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Japan's Biggest Social Player Turns Its Eyes On the U.S.

July 15, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

For the games you're developing in the U.S. office and also now in Japan, are those games going to be targeted for global launches now that you've got an international network?

NA: That's right. In the U.S. now, we're not making games for the international market, mainly focusing on the U.S. market first -- then if it works we're going to bring some games to other markets, like the Asian market, including the Japan market. And of course there are very good games done by Japan studios, so we are going to bring some games from Japan to the U.S. and international market.

As you begin to approach this strategy, are you going to be planning games from the outset to be international launches, or are you going to evaluate games that have already been completed for a certain territory and then see if they're suitable for global launches?

NA: I think some content works globally. Some content is very local, so it's a combination. For example, even in traditional gaming, I use an example, some content like sports games they are popular in the worldwide, but some contents are very local -- like Japanese RPGs, or the FPS in the U.S. and Europe. The sports game in, say, each country.

So we have to have a very customized strategy; at the same time there we have to think about the global [market] because if we have the broader reach, it's an advantage. We can spend a lot of money in development, and also in promotion, if it's global.

So I think we're going to do a lot of combination -- we're going to have some games which have a global reach, also that have the broader reach, to appeal and reach a number of users. Then we're going to have very local high-ARPU games. Then if we cross-promote those games, we're going maximize the number of user base and also the revenue from those games. So that kind of combination strategy is very important; that's my understanding.

Are you primarily hoping to target casual users? Because there seems to be a certain belief now, more on Facebook, that it's getting to be the time where hardcore gamers can be more targeted.

NA: I think [we'll] focus on both casual and hardcore users because yeah, of course we focus on mobile, but the hardcore and casual, it's good to have both -- because if we have number of casual users, it makes the better community. And also the hardcore, high-ARPU users, they feel more comfortable because we have a lot of users. Even the users who don't pay a lot, it helps you build a sound community.

So it's good to have both high-ARPU, or hardcore users, and also the casual users. That's our experience in Japan. Because if, for example, you or your friends are displayed on the the web screen a lot of times, people start to feel there's a lot of users, and also the communication. [They] start to feel it's a real social game. Then they start to spend some money, a lot of money, on games. That's my understanding. So even say teenagers, teenage guys, it's good to have both.

Do you believe in partnerships with traditional developers, who have been not as quick to enter the social market? Do you see a value in partnering with existing developers?

NA: I think in smartphones, a relationship with traditional gaming companies, the relationship with them is very important -- because they are very good at, for example, 3D-rich content. So if we can educate them on social games, they're going to make very good social games.

For example, in the last 12 months, after we launched the GREE platform, the first movers were small startups and gaming studios. But after the three months, the traditional gaming players like Sega, Konami, Square Enix, Bandai Namco, they came into the market and then they get the share, and also the top ranking.

As I said, the number one game is done by Konami, which is a traditional gaming publisher in Japan. So I think, yeah, it's very important to have both traditional console type of gaming publishers and developers, and also the small studio startups.

When it comes to bringing traditional publishers on board with GREE, what do they bring?

NA: Actually, one is IP. They have their own strong IP, so that is one of their strengths. Also, now they're trying to understand the social network, and social games, so they have a number of engineers, very experienced engineers, and some talent. So once they understand social game mechanics, they're going to provide good games. The experience that's existing, the studios and also the IPs, those are the key things, and also they have some money compared to the small startups, so they can spend a lot of money on promotion. So there are many, many strengths and advantages they have.

But at the same time, small studios, they are very young and nimble, so it's good to have both the small startups and traditional gaming, both parts. So for the small startups, we have been doing some support, including investment. Then they are working very closely [with us.] But with only the small startups, it's very difficult to expand the user base more. So with traditional gaming publishers, we do a lot of cross-promotion. Also, IP-based games publishing.

Do you see more acquisitions in the future?

NA: Yes, of course, worldwide. Not only in Japan, or not only in the U.S., maybe Europe or some Asian countries.

What kind of acquisitions appeal to you at this point in GREE's lifespan?

NA: I cannot answer that question very specifically. But, overall, mobile and social gaming areas. But not only social gaming studios, but also the studios that are very good at making console games. Both of those kinds of gaming studios are one of the primary targets.

And also, like in January, we acquired the advertising network company called Atlantis, which is in Japan. I think it helps to support our developers network, because we can do acquisitions in those kinds of areas, right? Such as ads, and payment, or promotion; also the technology side.

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