Interview

Thumbstar on the 'vast opportunities' South America is serving up for mobile devs

Thumbstar on the 'vast opportunities' South America is serving up for mobile devs
Thumbstar's ambition to be a major global mobile entertainment provider means being just that – global.

As such, news of a move to expand its operations in South America – signing a deal with service provider Nextel across Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Chile and Mexico – came quickly after a similar deal with China Telecom designed to increase the firm's footprint in Asia.

South America is no afterthought, however. Indeed, speaking to us about the deal, CEO Gareth Edmondson suggested Thumbstar's potential playground is now 550 million users stronger thanks to the move on the region.

We caught up with Edmondson to find out more about the Liverpool-based publisher's worldwide ambitions.

Pocket Gamer: You've already made a move on the Chinese market. Why was South America your next target?

Gareth Edmondson: In fact we were already operating in Latin America successfully, but the recently announced deal was a significant expansion to our reach in that territory.

And we have more exciting announcements to come as well as we roll out further.

It wasn't that we targeted China first and then Latin America in particular, but we are very focussed on these massive growth regions.

What opportunities do you think the South American market presents?

The opportunities are vast. It has a huge customer base of mobile phone owners; in fact there already over 550 million subscribers in the region.

At present there is a relatively low penetration of smartphones, but Java is still a huge portion of our business there, however, we are seeing a rapid change over to low cost smartphone devices, and that of course significantly boosts the opportunities and the potential to reach new customers.

Are there any particular challenges to taking on this market?

It is a region that many would consider too challenging for all sorts of reasons.

It is, in fact, a very diverse part of the world with specific issues and challenges for each county, ranging from cultural differences, taxation and business operating practices and laws, different regulations and so on.

Understanding the local market, and crucially, having strong local contacts are absolutely key.

The fact that we have been in the region for a while, including an office based there with strong local partnerships enables us to overcome many of these and provide access for development partners.

What games are you planning on taking to the region?

There is no one size fits all here.

There is no particular genre or type of game that can be pinpointed, the diverse nature of the customers means a diverse range of products can be supplied. Localisation is essential however.

We are still putting a lot of Java content into the region, but Blackberry is in fact the number one smartphone, so we supply a lot of that as well.

However, as previously mentioned, the change that is happening to lower cost smartphones - such as Android devices - is rapid so we are already rolling out product to serve these customers.

Given the 3,500 products we have in our catalogue, we are covering the diversity requirements well, but of course are always looking for more products.

How is the deal with China Telecom working out?

We are hard at work with our partners to prepare for the launch of the new platform, and will be able to discuss in more detail very soon.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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