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Winking Studio's strong brand recognition enables collaborations with global companies

Jihye Lee
Jihye Lee  • 7 min read
Winking Studio's strong brand recognition enables collaborations with global companies
executive chairman and CEO of Winking Studios Johnny Jan / Photo: Winking Studios
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Winking Studios has over 25 years of experience in providing complete end-to-end art outsourcing and game development services across various platforms such as console, PC, online and hand-held content for the video games industry.

The group is headquartered in Singapore and has seven studios across Nanjing, Shanghai and Taipei. It employs more than 700 employees, including 600 designers and artists serving a global customer base. The company was listed on the Singapore Exchange S68 -

in November 2023 and is majority-owned by Acer Gaming, a subsidiary of Acer, which has an extensive network of relationships in the game development and art outsourcing industries, as well as an in-depth understanding of the gaming industry in Asia.  

1. Tell us about Winking Studios’ business model and revenue segments. 
Winking Studios is one of Asia’s largest game art outsourcing studios and an established game development company. We have three main business segments: 
Art Outsourcing is our largest revenue generating segment and  provides a comprehensive suite of services to our clients who are game developers. We create and develop digital art assets such as 2D concept art, 3D modelling, 2D animation, 3D animation and visual effects for environment and game character design under this segment. 
Game Development offers programming, game development, design and script writing services. 

Global Publishing and Other Services is involved in the release of game products produced by our group and third-party game developers on global game publishing platforms, as well as the sale of the group’s in-house developed video-game products and peripheral gaming products.

2. Winking Studios reported higher FY2023 earnings recently. Can you tell us more? 
The growth in net profit in FY2023 to approximately US$1.8 million ($2.4 million) was underpinned by growth in revenue of 19.5% to US$29.3 million on contributions from our Art Outsourcing and Game Development segments. 

This growth can be attributed to several factors: 
Improvements in market landscape: Despite challenges in 2022, especially in China’s gaming industry, we were able to make improvements, which translated into enhancement in internal management capabilities. This has led us to restore to normal performance levels. In 2023, we also secured new customers in the US and South Korea. 

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Cost control, employee incentive scheme: The improved topline performance lifted both gross profit and net profit significantly, with gross profit margin in FY2023 coming in 560 basis points higher at 31.9% due to effective cost controls and a new employee incentive scheme. 

Winking Studios has proposed a special cash dividend of 0.5 Singapore cents per share in respect of FY2023, its maiden dividend payout as a newly listed company. 

3. Tell us about the background of Winking Studios’ leadership and management team. 
Johnny Jan, founder and CEO of Winking Studios, has been actively involved in the game industry since he was a student. Highly passionate about the industry, he has an extensive network of contacts, including Winking Studios’ clients that he has known for over a decade. 

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The management team includes CFO Oliver Yen, who has more than 29 years of finance and management experience; as well as general manager of Art Outsourcing segment, Tina Li, who has been with the group since 2003 and has extensive experience in art outsourcing. She now heads the group’s largest revenue-generating segment and oversees the expansion and growth of the business. 

4. What are some of the notable projects and game titles that Winking Studios has worked on? 
We have collaborated with game developers on internationally renowned game titles and award-winning projects, including Assassin’s Creed, Genshin Impact, Blade & Soul, Destiny 2 and Fifa Online 4, to name a few. Our longstanding partnerships with 19 out of the top 25 global gaming companies have led us to be involved in developing highly renowned projects.

5. What is Winking Studios’ M&A strategy and key considerations in acquisition targets? 
The main considerations include shared synergies with our existing business and capabilities and the target’s ability to add value to our growth plans and our corporate goals to broaden our customer base and service lines and to penetrate new markets. We are exploring suitable opportunities with an immediate priority in Asia. Once finalised, we will consider expanding into Europe and North America. Our proposed acquisition of Taiwan-based On Point Creative Co is in line with our plans to boost sales, capabilities and global market presence — and serves as a good example of what we look for in a target.

6. What sets Winking Studios apart from its competitors? 
Our strong international brand recognition for quality work and services has led to collaborations with global companies Ubisoft, miHoYo, NCSoft, Nexon, Tencent and NetEase. As the third-largest art outsourcing studio in Asia and the fourth largest globally, we are a partner of Epic Games as well as major game publishing platforms Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. 

We can also leverage majority shareholder Acer Gaming and its presence in more than 160 countries and its extensive network of relationships within the game development and art outsourcing industries.

7. What are some ongoing market opportunities and trends within the online gaming industry, and how is Winking Studios leveraging them to strengthen its business? 
An independent market report by China Insights Industry Consultancy (September 2023) projects the number of gamers will reach 4.4 billion by 2027. The global gaming industry revenue is also expected to increase at a CAGR of 8.9% to reach US$317.6 billion by 2027 — the global game art outsourcing market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 13.4% to arrive at US$6.3 billion by 2027. 

Winking Studios’ capabilities and close partnerships put us in a favourable position to capitalise on these trends. We intend to use the IPO proceeds on strategies to strengthen our competitive edge and secure our leading position for the game art outsourcing market. 

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8. What strategic actions will Winking Studios take to ensure sustainable growth in the long run? 
Enhance global presence: We intend to establish overseas subsidiaries and offices to capitalise on the region’s strong prospects and growth trends while increasing our business development and marketing efforts in the US and Europe. As reflected in our FY2023 results, revenue contribution from the US increased to 16.8% compared to 9.7% in FY2022 because of contracts secured from new US customers. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools: We have already initiated an in-house research and development programme in AI. With over 20 years of gaming R&D experience, we have a deep understanding of how to develop AI tools that will further enhance productivity in game development and art production.

9. What is Winking Studios’ current working arrangement, and how does it promote sustainable company growth as well as ensure employee mental health? 
To take the heat off what can be a high-stressed environment, especially when games are about to be launched, we have gyms, rest areas and well-stocked pantries at our major studios where employees can let off some steam, mingle and recharge. We practise an open-door policy where employees can discuss work challenges with their immediate supervisors. 

Considering the talent-intensive nature of our business, we maintain a robust human resources management system which includes a rigorous talent recruitment process and comprehensive training programmes. We also cooperate with industry leaders to develop our technical competencies. 
We recently implemented a new performance and reward assessment system to incentivise employees, which has enhanced our operational efficiency. 

10. What is Winking Studios’ value proposition to its shareholders and potential investors? What do you think investors have overlooked?   
The global game art outsourcing industry is fragmented with most market players being small independent studios. As one of the leading game art outsourcing companies in the world, our strong track record and capabilities to provide a comprehensive suite of art outsourcing services to clients set us apart from our peers and give our clients in Asia, Europe and North America the confidence in our ability to meet their rigorous demands. 

Despite macroeconomic headwinds seen in 2023, Winking Studios managed to achieve growth in FY2023, largely due to our prudent and conservative operating strategy, which effectively balanced challenges and opportunities. As many companies reduced budgets and cut projects, they often outsourced more projects as a cost-saving measure, which led to increased opportunities for external development partners like us.  

Jihye Lee is an associate director at the Singapore Exchange Group

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