The success of Sea Group’s Garena Free Fire esports and mobile game has been instrumental in driving the group’s latest valuation, and co-founder Gang Ye’s net worth over a billion dollars.
Sea Group, out of Singapore, is backed by Tencent and one of the largest online and mobile entertainment providers in Southeast Asia (SEA). It was previously Garena, founded as an online gaming platform in 2009, and one of Asia’s largest technology startups. Sea Group’s game publishing retains the Garena brand.
Sea Group’s third-quarter revenue triples from Free Fire success
39-year-old Gang Ye has been chief operating officer for Sea Group since 2017 and he has an 8.4% stake in the company. The group’s revenue tripled in the third-quarter of 2019 to $610 million, as per SCMP, sending Ye into the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Sea’s third-quarter results in 2018 were just over $204 million. Ye’s co-founder Forrest Li has a larger stake in Sea Group, at 13.8%, and was already a billionaire from the company’s success.
After the massive third-quarter growth report, Sea’s shares reached a record high this month and the company has again raised its fiscal outlook, as per TechInAsia. The gaming and internet company’s growth results came mainly out of its digital entertainment and gaming division, which includes Free Fire publisher Garena. Though its new e-commerce platform Shopee is also growing fast.
Free Fire is outperforming Fortnite and chasing PUBG’s top spot
By the end of 2018 Garena Free Fire had seen 182 million downloads, second only to PUBG Mobile and outperforming Fortnite. Sea Group’s third-quarter 2019 financials revealed that Free Fire, launched at the end of 2017, had surpassed $1 billion in lifetime revenue. It makes Pocket Gamer’s Billion Dollar Game List in 23rd place.
Free Fire was also one of the top five most downloaded games in the world, in all app stores, for the third quarter of this year. It has over 450 million registered users, is popular in Latin America and Southeast Asia, and is the highest revenue grossing game in these regions for the same period. It was also the highest grossing mobile game for the Google Play Store in India this October.
The game has been designed with Asia’s mobile-first audience in mind, it has optimised graphics and a smaller file size than comparable titles.
As a mobile esports title, Free Fire is seeing significant growth. The Free Fire World Series 2019 esports tournament in Brazil achieved over 2 million concurrent viewers. Analyst Daniel Ahmad, recently tweeting of the game’s success says, “Remember, this is mobile esports.” And, Brazilian musician Alok is now the game’s official DJ and has become a playable character in the game.
Mobile gaming is actually two-thirds of the entire gaming market in SEA and total games revenue in the region grew by 22% between 2018 and 2019. Mobile gaming in wider Asia is currently a $12 billion market annually but the entire market is pitched for further growth.
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Image courtesy of Garena / Sea Group