We found the opportunity to run up the VIP area in Level Up! Live 2009 and talk to Level Up! Games Inc.’s big cahuna. They don’t get any bigger than Jane Walker, LU’s CEO and here’s the blow by blow.
Interview with Jane Walker
Sir David: Being one of the pioneers of online gaming in the Philippines, do you like the direction where Philippine gaming is heading?
Jane: Well, honestly, of course when PLDT acquired Level Up, the expectations were really higher but I think because as you know, it’s really dependent on the infrastructure. But now that Smart and MyDSL are really increasing their subscriber base, they’re reaching more homes and more users. I think you can expect gaming to become even more popular in the coming years, especially with very simple games that are easily accessible which is why, although Level Up started as an MMORPG company, if you would notice the past year, we have been introducing games that are easy to pick up. So we’re very happy with the development so far because I think that’s the key eh. Not to stick to MMORPGS but really have a portfolio that targets even people who don’t know yet that they can be gamers. It has to be simple enough for them to be able to [play].
Sir David: With that kind of logic or strategy to penetrating the market, do you think you’ll forget the hardcore gamers any time soon?
Jane: No, no, no, no. I mean as I have said, it’s really a portfolio play. I mean now kasi the market is more fragmented unlike before talagang you know it was such a small industry. I mean we are still considered emergent actually, but before it was such a small industry na lahat kayo MMORPG and of course FPS. But now, there are players who play 2-3 different kinds of games, one hardcore and one very easy to play. There are players who are like me, who just prefer the very simple, easy to get into games. But definitely Level Up is going to be in various segments. It’s going to be from the hardcore, complex MMORPGS to the very simple. In fact, if you notice if you go to our websites, we have mini-games that even a 5 yr old could play or even a mom could play. Definitely we’re not going to forget MMORPGS, it’s in the vein of Level Up.
Sir David: Follow up question, since the penetration of games is getting really good in the Philippines, my question would be, do you think there should be a mitigating body in screening the games for kids?
Jane: I think if you look at the more progressive countries, there is really a lot of support, especially from the government. If there is more participation you also expect support and you also expect regulation. I’m a mom myself, and it’s a you thing, like you decide where to expose your son and where not to expose your son and the balance of course in games and distribution of outdoor activities. It’s good to have participation from government centers because its really, there’s nothing like it but it depends when the market becomes more mainstream. We are still seen as a niche market. Level up, we’ve always been espousing responsible gaming.
Sir David: So far, what is your stand on customer support, after sales? The one complaint players give has always been the customer support.
Jane: We always strive for excellence. There are really aspects of the game that we cannot control. We don’t control the entire, for one thing we’re not developers. Kami, Level Up, customer satisfaction is always our priority. Right now, we are much stricter, for example, in the turnaround time when we respond to the gamer, as far as their complaints are concerned. Second, we work so hard with the developer partner because sila yung may codes nung game. We are allowed certain access but at the end of the day we depend on them. So there should be more cooperation between our developers and us so we can really serve our players better kasi that’s important to us. Before talaga Level Up was first in the market so talagang trial and error yan, now also being part of the PLDT group we are more structured so there’s a lot of training going on, in making sure that our customers talk to our call agents for example, they are very disciplined and polite. We really try our best, that’s all I can say, we really try our best. Hangga’t kaya namin. We really invest a lot of resources. In retail ibenta mo lang that’s it. You have no idea how much resources are in purchase, that’s why may game operations, game masters and all that support. It’s a huge team.
Sir David: What games do you play?
Jane: The Wii, Crazy cart, hmmm non-level up *smiles*. I’m a console player, so I play the Wii, I’m not an xboxer. I bond with my son, I only have one kid. He’s 5 years old. I play Wii with him, I play crazy cart with him, it’s a good way to bond, because I’m not into rough play. Gaming for me is so much more enjoyable when you enjoy it with family. FPS is not my thing kasi nga, nakakahilo. Grand chase puede! you*laughs*
Sir David: Do you have any plans of bringing foreign games into the Philippines that are not online like publishing high title games like Modern Warfare 2 or Assasins Creed.
Jane: Here in the Philippine market, you know naman that there are high title games. Its so difficult in the company when the company relies on sale of a retail box for example. Second, in the Philippines market you know kasi we’re a pirate market. The game itself is 2,500 na diba? What more if may 15thousand pang console? At this point di pa siya viable.
Sir David: What message would you give Filipino gamers?
Jane: Message? Ako simple lang eh, just have fun. Sometimes its over – not good for you. At the end of the day, its just an alternative entertainment. Just having fun but at the same time, there’s a lot of social interaction. My kid for example, learn a lot of things in the computer because of games. Basta lang, don’t spend too much time, there are other things like playing tennis or ride a bike, you know. Just have fun and share it with your friends.