RAZER - a Singaporean-founded gaming hardware company said to be valued at nearly US$2 billion - has acquired a minority stake in Malaysia's e-payments platform MOL Global, and appointed the latter as a master distributor of its virtual currency, zGold, in the Asia-Pacific.
The investment sum is undisclosed, but it is for a 19.9 per cent interest in MOL that gives MOL an implied valuation of US$100 million. This marks Razer's first investment in and strategic partnership with an e-payments company, The Business Times has learnt.
MOLPoints (MOL's virtual currency) will be rebranded as zGold-MOLPoints and sold at over one million online and retail stores in 17 countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. This reportedly makes zGold one of the region's most widely-distributed virtual currencies for gamers.
zGold-MOLPoints, like zGold, can be used to purchase online game credits and digital content.
"Apart from transforming how gamers purchase content, Razer and MOL are looking to the future by sharing technology to boost innovation in the fintech sector. The aim is to help businesses commercialise digital content with virtual currencies as secure payment," Razer said on Tuesday.
MOL, backed by Malaysian tycoon Vincent Tan (who is founder of Berjaya Corporation), had a short-lived run on Nasdaq, where it was listed for just under two years from October 2014 to April 2016.
It had in October 2015 received a non-compliance letter from Nasdaq notifying that it no longer met the minimum bid price (US$1 per American Depository Share) required for continued listing.
Razer, when asked about investing in MOL given its circumstances, did not comment.
MOL group chief Preecha Praipattarakul told BT: "MOL has always maintained its position as a leading emerging markets e-payment enabler, and our business has continued to grow. Based on our performance year-to-date, we are optimistic that we will have a good year."
He added that the partnership with Razer will unlock new growth areas for both parties. Gamers globally, for instance, will be able to pay for many more game titles via new and alternative payment channels, said Mr Praipattarakul.
Under this partnership, Razer's zGold will be accepted as payment for over 2,500 digital content and game titles from the MOL network, which includes digital content providers, telcos and online merchants. This is up from the current 20 titles in the zGold content library.
Blockbuster games from distribution platforms PlayStation Store SEA and Facebook Gameroom, and publishers Nexon and Wargaming, will also be available soon for zGold users in selected countries.
Razer chief Tan Min-Liang told BT: "Payments is an integral part of the gaming industry as it provides the conduit for game studios, publishers and platforms to monetise their digital content, and in the process, convert users to paying customers. Together with MOL, we are one step closer to our ultimate vision of a unified virtual currency for gamers."
Mr Tan said that currently, the gaming payments landscape remains fragmented as not every game publisher would accept the same form of currency, but would accept credit cards and prepaid cards.
"zGold is a neutral virtual currency for gamers that will allow them to conveniently and securely pay for a myriad of online games and digital content," said Mr Tan.
The San Francisco-based entrepreneur added that e-payments are important to Razer as the gaming industry continues to grow, with the South-east Asian market set to reach US$2.2 billion in revenue this year.
"We see a huge opportunity to provide value to gamers through a better method of paying for digital games and content. It is about giving back to the gaming community," he said.
Beyond gaming, Razer is eyeing expansion in various areas. Last October, it acquired THX (the theatre sound company founded by George Lucas) in a bid to become an all-round entertainment company. Last week, it opened its first concept store in Hong Kong (its sixth worldwide), and has suggested that its next product could be mobile devices for gamers.
The 12-year-old firm, which counts Li Ka-shing, Intel Capital Corp and Temasek Holdings' Heliconia Capital Management among its backers, was recently thought to be considering an initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.