You might have heard of the name Gree and DeNA, companies running two monopolistic social gaming platforms, GREE and Mobage. Gree became widely known for buying out Openfeint and Funzio, and recently opening its international GREE Platform. Meanwhile DeNA acquired ngmoco and recently released "Rage of Bahamut" in the U.S. which ranked in top of the grossing chart in both Apple App Store and Google Play.

LINEアイコン

But how about LINE? -Well, this is the name of the instant messaging app that has a great impact which might be a threat to Facebook and GREE as a gaming platform.

Instant Messaging App LINE

LINE is an instant messaging app from NHN Japan (Japanese subsidiary of Korean web company NHN), mainly designed for and used on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. You might think it looks like iMessage on iOS or Facebook Messanger, however there are some other features that make LINE unique.

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Specially Made for Smartphones
From the very beginning, developers of LINE targeted smartphones. It works well on them and you feel much less stress than the Facebook app.

With Real Friends
You need a phone number to create a LINE account, and it uses your address book to find friends. This makes LINE a "closed" communication tool, meant to make better friendships, not to meet new people.

Stickers
The striking feature for LINE is the sticker. It’s a kind of illustration you can use in your chat with friends to make them know how you feel (Look at the right figure above). Stickers greatly attract most of the users and are what makes LINE one of the most "hot" instant messaging applications. Stickers were all free until recently. When the Sticker shop opened in this April a bunch of people purchased them and they sold more than $4.4 million, only in just two months.

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                                                       (from AppBank
From its launch in June last year, LINE now has more than 20 million users in Japan, which accounts for 44% of the smartphone users in the country. This app is popular not only in Japan but also in many countries, mainly in Asia, and shares 45 million users all over the world. And it's still growing 5 million per month. Surprisingly, 82% of the users are active.


LINE is changing into a Platform

LINE Channel001 (1)

This fast-growing app is now changing into a mobile platform called LINE Channel. Developers can use LINE’s social graph and messages through the API to empower their apps. It will support two kinds of native apps for iOS and Android, and also HTML5-based web apps that can be used through LINE app. 

The company says, and also hoping, LINE Game will be an important part of the platform. Will it work? It remains to be seen.
 

LINE as a Gaming Platform

Advantage in User Share
LINE’s advantage as a gaming platform is its large number of active users. LINE is also used as a buzz marketing tool in Japan. For example, in the campaign of the movie "Amazing Spiderman", an original sticker was sold for free and 2 million users downloaded the sticker in 2 months. And also an official account, much like the one in Twitter, was made for this movie and 1 million people followed the account.

Strong engagement will be made by LINE. Players will be able to use push messages to friends or groups in LINE Games and this will make a high retention rate.


Monetization is the Key Point
When talking about the share, LINE is a strong platform. But I think it has a weak point in monetization, because of its real friend based social graphs. When it comes to buying virtual items, real social graph doesn't fit to its needs. As a matter of fact the average revenue per player of Facebook games is much lower than that of GREE and Mobage, which are using virtual social graphs.


      birzzle-eglishbirzzle-sticker-shop

LINE Birzzle, the first LINE Game, was released this month. Thanks to the limited stamps for its players, it had over 2 million downloads in only one day and ranked top in the free downloaded apps in 7 countries. This proved that LINE will work as a strong buzz tool. And now it's time to focus on the monetization. When it begins to make good revenues it's time to think LINE as the next major platform in the smartphone generation.





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About the Author
Wataru Tanaka is the chief editor of Social Game Report and writes about mobile social gaming. He works at Mynet Japan, a social game developer. His vision is to create worldwide network and enhance the industry, take it to the next level where everyone can enjoy communicating each other through games.