Social game development in Japan is primarily based on two mobile platforms: GREE and Mobage. In this article, we will introduce the development and changes that has taken place in the market with the greatist hit titles. 

The GREE platform was launched in 2004, whereas the Mobage platform was launched by DeNA in 2006. In the beginning, the functionality they provided was primarily comprised of diaries, short messages, and simple gaming features, with no games using social actions as it is known today.

Fishing Star: The First Social Game

釣りスタ2(image via Gree)
GREE's first social game, Fishing Star (Tsuri-Suta in Japan), was released in 2007. This fishing based game introduced a variety of social actions. Players could cooperate with one another, as well as form teams to compete against each other. Additionally, this was the first game on both GREE and Mobage to use the free-to-play model and monetize through in-app purchase. Paid rods and lures lead players to get higher scores.

This game became a great hit, contributing to GREE's member growth. Ever since the hit of Fishing Star, many free-to-play social games have been released on both GREE and Mobage.

(Fishing Star available on App Store  Google Play)

Bandit Nation: Battling Each Other

怪盗ロワイヤル(image via DeNA)
The next social game to create a new trend was Bandit Nation (Kaitou Royale in Japan), released by DeNA in 2009. Players lead the team of bandits and collect treasures in the game. This game introduced the game play of atacking others to Japanese social games. 

Players attack and steal treasures from each other and this made the game exciting. Bandit Nation became such a great hit, now it has over 10 million players. After this, many games were released using the so called "Bandit Nation model".

Dragon Collection: Social-Card-Battle Games

DragonCollection(image via Konami)
Currently, the genre called "social-card-battle" is dominating the social game market in Japan. The first hit in this genre was Dragon Collection released in 2010 by Konami Digital Entertainment. 

Social-card-battle games mix the essence of  trading card games, such as "Magic: The Gathering," and social actions. "Rage of Bahamut" which ranked top of the grossing chart in U.S. is one title representing this genre.Dragon Collection has over 6.5 million players and many other games modeled on it has been released. These games are so popular, now 8 out of 10 games in the GREE and Mobage ranking are social-card-battle games.

This summarizes the development and changes of social gaming in Japan. There are currently many card battle games being released from Japan into the world, with a high expectation of finding the next hit to follow on the success of "Rage of Bahamut."

(Rage of Bahamut available on  App Store  Google Play)

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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.