On November 4th, the Hong Kong Canada Business Association held the first of a (potential) series of conferences surrounding investment in the gaming industry in Hong Kong. The keynote speaker was Jose A. Rueda from Sheridan College; a phenomenal speaker who focuses on Game Design at their Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design. He brought his experience of working with the industry in Hong Kong (prior to his time at Sheridan) and his expertise in game design to highlight the benefits of gamification of business in general, Hong Kong as an ideal gateway to the Asian market, and the environment in the market itself.
His description of gamification was as simple as you would expect; the demographics of the conferences were a mix of people from the industry, and people who saw potential in creating opportunities between Quebec and Hong Kong business. He showed two case studies that emphasized the importance of psychologizing and designing for the clients in a way that engaged curiosity in a positive feedback loop. The case studies he chose were specifically outside of the gaming industry, to emphasize the benefits of employees that understand game design – he made a quip about helping his students get jobs, while I noticed most of the documents received on entry were documents about Sheridan’s Bachelor of Game Design Program.
Rueda moved on to Hong Kong as an ideal gateway to the Asian market, and two concepts that – if you know much about the business world – didn’t particularly surprise me. The first was the ideal strategy for approaching the market: Set up a joint venture with a business in Hong Kong that already has operations within the Mainland. For those who don’t know, Hong Kong and Mainland China have two different systems of government; Mainland China only asserts control in specific areas like the military. During the QA session Jean-Philippe Mikus (a partner and trade-mark agent at Fasken Martineau) also highlighted Hong Kong having its laws previously established by the British, made it a lot easier to understand and navigate than attempting to approach the mainland directly. In addition, Shirley Wong from InvestHK (Canada) emphasized the beneficial corporate tax rate.
Rueda’s second point was to avoid innovation at all costs, and to transfer established expertise. From an outside perspective, that likely sounds a bit unprogressive, but trying to enter a market with something new is not easy. At the end of the day these are businesses and they want to work with what makes money, and it’s hard to make a convincing argument on a potential bet.
He ended his keynote with a section on engaging the market, focusing primarily on building relationships and partnerships in Hong Kong and how it was fundamentally different than in North America. He highlights the importance of establishing trust not just on a business level, but most importantly on a personal level. Therefore networking, and knowing the right people are the most important asset to entering the market successfully. Shirley Wong also pointed out the various support available to businesses both large and small interested in engaging in international business opportunities, not just with her company Invest Hong Kong, but also the often unrecognized support offered within our own federal government.
Through all this, some people might be wondering what does this mean for us? As indie game designers, writers, creators or game scholars? For some of you, this might not seem like the most critical thing in the world; but it’s important to recognize this shift in interest among the business elite – their interest to learn and engage with the industry here in Montreal, and spread that out into the international market is significant. As mentioned before, the demographics of the conference was wide spread from people in the industry and community like Jason Della Rocca, to academics like Jose Rueda, and representatives of several businesses. The event and reception afterwards was a learning opportunity for everyone involved. It also opened my eyes to the growing community of small game developers in Hong Kong – Rueda described how many of his students there now develop indie games and encouraged people to take interest in these rapidly growing groups.
Geoffrey Bush, Executive Director at HKCBA- Montreal further stated after the event that “HKCBA-Montreal was pleased with its first gaming sector event, and more important so were those in attendance. We look forward to further exposing the opportunities that Hong Kong offers the Montreal business community.” I was very impressed with the organizers of the conference and was pleased with their genuine curiosity and growing interest in the industry and its potential in Hong Kong. Although most of the information didn’t particularly surprise me, I wasn’t necessarily the audience they were attempting to entice; regardless, I look forward to how their interests and messaging develops as they continue to research the industry and potential opportunities.