Just last week, Red 5 Studios confirmed a USD 23 million and record-breaking deal with Garena for Firefall in 7 Asian countries, spanning a total of 6 years. Not much was written about the man behind the deal, Mr Tony Park, who was the main architect in making this possible. Korean game website ThisIsGame.com speaks with him, a Korean who is fluent in both English and Chinese. Please note that not all questions and answers are translated.
Q: Firefall’s first step overseas is Taiwan and South East Asia. Why these 2 markets?
A: The strategic plans for China and Korea is not confirmed yet, hence we accelerated the deal for these regions once Garena showed interest in Firefall.
Q: The competition in South East Asia is tough, with various popular online shooters in the region currently and Firefall might meet some tough competition.
A: We held discussions with Garena about the many online shooters in the region, and noted popular titles such as Special Force, Point Blank, Black Shot (under Garena) and Cross Fire. Firefall will stand out because of its additional large-scale PvE content, hence it will be different from other FPS. Garena also held this difference in high regards, hence the deal was signed. We feel that Firefall will have its own player base and stand alongside other FPS in the market.
Q: Why chose Garena in the end?
A: Other than its interest, Garena is also the publisher for League of Legends in the region. In less than a month of launch in Taiwan, the CCU went over 100,000 players, making it the number one title in the country. In the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, the game did well in player numbers as well, perhaps one of the top 2 games there.
From what we have seen, Garena’s Black Shot in Singapore and Malaysia also reached a record number of players. The company’s founder is a fan of e-Sports and competitive gaming, knowing details of Firefall since it was announced.
Q: Which side of the party initiated contact first?
A: It is hard to say which company communicated about the possible deal first. It happened last June, when we visited some game companies in Taiwan and we paid a visit to Garena over there as well. It happened that Garena had interest in Firefall, but did not know which side to contact, Red 5 Studios or Webzen.
Q: USD 23 million is a very large sum, the biggest in fact for the region. How did this deal came about?
A: After meeting them in Taiwan, our teams subsequently met at PAX, ChinaJoy and the recent G*Star in Korea. Garena sent a number of their folks to G*Star to try out the game. Red 5 did not have a Business to Business counter, hence they had to queue up like the rest of the visitors to try the game out. After that, Garena and us discussed about the deal.
Q: So the great show at G*Star 2011 sealed the deal?
A: Yes, you can say that G*Star actually helped. Earlier in July, the conflict with Webzen was not resolved yet, hence Garena could only stand at the side and observe the proceedings. Then on October 21st, we set up Red 5 Singapore, and in November Garena’s CEO paid us a visit after G*Star 2011 ended. The talks to finalize the deal lasted 3 days.
Q: When did plans for overseas servers began?
A: The correct term for the rights is “other than North America and Europe”. Before acquiring back, we weren’t able to talk to potential overseas partners. That was a sensitive period in terms of the law, which was known throughout the gaming industry.
Q: Will Webzen be getting a share of the profits from this deal?
A: Yes, Webzen will be getting a share of the profits, including some of the USD 23 million which was just signed.
Q: Normally, a business manager will be sent to attend this kind of contract signing. Why did you decide to be present instead?
A: The last time I did this was a long time ago *laughs*. Perhaps that is the reason I decided to attend. But in actual fact, Garena’s CEO was there for the signing as well, I had to show my sincerity. Firefall is a very important game to us, but I did the negotiations with my business team as well, not just me alone.
Q: While you were at Hanbitsoft, you lead the overseas expansion for Granado Espada as well. What is the secret in sealing such mega deals?
A: To be honest, luck plays a part. The hard work for me is to understand our own titles and understand the companies we are dealing with. We have to know what their concerns are and provide them with answers and whatever information they need. Once done, we can all settle down and discuss a deal. Having a playable build over at the previous conventions helped the deal as well.
Q: In 2008, you mentioned that even a normal 40 year old staff may strike it again in the gaming industry. Do you still stand by this view?
A: If you are not part of the development team, one of the founders or an investor in the company, it will be hard to become the company’s representative. The gaming industry is still young, hence there are not many people in the industry who have reached the retirement age yet.
Q: What is your advise to those who are interested in getting into the business department for games?
A: I am currently considering a new setup in the company. From our pool of Game Masters, we will handpick a few and groom them to work in the business or product planning departments. I think this is the only way to ensure they are still in the industry after 50 years old.
To people outside, my advise given to my own staff as well is to work on on everything, no matter how easy or hard the task is. I may look like a Superman on surface, but I am a very hardworking man as well. I don’t think I am smarter than people, hence I work every of the smaller tasks to perfection.