This past summer, Japan made a legislative manoeuvre that went surprisingly under the radar, particularly given a bright spotlight on the country’s innovations ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The country legalized casino gaming, with the first resorts expected in the mid-‘20s and a whole new genre of entertainment suddenly open for business.
Those who keep close tabs on Japanese politics likely weren’t surprised by the move, as it had actually been approved by the body known as the House of Councillors some months previously. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had also voiced support for the process of legalizing casino gaming both as a means of improving tourism beyond the Tokyo area (which does just fine on its own) and with the aim of stimulating the national economy. Anyone familiar with casino resort tourism around the world undoubtedly recognizes that this is a legitimate goal. Existing casino resort hubs around East and Southeast Asia already do quite well on this front, with Macau reporting 21.9 billion patacas in revenue in the month of September alone (roughly $2.7 billion, for reference). And that’s in a year of recovery following a slight downturn in Macau casino business.
What will be interesting to see is whether or not Japan’s new foray into casino entertainment extends to the digital realm. We don’t know yet exactly how all-encompassing the gambling legislation will be, but it appears that online casino growth will be encouraged, or at least welcomed. And here, we’d be talking about a far bigger business than many people who don’t engage directly with it may imagine. Most are aware that there are massive poker tournaments online, and that slot machines can be played in arcade form. However, there are also other table games in digital form, such as roulette, blackjack, and baccarat, that have become very popular at gaming sites. There are brand new sites emerging for bingo as well, not to mention betting platforms that are closely tied to online casinos. The point is, we’re not merely talking about a few poker sites, but rather a whole industry of real money gaming.
This is an industry that ropes in billions and billions of dollars on an annual basis, and whether Japan simply welcomes existing gaming platforms or spawns the design of new ones, it will seemingly be a new contributor in this market. It’s a massive boost in digital entertainment, and possibly a massive business opportunity as well.
Below we’ve collected a series of takeaway resources covering the key digital trends in Vietnam.
Mobile Ecosystem Report Vietnam 2017/18
Vietnam mobile ecosystem and digital sizing report from Group M and the MMA.
Digital in Vietnam 2018
Key data covering the Vietnam digital landscape.
Digital Marketing Agency & Marketer Landscape in Vietnam
Vietnam digital marketing overview from an advertiser and agency perspective.
Vietnam Digital Landscape 2017
Detailed overview of digital stats and consumer internet data in the Vietnam market.
Vietnam Digital Trends 2017
Trends to watch out for across the Vietnamese consumer internet.
Vietnam ICO & Blockchain Market
Overview of the emerging blockchain and ICO scene in Vietnam.
Vietnam Today – The Digital Economy
In depth report looking at the future digital transformation of Vietnam.
PWC Vietnam Spotlight
Deep dive into Vietnam as an investment opportunity and information technology driven market.
Vietnam Esports Market Report 2018
Insight into the growth of Esports in Vietnam..
In terms of other resources, check out Vietcetera for wider coverage of Vietnam, Tech In Asia for tech news, or Geektime and ICTNews for tech news… if you speak Vietnamese. Finally, you can find out all the practical information you need to know about the start-up scene in Vietnam at this Google Doc.
Last December, a new game became an overnight mega-trend in the blockchain world. CryptoKitties allowed users to buy, own, and trade unique collectible cartoon cats on the blockchain. Around the time of launch, CryptoKitties was so successful that it slowed the Ethereum network.
This is a big deal, as the Ethereum blockchain is, without a doubt, the most active smart contract platform in existence. Of the top 100 tokens by market cap, 94% are built on top of Ethereum. Of the top 800 tokens, 87% are built on Ethereum. Most of these tokens are ERC20 tokens, which made possible the majority of the $5.5 billion raised through ICOs in 2017 and the $6.5 billion raised in token sales during just the first quarter of this year.
The driving principle behind the creation of CryptoKitties was to demonstrate the potential of Ethereum and the blockchain ecosystem for trading and securing digital assets. In the white paper, the founders discuss the narrow focus of most blockchain projects on payments. Ultimately, they hoped CryptoKitties would help people expand their vision of what a blockchain could do.
A few weeks back Digital in Asia met with Benny Giang, the founder of CryptoKitties, to talk Ethereum, cats and art on the blockchain.
Digital in Asia: So Benny, where did the inspiration for CryptoKitties come from? How did it start?
Benny: We love cats, and we know it’s a fact that the internet and cats is just married, right? Basically any new internet technology always starts with cats.
We also thought that blockchain seemed pretty interesting, but we wanted to make it more accessible. We saw so many ICOs happening, and we loved the variety. Some were solving really big interesting problems, like world hunger level. But there were some that were just … I don’t even know what they were doing. It’s just getting DJ Khaled to hype up their ICOs! It felt like what was missing was the education and accessibility piece. So we had the idea of putting cats on the blockchain to drive our education and accessibility agenda.
This turned our attention to a couple of existing crypto collectibles like CryptoPunks and Spells of Genesis. These were the first to use the ERC20 token standard from Ethereum, and then create a collectible on the blockchain. But the limitation with the existing collectibles was that they were only an image. We wanted to take it to the next level. So we started exploring the game play, and we arrived on this interesting idea of allowing people to breed their kitties on the blockchain.
We then spent a month on genetic simulations, trying to figure out how deep we could go and how we could evolve the idea. We established a 256 bit genome. That results in about 4 billion variations of kitties. In terms of human genetics, that’s nothing, it’s very controllable. But in game play, 4 billion potential kitties is quite a lot of variations. It was more of an experiment, playing around, and that was the initial genesis of CryptoKitties.
Digital in Asia: Where did you get started with blockchain? Because it seems as if you were already very familiar with the technology. CryptoKitties was more about doing something in blockchain, as opposed to doing CryptoKitties.
Benny: It started in the spring of 2017. I began reading more, specifically on Ethereum. Most of our team, except a couple of members, were already involved in blockchain, the Bitcoin side. They mined Bitcoin, they bought them, they sold them from way back.
From a more typical internet technology perspective, a lot of the product teams and my background was around building B2B Enterprise SaaS Software. I was interested in the concept of the world computer, and creating a decentralised app store to build real utility. That’s really fascinating, and the whole decentralised aspect really caught my attention.
But I love the quote: “Any disruptive technology starts off as a toy”. And in there I saw the opportunity to bring the educational piece forward, in a way that people could learn, but also have fun.
Digital in Asia: Crypto can be complicated. How long did you think it would take people to get their heads around digital wallets, Gas price and all the other complexities of blockchain, and Ethereum specifically.
Benny: In the first week about 80,000 people signed up. These are new users we had never interacted with, and probably don’t even know what a digital wallet is. So that was already a huge factor. 80,000 new people were so attracted to this game that they were willing to jump through all these hoops.
My biggest goals always involve optimizing the experience for the end user. That’s all I care about, that’s all our team cares about. But in blockchain, and Cryptokitties, we’re still pretty far away from having it where you click on the button and everything just works.
Are people scared of Gas and all these things? I would say they are. Sometimes Gas price goes up and they don’t understand why, but that’s kind of our role, and part of why we created the game. Right now we’re building a whole new onboarding process that will help educate: “Hey this is what Gas is, this is why we need it, this is why it keeps fluctuating.” So people will understand.
Digital in Asia: Why did you decide to build on the Ethereum blockchain? There are alternative blockchains out there like Neo, and as we’ve seen with Gas price increases, and congestion, it’s not always an easy environment.
Benny: It was a timing thing and also more of a mission alignment thing. We met some of the Ethereum team last year and saw that these people really do have the builder mentality, they’re very product focused and development focused. Looking at other blockchains there is potential scalability, but in terms of full production readiness, with thousands of dApps already built on top of it, and battle tested, I would say there is only one at this point.
There are some blockchains being talked about in terms of being Ethereum killers, and that may be true, but let’s see when they get full production ready. Practically, if we were to consider these other chains then we wouldn’t have launched CryptoKitties when we did, as we would’ve waited six more months. It was more of we need to do it now, and we need to ship the product because the timing was right, it was when ICOs were popping like crazy. But as you know we didn’t do an ICO. We actually did the reverse ICO where we built the product, and we sold people kitties!
Digital in Asia: Where is CryptoKitties going? What are your future plans?
Benny: We’re going to work towards deepening the user experience. That means more game play features and expanding to new ways of thinking about the platform. It’s very interesting the three areas we play in. One is crypto, the other one is gaming and the final area is art. We were invited to the Rare Art Festival New York, and we asked a bunch of people to basically talk about this new contemporary art form which is digital collectibles. And some people laughed, definitely.
What’s interesting to me is these Kitties will live for thousands of years. What we have done is basically made history. No matter if we are alive, or the company is alive, these kitties will live. We have this concept of infinite extensibility which is related to the kitties as art form.
Digital in Asia: This is an interesting area. What do you mean by infinite extensibility?
Benny: You buy a painting, let’s say it’s the Mona Lisa. It’s pretty old. You just keep it, and you just look at it, right? And as it ages with time, it just deteriorates. But with the digital collectibles as an art form, as time passes, more functionalities can be added. Right now all you can do is buy and sell and breed. But what if you could walk it, what if this kitty could be a real kitty in your mind. So it’s like an art piece that you can continually interact with as time progresses.
Digital in Asia: It’s apparent you’re not actually a blockchain business, you’re a gaming or collectibles business. Blockchain is just the technology you’re building your business on, in the same way that the internet is the technology that Uber or Amazon build their business on. But we don’t – for the most part – talk about that any more. Every business built on the blockchain right now is called a blockchain business, and this is just about the early stage nature of the space really. What other projects do you feel are good enough to transcend blockchain, and become real businesses?
Benny: The whole blockchain gaming and collectibles category is going to be huge this year. In regards to ICOs, there are a few products I find interesting. They’re more related to AI blockchain, and the convergence of the two. But I don’t actively get involved with many ICOs because the space is almost too hot right now. I would rather hang around the people who are developers or product people, who focus on the end view. There is so much work to do on protocols, all these different things. If we want more businesses to transcend blockchain, we need better and more secure blockchain platforms.
Digital in Asia: Okay. On that, are there any ways in which Ethereum limits you?
Benny: Limitations? We really support the Ethereum ecosystem. We have a team of six that are focused on long term scaling of Ethereum, talking to other chains, working with side chains, trying to find the right solutions. Introducing Casper, or at least the MVP of Casper, will be a big milestone for Ethereum this year. If they pull it off without doing a super hard fork, and the community comes to a consensus, they’re going to be way ahead of other people. Because again, they really have the masses, they just need to move the masses to the next level.
Digital in Asia: Do you think there is a danger that they won’t successfully deliver, or build consensus around, sharding or proof-of-stake? We don’t want Ethereum Classic 2.
Benny: No, No, No. Nobody wants that. Ethereum is below 600 dollars right now, which is low compared to a few months back. When CryptoKitties started it was at 400 dollars. So it’s back to a level of normality for us. It’s good for everybody to calm down, and come together around common goals, because we need to think long term. We all know the market was bound for a correction, and while that’s sad because I own Ethereum, it’s good as it lowers costs to build and operate on the blockchain.
Digital in Asia: What plans do you have around mobile? Any sort of AR functionality? People think it would be cool to see your kitties.
Considering new features like AR as a blockchain gaming company who really believes in the philosophy of decentralisation is tricky. If you walk your cat, should that be on a blockchain? When you have a kitty for a thousand years, we think that entire history – including any AR excursions – should be logged. But that’s not easy, and we can’t handle all of the transactions yet. But we are brainstorming a bunch of these new gaming features because that will help keep the experience interesting.
Digital in Asia: Thanks for your time Benny. This has been an interesting conversation. Any final words of advice?
Benny: Blockchain is only just getting started. Thanks again.
From consumer engagement and privacy to technological advances, content strategies and monetisation, data in its various forms is everywhere and companies are challenged with harnessing and analysing it smartly for greater returns.
Here are some of the top trends driving media companies:
Mobile and Social – What Consumers Want
Audiences today expect video to be on mobile. According to Ooyala’s Q4 2017 video index, mobile’s share of video plays in Asia-Pacific surpassed 60% and the medium had the most share of plays amongst other devices in the region.
Social media video continues to grow, driving media companies to lean more on social to promote and enhance their content, and grow their audiences. Content, strategic partnerships, innovation and branding are key to their growth in the future.
The focus on more granular applications of asset metadata has also led companies to AI capabilities. Modern data-driven media platforms connect and streamline content supply chains to help media companies search their content archives for video, audio or text files with facial recognition, language translation, visual text identification, and more.
Immersion with AR and VR
With mobile devices getting more ubiquitous and advancements in 5G connectivity, we’re looking towards a future of more immersive video content, thanks to continuous progress developing virtual reality (VR), 360-degree video, and augmented reality (AR) technology.
A study confirmed that VR increases viewer engagement with journalism, particularly with larger-scale experiences. And VR360 ads were found to perform better than traditional ads, with advanced platforms supporting VR360 playback for VOD and live.
Interest for AR is rising within the wider industry. Consider The New York Times’ integration of AR into its stories, including features published during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Data at the centre
As media companies strive to be innovative in monetising content and diversifying revenue streams, it is data that will increase their chances for success and lead them into the next era of media.
Fashion is the biggest ecommerce category, while payment methods and delivery issues are the biggest concerns for online retailers and marketers in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, according to a new report from Econsultancy and Shopee exploring challenges and opportunities in ecommerce across the region.
The results revealed that 51% of online retailers and 41% of marketers saw their online sales rise, but for 28% of online retailers and 29% of marketers, online sales remained the same relative to the past year.
Fashion and accessories was the most popular category on online marketplaces, with 23% of online retailers and 16% of marketers active in it. Health and beauty was the second most popular category, with 17% of online retailers and 15% of marketers offering choices in it.
The survey also revealed that marketers in Vietnam (11%) were the most active in the computers, camera and mobile phones category, edging out Singapore (10%) and Taiwan (10%).
While around a third of online retailers (32%) and marketers (33%) indicated that they did not sell internationally and had no plans to, the ecommerce market in the region is poised to grow with 54% of online retailers and 39% of marketers planning to offer their wares and services to other countries.
AppsFlyer has just released it’s “State of App Marketing in India” report, offering insights into India’s mobile marketing landscape, the latest trends and how to navigate India’s mobile ecosystem.
India is the world’s fastest growing mobile market, faster than even China, with the country now accounting for 10 percent of global smartphone shipments, according to IDC. Indian consumers have a relatively high in-app buying rate compared to the global average, especially in shopping apps.
The report looked at three broad categories of shopping, travel and entertainment apps, and also revealed other key findings:
India ranks sixth globally in terms of number of minutes spent on apps per day.
There was a 200% increase in the average number of installs per app when comparing January 2017 to January 2018
India suffers from a high uninstall rate due to limited storage space in the Android dominated market. Close to one third (32 percent) of installed apps are deleted within 30 days. Retention is also a challenge with only about 5% of users active 30 days after installing an app.
India is increasingly attractive to non-Indian apps, especially Chinese ones. More Chinese apps are now in the top 200 compared to Indian apps. The share of non-Indian apps in the categories of shopping and travel grew by 84 percent and 45 percent respectively. In contrast, the share of Indian-based apps has risen year on year in the entertainment category.
The State of App Marketing in India report analyzed data from different time frames throughout 2017, with a sample of 1 billion plus app installs, 4 billion app opens, and $400 million generated from in-app revenue.
Myanmar is going through a digital transformation. AdsMy, a local marketing tech platform, have produced a trends deck covering digital marketing and consumer behaviour for Myanmar in 2018. Programmatic, mobile, video, native and digital advertising are all highlighted as growth areas.
2018 marks the 10 year anniversary for both the Apple App Store and Android market. In the short time since the first wave of apps were published in 2008, they have impacted the lives of people all over the world on an unprecedented level. There are now apps for almost anything and everything – hugely successful apps that incorporate AR and VR, apps dedicated to events, and even an app just for popping bubble wrap.
Who could ever have imagined that apps would evolve from the simple Snake game on the Nokia phone (yes that was an app), to driving a $6.3 trillion industry in 2021?
Looking back over 2017, the app economy has hit some significant milestones:
By the end of October 2017, the iOS App Store and Google Play had more than 2 million and more than 3.5 million apps available, respectively.
New apps continue to be introduced at a strong pace. During the month ending October 31, 2017, roughly 50,000 new apps launched on the iOS App Store and over 150,000 were added to Google Play.
Across mature markets, users have up to 90 or 100 apps installed on their devices, 30 of which they use on a monthly basis. On average, people are spending two hours per day — which equates to one month out of every year — in apps.
More than 40 countries will generate over $100 million in consumer spend in 2017 for iOS App Store and Google Play combined.
Apps play a key role in almost every industry today, including retail, banking, travel, QSR, CPG and media & entertainment .
It is apparent that the evolution of mobile apps have transformed the everyday lives of people, and users continuously expect their favourite apps to be improved. There are several aspects of an app which users expect to be improved, but convenience is a core theme that underlies many of our predictions as we look to 2018.
1. Worldwide Gross Consumer App Store Spend Blows Past the $100 Billion Mark
The continued evolution of markets across the globe has led app monetization to continuously grow at an outstanding rate. Apart from games, which traditionally account for the majority of overall spend, we foresee spending in e-commerce apps such as Alibaba and Amazon to drive worldwide consumer spend – which is expected to grow about 30% year on year to exceed $110 billion in 2018. In APAC, consumer spend on apps hit $17.1 billion in H1 2017 alone.
2. App Store Curation Drives Higher Overall IAP Revenue and Expands Opportunity for Independent Publishers
In June 2017, both Apple and Google announced updates to the iOS App Store and Google Play aimed to alleviate this issue through app curation and editorial content. We predict that these updates will have a significant impact on apps in 2018, in particular apps that help people occupy their leisure time. These types of apps, which tend to be entertainment-centric, are most likely to connect with consumers when they are casually browsing through the app stores. Conversely, “needs-based” apps such as UberEats or DBS PayLah! are far more likely to be downloaded based on word of mouth recommendations or focused searches when a user encounters a particular need.
3. Broader Adoption of AR Apps
Pokémon GO and Snapchat sparked huge interest in augmented reality (AR) among the masses, and we foresee that AR will take another significant step forward towards realizing its massive potential in 2018.
Facebook, Google and Apple have taken the lead at their developer conferences in 2017, and together with the Chinese powerhouses Alibaba , Baidu and Tencent , have set the foundation for AR-related initiatives. These initiatives will accelerate the space by making it easier and faster for publishers to develop AR apps, while also stoking consumer interest. For example, in Japan, starting in May 2017, there has been a significant increase in iPhone app downloads for the top ranking apps by “Augmented Reality” app store search in Japan, and other APAC countries.
4. Fragmentation of the Video Streaming Space Accelerates
It is now not an uncommon sight to see people catching up on their favourite Netflix series or Hollywood movies while on the move. 2017 has been another extraordinary year for video streaming services and total time spent in Video and Entertainment apps tripled to almost 40 billion hours in APAC alone.
Between H1 2015 and H1 2017, time spent in the Video Players and Entertainment categories on Android phones in APAC has tripled to reach close to 40 billion hours – almost half of the worldwide total.
Year to date through October 31, 2017, these apps have driven significant growth of worldwide consumer spend for the Entertainment category on both iOS and Google Play. However, as some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry and app economy — including Netflix , Apple , Google , Facebook , Snap and Disney — have announced huge plans to expand their footprints in variety of ways, we expect that 2018 to mark the beginning of an inflection point for this space, in terms of fragmentation. In fact, our research shows that Android users in South Korea who use video streaming apps are significantly more likely than average to be accessing other video and related entertainment services.
Overall, this space will continue to see steady growth in terms of revenue and engagement, but in the years that follow, consumers may start to rationalize how they spend their time and money among a dizzying array of choices, resulting in some players succumbing to profit pressures as they get crowded out of this competitive space.
5. Mobile Pushes Towards the Center of the Retail Customer Journey
Analysts and experts have pronounced the retail apocalypse in recent times, and we see apps as a way to reinvigorate consumers’ retail experience. Brick-and-mortar retailers have already embraced apps and shoppers are now very engaged; results are telling from the Great Singapore Sale 2017 , which saw an increase in sales thanks to the GoSpree app. In Indonesia, which has a population of 261 million and a burgeoning middle class, users spend an average of just over 90 minutes per month in Shopping apps, placing it at #2 after South Korea. On 11 November 2017, dubbed Single’s Day, Alibaba generated a record breaking $25.3 billion in sales, with mobile users accounting for 90% of sales. These numbers are only the beginning of what is a rapidly evolving retail experience for consumers.
Come 2018, apps will continue to cause consumers to change their shopping habits which will in turn redefine the relationship between and even the very nature of existing retail channels (e.g., mobile app, web, brick-and-mortar). China, for instance, is one huge influencer in this area. We are seeing people in western markets increasingly use physical stores as a place to pick up items purchased on mobile. In addition, cash registers’ longstanding role in the checkout and payment process will become reduced, or in some cases replaced, by mobile. For many consumers, mobile will be a core part of the shopping experience regardless of channel.
6. Restaurant Aggregators Drive Mobile Conversion as Delivery-as-a-Service Further Penetrates Premium Markets
As we predicted last year, there was some consolidation in the food delivery space. Looking ahead to next year, we expect that aggregators such as Korea’s Yogiyo will continue to expand the addressable market for this space by opening up under penetrated markets as well as converting users who do not currently use mobile apps from intermediaries to order meals. Meanwhile, delivery as a service (DaaS) providers (e.g., UberEATS , Deliveroo) will gain market share in premium markets where customers are more likely to pay more for higher-end restaurants that don’t have their own delivery fleets. Furthermore, we expect more quick-service restaurants (QSR) to respond to the increased competition from food delivery by partnering with DaaS apps, similar to McDonald’s growing partnership with UberEATS . As with video streaming, this space will face consolidation in later years as it needs to rationalize the fragmentation felt by customers and the profit pressures felt by service providers competing in a crowded space.
7. Finance-Related Apps Poised for Most Significant Transformation in 2018
In 2017 in Asia-Pacific specifically, the growth of downloads in the Finance category outpaced all app categories (non-games) combined, with China leading the way. Person-to-person (P2P) payment apps, like WeChat, AliPay, GoPay, Grab Pay and PayTM have been some of the shining stars in the fintech app revolution. They have transformed how consumers, particularly millennials, exchange money, by displacing the use of cash and checks. In the next year, we expect these services to capitalize on their popularity and broaden their range of services in an effort to expand their revenue potential, fend off increased competition from traditional banks and deepen user engagement. With retailers adopting such apps as an option for customers, we expect P2P payment apps to see increased transaction volume. These initiatives have been well received by users, as they will provide even greater levels of convenience. In addition, this space will see increased activity from successful players in other categories, like messaging and social networking, who are constantly looking for additional ways to serve, monetize and engage their large user bases.
These are just a handful of areas where we expect the app economy to evolve over the near future. Despite how far this space has advanced over its first decade, it is just scratching the surface of its full potential. Users increasingly expect apps to completely transform the very nature of how they accomplish goals and tasks, as well as create brand new experiences not possible on other platforms. We are excited to see how app developers change the world by delivering on these needs over the app economy’s second decade.