September 01, 2011

Japan's GREE Moves in the U.S. Market

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2011 issue of Next Gen Mobility

Mobile gaming is hot, as is tying in advertising with mobile apps.

That’s why Electronic Arts recently disclosed plans to buy PopCap, owner of such popular games a Bejeweled. It’s why Google (News - Alert) in late 2009 purchased AdMob. And it’s why GREE International Inc., the leading mobile social gaming company in Japan – with $700 million in annual revenue and more than 25 million users, is now expanding into the U.S. market.

GREE made its first appearance in the U.S. in April with its acquisition of OpenFeint, which has a social platform used by various gaming companies to enable players to share their game-related successes on leaderboards and find other gamers. This platform also can be leveraged to do promotions of other titles or products within games or other apps.

Now GREE planned to launch some of its own social mobile games in the U.S. as early as this summer. By November, GREE expects to have launched a few mobile social games in the U.S.

Sho Masuda, vice president of marketing and sales at GREE, tells NGM that while it comes to the U.S. with a wealth of experience in social mobile gaming, “we’re starting everything from scratch in this market, even hiring.” That’s because there are many differences between the preferences of Japanese and U.S. consumers, he says, the latter of which include 63 million people accessing games on smartphones today.

GREE’s games will be available to download free from Apple’s (News - Alert) App Store and the

Android Market, says Masuda. But players can elect to elevate their experiences via microtransactions, he says, adding that 15 to 20 percent of customers pay some amount of money to extend their gaming experience in this way. For example, a restaurant game might offer the gamer the ability to pay a small fee (involving real money) to hire a better (virtual) chef in the game.

Bringing advertising in to the social mobile gaming equation is another way to support the business, he adds.

Indeed, start ups Kiip and Tap.Me Inc. (News - Alert) have been working to marry advertising, marketing and mobile applications such as games, according to a June 24 article in The Wall Street Journal. The piece quoted Bob Rupczynski, global director of interactive marketing at the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., which reportedly has been in discussions with Tap.Me, as saying: “Mobile advertising is growing by leaps and bounds, but the manner in which brands connect to consumers is the real key” to making these efforts successful.

U.S. spending on mobile ads is forecast to be about $1.1 billion in 2011, according to EMarketer.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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