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The gaming industry has undergone significant changes over the past couple of decades. Starting in 2000, online gaming gained prominence, followed by the popularity of web-based games that allowed players to engage at their convenience. With the widespread adoption of smartphones in 2009, mobile gaming experienced rapid growth, prompting gaming companies to invest capital in research and development. By 2017, mobile gaming officially surpassed consoles and PCs, becoming the highest-grossing platform and reshaping the entire ecosystem of the gaming industry. Many gaming companies, unable to introduce games that captivate players, faced unsuccessful transitions and eventual decline.
The left side of the chart illustrates the changes in the top ten revenue-generating companies in the Taiwanese gaming industry over the past five years. From this, it is evident that, aside from Gamania, International Games System, and Soft-world, the rankings of other companies are relatively unstable, indicative of fierce competition. The key to maintaining competitiveness for game developers lies in whether their games can cater to the players’ preferences, keeping them engaged and contributing to continuous revenue growth. However, the industry’s rapid transformation has pressured game developers to innovate continuously. Despite their efforts, many have struggled to create games that resonate with players, resulting in unstable revenue growth.
The transformation of the gaming industry, intense competition among companies, and the instability of revenue have further prompted changes in the ownership of gaming companies. On the right side of the chart, companies that have undergone changes in ownership over the past decade are listed. Many of these companies experienced leadership turnover or transitioned to other industries due to poor business performance. During the period of transformation in the gaming industry, what changes occurred in the ownership of these companies?
This article will analyze companies that have ranked in the top ten in revenue in the gaming industry over the past five years and have undergone changes in ownership. Through this exploration, you will understand how the gaming industry’s transformations have influenced various gaming companies’ operational dynamics.
Wayi (3086) was founded in August 1993 by BoHung Huang. BoHung Huang worked as a comic art editor at a publishing house. In 1993, a friend approached him to start a computer company, and recognizing the future trend of computers, they co-founded Wayi, providing hardware and software services for clients.
At the time, BoHung Huang and colleagues played games during their leisure time and noticed a need for more Japanese games in the market. They decided to approach Japanese game companies for potential representation proactively. After addressing compatibility issues, they started their journey by representing Japanese games.
In February 2000, Wayi released its first online game, “People in Jianghu,” marking its entry into the online gaming operations field. In August of the same year, Beijing Wayi International Digital Entertainment was established to enter the online gaming market in China. Subsequently, in May 2002, Wayi went public on the emerging stock market, and in March 2004, it moved to the OTC market.
In 2004, due to subpar results in developing in-house games and fierce competition, Wayi, like many other gaming companies, faced layoffs. By 2005, the company incurred losses amounting to 200 million NTD. In December 2005, Wayi launched its operations in the mainland Chinese online gaming market and was acquired by Kingsoft for its China business.
In 2013, Wayi returned to losses, and its revenue declined. In June 2016, during a board and supervisor election, BoHung Huang resigned as chairman and general manager, transferring his holdings. Chairman responsibilities were assumed by PeiJing Xu, the legal representative of Chun Tong Investment, with Chun Tong Investment holding only 1.79% of the shares. The largest shareholder remained BoHung Huang’s family. Thus, TEJ did not change the group.
In August 2016, Wayi was listed as full-cash delivery stock because its net worth was less than half of its capital in the Q2 report. In November 2016, Wanin’s Chief Financial Officer, AiYun Wu, was appointed as a director through a by-election. In June 2017, PeiJing Xu stepped down as chairman, and XieJian Zhang, the head of Wanin’s Hongxin Media, took over as chairman, representing Chun Tong Investment. In November of the same year, Wayi introduced funds through private placement, bringing in Wanin’s Given Business Inc. and Huangxin Investment. Wanin thus became Wayi’s largest shareholder.
In June 2019, during a board and supervisor election, XieJian Zhang became the legal representative of Given Business Inc. and continued as chairman. In April 2020, Wayi had five directors and two supervisors, including two independent directors. Wanin obtained three director seats and one supervisor seat, holding 38.13% of the shares. TEJ considered June 2019 to be the time Wayi was included in Wanin.
In January 2020, Wayi represented the Wanin-authorized gambling-type mobile game “Casino Slots.” In December 2020, another private placement brought in funds from Wanin, with Wanin holding more than half of Wayi’s equity and seats. After Wanin gained operational control of Wayi, the cooperation between the two became even closer. Wanin took over its proxy projects and resources through Wayi and provided art outsourcing for the Wanin Group. In 2021, Wanin’s share of Wayi’s sales ratio reached 77.38%.
Softstar (6111) was established in April 1988 by founder Li Yongjin. It went public in July 1999 and was listed on the OTC market in August 2001. In June 2001, Softstar had a total of 8 directors and supervisors. Softstar secured 2 director seats, including 1 chairman, and through YongJin Li and ShuZi Ding, held a 27.1% ownership stake. Softstar became a self-sufficient group from then on.
However, after several years in the OTC market, Softstar’s operations turned from profit to loss in 2005. Operating profit dropped from NT$49,748 thousand in 2004 to an operating loss of NT$350,371 thousand in 2005. YongJin Li couldn’t propose a solution to improve the situation, leading to dissatisfaction among long-term shareholders like LiangCai Wu. In a board meeting in June 2013, the market party led by LiangCai Wu demanded the removal of Chairman YongJin Li. The company and market parties were evenly matched, resulting in a deadlock for the chairman. It wasn’t until an extraordinary board meeting in July, with LiangCai Wu at the forefront, that he secured the chairmanship of Softstar.
Although LiangCai Wu had intentions to revitalize Softstar, he was unable to take over the company. He sought an external professional team to take over, approaching JunGuang Tu, who was looking to transition to other fields. Tu gained support from FengNian Jiang, also a shareholder of China Communications Media, and successfully persuaded YongJin Li, to relinquish his shares and give up management rights. According to TEJ data, in February 2014, Softstar had a total of 10 directors and supervisors. The Tu family secured 4 director seats and 1 supervisor seat, including 1 chairman, and through Angel Fund (Asia) and China Development Mobile Technology, held a 21.09% ownership stake. TEJ considers the January 2014 board and supervisor election as the time when Softstar returned to China Communications Media Group.
Interserv (6169) was founded by YueWen Cao in April 1989. YueWen Cao was Taiwan’s first female computer salesperson since Hewlett-Packard was established. At 28, YueWen Cao established her own business, initially focusing on multimedia presentations.
In 1991, Interserv formed a strategic alliance with ETEN, making ETEN the first corporate entity to invest in Interserv. In 1997, a strategic alliance with the Acer Group was established, with Acer becoming Interserv’s second corporate investor. Interserv went public in October 1999, listed on the emerging market in January 2002, and entered the OTC market in March 2002.
After turning from profit to loss in 2012, Interserv found retaining players for its in-house and agency games challenging. In November 2015, it collaborated with Game Hours to strengthen the competitiveness of its mobile games. Game Hours acquired a 20% stake in Interserv through private placement.
In January 2016, YueWen Cao stepped down as the general manager, and in June 2016, there was a board and supervisor election at Interserv. In July of the same year, YueWen Cao resigned, and ShuQi Xu took over as chairman. In April 2017, Interserv had 6 directors and supervisors, with Game Hours securing 2 director seats, including 1 chairman, and holding 20% shares, making it the largest single shareholder. TEJ considers the June 2016 board and supervisor election when Interserv became part of Game hours.
After losing managerial control, YueWen Cao and her spouse successively divested their holdings. Under the management of the new owner, Game Hours, Interserv did not return to profitability. Instead, Game hours turned from profit to loss in 2019, prompting a decision to sell shares for liquidity. In November 2019, Game Hours transferred all its holdings in Interserv to Da Duen Investment, a subsidiary of Xin Li Wang Holding.With the sale of shares, Game Hours naturally relinquished its directorship. In February 2020, during a board election, Duen Chen Investment brought in former legislator JinLong Cai as chairman. In April 2020, Interserv had 7 directors, including 3 independent directors. Xin Li Wang International Holdings secured 2 director seats and held a 23.27% ownership stake. TEJ considers the February 2020 board election as the time when Interserv became part of Xin Li Wang International.
Meimail, originally named SNSplus, was founded in April 2010 by ChunLong Zhang and NengHui Yi. NengHui Yi is of Japanese origin and grew up in Taiwan. He entered the gaming industry in 2001 when he worked part-time at Gamenia’s Japanese branch, eventually rising to technical director within three years. In 2004, NengHui Yi returned to Taiwan and established Digiworld, providing consultancy services for game developers. In 2007, he started developing games independently. The emergence of Facebook in 2009 prompted ChunLong Zhang, who had experience founding an online game agency, to join forces with NengHui Yi in entrepreneurship.
SNSplus gained attention when it launched the Thai-language game “Love&Pork” and secured investments from three venture capital firms, namely WI Harper, KingWai, and Intel, in 2011. However, in November 2013, co-founder ChunLong Zhang left the company due to management restrictions. Subsequently, SNSplus went public in August 2014 and was listed on the Emerging Stock Market in December 2014, but its operations continued to incur losses.
In 2016, Hong Kong-based ColorMix Group invested in SNSplus through its subsidiaries ColorMix International and YingYi Investment, holding 6.85% and 6.94% of the company’s shares, respectively. In November 2016, they appointed renowned producer Wang Jun as Vice Chairman to diversify into the entertainment industry.
In March 2017, the original chairman, JunHui Ho, resigned, and NengHui Yi, the general manager, assumed the chairmanship. In June 2017, during a board and supervisor election, NengHui Yi became a director, while ColorMix International’s representative, Lu Bo-Hong, took over as chairman. In October of the same year, NengHui Yi stepped down as the general manager and spokesperson, ultimately resigning as a director in December. In April 2018, SNSplus had five directors, and the Master Color Group obtained one directorship, holding a 24.6% stake. TEJ considers the June 2018 board and supervisor election when SNSplus became part of ColorMix.
Despite changes in the management team, SNSplus continued to operate at a loss. In October 2020, the company invested in Meimail Technology, officially entering the e-commerce industry. In December 2020, Meimail became a subsidiary, and its general manager, Liao Yu-Chi, was appointed as the general manager of SNSplus. In March 2022, SNSplus acquired 100% of Meimail’s shares, and in April, the two companies merged, renaming the entity as MeiMai Technology, marking a formal transformation into a social commerce company.
Gravitytw (3629), formerly known as Join Well Technology, was founded by ShiRu Xu in September 2001. ShiRu Xu was a newspaper and mobile salesperson and later served as an equipment engineer at United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC). Eventually, he chose to venture into entrepreneurship, focusing on the technical development of optical materials, with the main product being ITO conductive plastic film used in touch panels.
In 2003, Join Well Technology was still in a deficit and facing a depleted budget. ShiRu Xu decided to bring in his former employer, the UMC Group, through its subsidiaries Unimicron and Amcorp. They acquired 12.5% and 18.75% of the shares. In April 2009, Join Well Technology had 8 directors and supervisors, with the UMC Group obtaining 3 directorships, including the chairman. From the beginning, TEJ categorized Join Well Technology under the UMC Group.
Join Well Technology went public in May 2008, was listed on the Emerging Stock Market in June 2008, and engaged in stock trading on the OTC in May 2010. While the touch panel industry saw significant growth in 2008, it was impacted by disruptions in the supply chain from mainland China. Join Well Technology began incurring losses from 2011 onwards. In 2012, to align with the resource planning for touch panel integration within the significant shareholder’s group, it sold the production line of its surface glass to MingXin Optoelect.
In June 2015, Chang Yun Co., Ltd, SEA Investment Consulting, and YueLing Chen jointly conducted a public tender offer for 51% of Join Well Technology’s shares, successfully acquiring 40.72%. UMC Group participated in the sell-off, reducing its stake from 37.06% to 27.98%. Following this, a special shareholder meeting was held, appointing KuanTsung Chen as the new chairman in July. The same month, Join Well Technology took a private placement, with SEA Investment Consulting holding 38.21%. In August, KuanTsung Chen became the representative of SEA Investment Consulting, while two other directors, ChunSheng Zheng and MinCheng Liao, became the representatives of Flourish Development and SEA Investment Consulting, respectively.
In April 2016, Join Well Technology had 7 directors, including 2 independent directors. SEA Investment Consulting obtained 3 directorships, including 1 chairman, and held 48.66% of the shares. TEJ considers August 2015, when SEA Investment Consulting acquired the chairman’s position when Join Well Technology became part of SEA Investment Consulting.
In March 2016, Join Well Technology acquired QunRuitong Technology, intending to incorporate biomedical products and materials through the acquired company. In 2017, due to the lack of profitability in the ITO business, Join Well Technology transferred related equipment, assets, and debts to its thin-film department to reduce losses. However, as QunRuitong Technology’s operations were not promising, Join Well Technology decided to enter the cultural and creative industry in the fourth quarter of that year. The company was subsequently renamed Gravitytw, engaging in integrated public relations and marketing services.
In September 2019, after introducing major shareholder JienYo Technology with a 35% stake through private placement, Gravitytw began reinvesting in the gaming business. The company focused on combining mobile games with cultural and creative ventures, leading to a turnaround from losses to profits in 2019. Notably, Gravitytw stands out as a company transitioning from the electronics industry to the gaming industry, distinguishing itself from others in the field.
Netmarble (6468) was jointly established in July 2012 by Cayenne (4946) and South Korean entertainment company CJ ENM. CJ ENM aimed to expand its business footprint to Taiwan and approached Cayenne, which had previously acted as the agent for its online games. In the initial stages, CJ ENM held a 65% stake, while Cayenne held a 35% stake. However, since the chairman of Netmarble was Cayenne’s chairman, Deng Runze, TEJ has classified Netmarble under the Cayenne group from the beginning.
Netmarble went public in July 2014 and was listed on the emerging market in September 2014. After the listing, Cayenne Group began divesting its holdings, profiting from the stock sale. In December of the same year, to align with CJ ENM’s global strategy, the company was renamed Netmarble.
In April 2018, as Cayenne transferred more than half of its holdings, two board seats, including the chairman’s position, naturally became vacant. Netmarble’s representative, DongHai Qian, assumed the position of chairman. In June 2018, during a board member election, RunZe Deng served as a director in his personal capacity. In April 2019, Netmarble had seven board seats, including three independent directors. CJ ENM Group secured three board seats, including the chairman, and held a 70.9% ownership stake. TEJ considers April 2018, when Cayenne exited the board, to be when Netmarble was incorporated into the CJ ENM Group.
Gamesparcs (6542) was founded by ZhongMing Zheng in December 2010, initially focusing on game operations and general advertising business. The company launched games on its own brand Pubgame joint platform. In June 2012, it introduced venture capital and established Jimsa for web game publishing. In 2013, Gamesparcs expanded to publish mobile games.
In April 2015, Gamesparcs collaborated with a Taiwanese team to develop the mobile game “BraveKnight,” which secured the top spot in the rankings for six weeks. The game was officially released in May, and the company went public on the emerging market in June. Its subsidiary, Jimsa, sold web games, memberships, and platforms, shifting its focus to the mobile game market.
Gamesparcs was listed on the main board in September 2016. In October 2017, Xiang Shang Games originally planned to go public on the emerging market. Still, it faced obstacles due to the nature of its business, leading to the cancellation of its IPO. In July 2018, Xiang Shang Games changed its strategy and decided to go public by acquiring Gamesparcs with the consent of Gamesparcs’ major shareholder, CID Group. Gamesparcs also conducted a private placement with subscriptions from an investment company under Xiang Shang Games.
Founder ZhongMing Zheng stepped down as chairman in June 2018, and ZhiCheng Zhang, the founder of CID International, took over as chairman. In June 2019, Xiang Shang Games acquired two board seats through supplementary elections. ZhiCheng Zhang stepped down as chairman, and Xiang Shang Games founder GangWei Gu took over as chairman. In April 2020, Gamesparcs had seven directors, including three independent directors. Xiang Shang Games secured two board seats, including one chairman seat, holding a 51.9% stake. TEJ considers June 2019, the time of the board member election, to be when Gamesparcs was incorporated into Xiang Shang Games.
In November 2019, Gamesparcs acquired 100% equity in Aqura Tech. from Xiang Shang Games and purchased the gambling game “BraveCasino” business through its subsidiary Megata Games. In September 2021, the company launched its self-developed online gambling game “Aceclub,” indicating an increasing trend in revenue share from leisure gambling games.
The widespread use of smartphones has eliminated constraints on time, location, and fixed devices, making gaming more accessible than ever. With lower development barriers and the high profitability of mobile games, developers have innovated rapidly, turning the gaming industry into a fiercely competitive market.
Games that once required substantial R&D costs now face the challenge of sustaining popularity beyond the initial hype, often experiencing a sharp decline in user engagement after launch. This phenomenon, characterized by an initial surge in popularity followed by a rapid decrease, can lead to operational losses and even a change in ownership. As shown in the chart below, the previously mentioned companies saw years of profitability in their core businesses, followed by significant losses and volatility.
For example, the previously mentioned gaming companies Wayi and Interserv dedicated themselves to developing their in-house game IPs and successfully garnered player favor at the time. However, with the industry’s rapid transformation, they found that their internally produced games gradually lost their appeal, failing to generate profits. In contrast, other companies with lower-cost games, easy maintenance, and user-friendly interfaces continued to release new games, successfully retaining players’ interest.
Nevertheless, the explanation in this article also highlights that, despite changes in player gaming preferences, gaming companies persist in research and development, continuously seeking games that can leave a lasting impression on players. Even with companies entering and exiting the industry, the market’s potential scale and corporate innovation keep the gaming industry dynamic, proving it is not a sunset industry.
However, adapting to the overall changes in the industry’s ecology is not an overnight process. If companies focus solely on short-term victories without adequate long-term planning and analysis, they may face additional challenges in their operations, potentially leading to a situation where changes in ownership occur once again.
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