ICv2 was able to interview Singapore-based Chern Ann Ng, CEO of CMON Limited, as the company prepared for its shares to begin publicly trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange Growth Enterprise Market (see “CMON Raises $10 Million, Shares Now Publicly Traded”), following a private raise of around $10 million to fund future growth. CMON is now the only pure play tabletop game company trading on a public exchange anywhere in the world.
ICv2: Why did CMON pursue this public listing for its shares?
Ng: We've got a couple goals. First is to raise capital, so that we can do additional smart acquisitions of game titles and IP. Second is to improve our presence in the US, EU, and we are also looking towards China because there is a growing market. The tabletop games market in China is worth about $400 million US this year. It's going to be worth about $600 million US next year.
We need to be there. Even though it's not as big as the US and Europe at the moment, it's getting there. We want to have a more direct presence there. Right now, we've been going through distributors. We've been going through distributors in Europe. We want to beef up our sales team.
Third, we want to be able to offer or to retain good people. Retaining good people also means that having a publicly traded company allows us to offer some options that have some meaning, to offer people equity and some ownership in the company. That's something that we're looking at really hard. The only tricky bit is of course we are a multinational company. We have people from all over the world. Working out the best way for employees to own a piece of us is something that we are researching right now.
What about acquisitions? Is that something that you're looking at?
That's one of the ways we want to grow, acquiring not necessarily companies, but maybe acquiring IPs, and successful games that maybe are not having the reach that they should have.
Probably not what you're thinking in terms of acquisitions, like big names like Catan, things like that. We are looking more for acquisitions of titles that might be under‑performing because their publishers don't have the market reach that we do. It's a win‑win in that situation.
We are looking at a couple, but nothing is confirmed. We are not really in discussions at the moment.
CMON has historically, obviously, from the name, came from miniature games, but has expanded into some other categories. Do you feel like your best opportunities are in that miniature game category, or are you going to continue to increase your breadth of line?
We want to keep our core fans happy. We will definitely continue to publish miniature games. But of course, we've also seen quite a lot of success with family‑oriented titles like Ta‑Da!, Potion Explosion, even The Grizzled is not very miniature‑heavy, but again, its’ another critically acclaimed game that was really successful for us.
Our focus is not to publish a lot of titles. Our focus is to publish very good games. Whether there's a lot or whether there's a little, that doesn't really matter, as long as the games are good.
Any interest in getting into the collectible games business?
We've looked at it, and we don't have any plans at this time. It looks like a tough business to get into. We need to study it more.
You mentioned that a mobile Zombicide was one of the things you were doing going forward. We noticed that Asmodee Digital ended up with the digital rights to Potion Explosion, which you just mentioned (see “Asmodee Rapidly Expanding Digital Board Game Portfolio”). Have you been trying to acquire digital rights along with tabletop rights as you go, or are those split in some cases? What's the situation there?
Most of the IPs we own outright, but not for Potion Explosion, as you pointed out. For digital we are experimenting at the moment. We have high hopes for Zombicide, which is actually being co-developed by Asmodee Digital, but it's something that we're not forecasting for. If it does well, great. If it doesn't, then it doesn't really affect our core business. Hopefully it will do very well, and then we will have another pillar for the company to be built on.
We are not pursuing an aggressive digital strategy, but we are definitely not ignoring it. Let's put it that way. We are not transforming a board game company into a digital company. That's not the idea.
As you know, a lot of our audience is retailers. What should they expect to see, in terms of changes from CMON over the coming year because of this event?
I don't think there will be any changes. I think the changes that we are putting in place have already started rolling out. We have improved our retailer outreach with Jules (Vautour)’s team on board. We've been getting good feedback from retailers now about the improvements that we've made, and I think those will continue. That was started in May (see ”CMON Hires Asmodee Sales and Marketing Duo”), and it's an ongoing effort at the moment.
Any other news our readers might be interested in?
We are listing at a stage where the company is still growing extremely aggressively. It's growing very, very quickly. I expect the company to continue to go on an uptick, in terms of sales and profit. We are not a mature company that's performing in a horizontal line.
The other interesting thing is this. To be promoted from the GEM board to the main board, we just need three years of track record. We have two years, which is why we can go on the GEM Board. The third year, we can go onto the main board, if our third year, 2017, performs roughly in line with 2016 and 2015. We have automatic promotion, if we desire it. From probably sometime in 2018 we'll be on the main board.
That, of course, changes the profile of the company a lot. It broadens our reach. Because funds cannot invest on the secondary board. They can only invest on the main board. We're going to change our profile considerably. This year will be an interesting year for us, I think. A year of consolidation and acquisition. 2018 will be a completely different animal, again.