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DeNA And GREE: My Perspective On Japanese Social Games Going Global



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This presentation sums up my view on the chances for GREE and DeNA (Mobage) to bring their social gaming platforms to a global audience.

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DeNA And GREE: My Perspective On Japanese Social Games Going Global

  1. 1. DeNA And GREE: My Perspective On Japanese Social Games Going Global By Serkan Toto, PhD
  2. 2. About Me • Tokyo-based web, mobile and gaming industry consultant • Advisor for startups in Asia and the US • Japan contributor for • Personal website:
  3. 3. Contact Information Twitter: LinkedIn: Email: totoserkan AT
  4. 4. Visit My Website For Free Information On Japan’s Social Game Industry (
  5. 5. Question 1: Do you really see millions of users in the US, Europe, and Asia prefer playing games on GREE and Mobage over Facebook and the others?
  6. 6. Question 2: Do you really see China allowing game platforms from Japan to play a crucial role in its domestic market?
  7. 7. Opinion: “GREE and DeNA are poised to fail outside Japan - at least as platform providers.” (Note: I hope I am wrong.)
  8. 8. Just a few pointers. There are many more.
  9. 9. Point 1: Japan-Only Success Factors •  Key success factors that fueled DeNA and GREE‘s growth in Japan don‘t apply elsewhere. •  Examples: •  Carrier billing •  Game-friendly society •  Mobile-centric users •  Japan‘s ARPU for social games is unique globally •  Fast, reliable 3G networks (example: in SEA) •  Affordable mobile data plans
  10. 10. Point 2: Popularity of Japan-Specific Games •  The biggest social games in Japan are card battle games: acceptance abroad is uncertain. First titles from Japanese game firms flopped. •  Genres like dating simulations or social horse racing games difficult/impossible to transplant. •  Game design is heavily influenced by Manga and Anime culture. •  US and European game developers have caught up/overtaken their Japanese counterparts.
  11. 11. Point 3: Heavy Competition In Mobile Social
  12. 12. Point 4: Japanese Management Is Unique •  Incompatibility between Japanese and foreign management styles and business cultures is well documented in economic literature. •  Example from the social game industry: the Openfeint <-> GREE case from September 2011. •  Integration of startups (Openfeint, ngmoco) and listed large-cap companies (GREE, DeNA) makes things even worse.
  13. 13. Point 5: History •  Fact: in the entire web and mobile business history, absolutely no Japanese company succeeded abroad. •  Example: NTT Docomo‘s i-mode. But there are many, many more. •  Nintendo and Sony PS comparison doesn‘t count (the social game market in the 2010s has nothing in common with the video game market in the 1980s/1990s).
  14. 14. Point 6: No Causality •  Being successful in Japan and understanding mobile does not automatically lead to success outside the country, as DeNA and GREE suggest (see point 1). •  Zynga got burnt in Japan even though they have acquired a startup, teamed up with local companies (SoftBank Mobile, Mixi), and clearly know how to do social games. -> similarity?
  15. 15. Thank you for listening! Questions?
  16. 16. Contact Information Twitter: LinkedIn: Email: totoserkan AT