Razer makes virtual currency push with $20M investment in Asian payment firm

Razer has invested close to $20 million into Malaysia-based online payment firm MOL Global as part of a push to establish its virtual currency for gamers in Asia.

The deal sees Razer subsidiary ZV-Midas buy equity from existing backers MOL Investment and Hotel Resort Enterprise in a deal that values the MOL Global business at around the $100 million mark.

Gaming company Razer, which made its name selling high-end peripherals and gaming laptops, introduced its ‘zVault’ digital wallet and ‘zGold’ rewards program for its gamers back in March. The strategy seems like a long-term effort to keeps gamers’ money inside the Razer ecosystem, via its services and services of its partners, and bolster its e-commerce business through rewards and incentives.

This week’s investment deal itself represents a move to further its reach among gamers in Southeast Asia, a fast-growing internet market where Razer predicts overall game spending will reach $2.2 billion in 2017.

MOL, which delisted from the Nasdaq last year following a bumpy two-year spell as a public company, is strongest in Southeast Asia. In addition to its online payment service, it has an offline network through relationships with retailers like 7-Eleven — which shares the same parent — to enable people without credit (who represent the majority in many countries) to buy online points over the counter. The deal will see MOL’s MOLPoints rebranded to Gold-MOLPoints in an effort to tie it into Razer’s brand, with incentives given to MOL users who top-up their account.

Razer said that its network combined with that of MOL will allow users to buy its points at over a million online and retail stores across Southeast Asia, New Zealand and Australia.

Beyond Razer’s own network of games and discounts for its online retail store, the points will also be redeemable through MOL partners, which include Sony’s PlayStation Store in Southeast Asia, Facebook games and publishers like Nexon.

Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan told TechCrunch that the deal makes zGold “one of the biggest virtual credit systems in the world and biggest in Southeast Asia.”

The deal with MOL is the latest in a string of strategic deals from Razer, which recently inked a partnership mobile carrier Three and raised upwards of $50 million from Three backer Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures fund.

Back in January, Razer acquired Nextbit, the company behind the promising-but-ultimately unsuccessful Robin smartphone. Earlier it had snapped iconic audiovisual firm THX, originally part of Lucasfilm, in October 2016.

Added to that, Razer launched a $30 million investment fund last year. zVentures, as it is called, is focused on deals related to gaming and, more broadly, VR, internet-of-things, robotics and other verticals that tie back into Razer’s core business.