest topic in the global gaming industry, but there is more to Japan’s burgeoning casino liberation than meets the eye.
For Hong Kong gaming technology company TGG Interactive, the opportunities Japan opens up for the gaming industry as a whole extend well beyond casino walls with the nation’s proud history of technological innovation and recreational game production ripe for the picking.
“Most people, when they talk about Japan, focus on the casinos that are potentially going to open and the fact that it is going to be a huge market. I don’t think anybody would disagree with that,” says TGG CEO and co-founder Raymond Chan in an exclusive interview with Inside Asian Gaming.
“But from our point of view, the most important thing is that because Japan is such a huge market, it attracts a lot of innovation and a lot of talent from different companies. This creates a golden opportunity to find talent in Japan.
“All of the talent has previously been focused on creating PlayStation, video games and mobile games – because Japan makes great mobile games – as well as the pachinko and pachislots industry. Now that casino gaming is nearing, there is an opportunity for the talent to follow. It’s an opportunity for TGG to go over there, find this incredible talent and utilize those Japanese products which I’m sure everyone would agree are among of the best in the market.
“That’s what we are dreaming of when we talk about Japan – innovation, creativity. It can become one of the strongest countries in the world at developing games for casino gaming.”
There is good reason for TGG to focus so heavily on the Japanese market. The brainchild of Chan and co-founder Ernie Suek, TGG was formed in 2014 after the duo recognized a need for greater cooperation between those developing gambling products and those utilizing them both in online and land-based casino operations.
The result was HIRO, an omni-channel open gaming platform that provides game developers and gaming operators with the freedom and flexibility to build games specifically suited to the needs of an individual operator while also meeting global regulation requirements at a fraction of the time and cost.
“The open platform, we believe, will attract innovation – attract more game developers who have great ideas to get into this industry and create a product,” explains Chan.
“This allows us to give casino operators more choice and more importantly give players more choice and more variety of product. That’s what the whole open platform is all about – to help developers with great ideas get into game development. That in turn will help casino operators attract more customers and ultimately increase revenue.
“HIRO allows operators to pick and choose their products from our library and it also provides them with access to the game developers themselves, to talk to them directly about how to tune and twist the game as per their customer’s preferences.”
Which is where Japan comes in. Chan points to the likes of Aruze, Konami and Sega Sammy as examples of Japanese gambling product developers with a strong and proven track record, however he is adamant the country’s creative juices remain severely under-represented.
This point is particularly notable given Japan’s historical passion for electronic gaming. While it is estimated that there are somewhere between three million to five million slot machines in operation worldwide, Japan itself boasts four million pachinko machines, “so you can see how much Japan is into that style of gambling,” Chan observes.
“The Japanese society is highly educated and more comfortable with electronic machines. They understand the game rules and enjoy the entertainment value they provide which is generally more complicated than in table games.
“The other key point is that although Japanese players are just as likely to play a low volatility game like pachinko as they are a higher volatility option like horse racing or lotteries, one thing that’s clear is the game should have some kind of skill element.
“Pachinko is about skills, horse racing is about skills – even lottery is kind of about skills, or at least the perception of it. Whether it is high or low volatility, it has to be about skills.”
It’s because of this unique outlook that TGG is focusing so much of its energy on Japan, despite the fact the actual realization of Japanese IRs is still at least five years away.
“And it’s not just TGG that should rely on that. The whole casino gaming industry should be looking to Japan’s creativity as an opportunity,” says Chan, whose company has already made considerable inroads into the European, South American and more established Asian markets such as Macau, the Philippines, Cambodia and Korea.
“This is the perfect opportunity for the industry as a whole to take advantage of Japanese innovation.”