GREE is now releasing a number of games oversea, some titles are brought from Japan and others are made by their local studio. We spoke to Mr. Shimomura, Director of GREE’s Japan studio, about their game development strategy.

Tell us about GREE’s game development and operation.

I'll start with Japan: products like Driland and Clinoppe, primarily developed for Japan, have dedicated teams of about 15-20 people, engineers and directors combined, working on developing and running the title. Titles provided by other companies are launched using the planning and know-how offered at our GREE studios. Overseas, our core studio is in America, with others in England, Holland, China, and Korea. At each studio, we combine our know-how developed in Japan with the local staff's strengths to create a winning combination.

Do the overseas studios develop original titles, rather than just localized versions?

Zombie Jombie, developed by our American studio, is one example. At our overseas studios, we equip staff with our specialized know-how and then let them explore their own local creativity to see what comes up. In Japan, we've developed a process for analyzing the results of a release and then incorporating that feedback into the next plan, running the PDCA cycle again and again – I think that process will prove applicable worldwide.

zombie_jombie © GREE, Inc.

You're also doing localizations of domestic Japanese titles – how does that work?

Localizations of domestic titles are done by our Japan studio. As I mentioned earlier, each product has a dedicated team and within those teams are members who want to try pitching the product overseas. Those members have a complete understanding of the product's specs in Japan, and they work on adding overseas support. We're experimenting with a One Source Multi Use approach, seeing if the know-how we've built in Japan will translate directly overseas.

What differences do you detect in the overseas market?

In Japan, we set pricing and balance the games in a way we think is suitable for here, but the response to those elements differs overseas. We might launch the game with the same specs and parameters, but the KPIs that come back are very different. This happens with things like item consumptions and in-game event progress. In Japan, the market is saturated in a good sense of the word – so users have a shared understanding and common “grammar,” if you will. But when we launch overseas, sometimes there are areas that had posed no problems in Japan but cause bottlenecks in other countries.

You've been releasing titles in different countries – what kind of positioning are you considering for each market?

At GREE, we strongly believe in releasing a lineup of the world's best products. Our success in the U.S. market represents a valuable position towards that approach. For that reason, test-marketing the product in other English-speaking countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in advance of releases in U.S. is extremely important. Our objective is to raise our KPIs to a level where we're competitive in any market, then start investing in the American field with releases and expanding our global scale from there.

Specs for mobile devices are steadily increasing, allowing a range of new functionality. What are your thoughts on adding more rich content to your games?

I think rich content is a necessity. However, we don't want our games to become excessively complex as a result.  For instance, the amount of information you can display on a smartphone screen is much less than on a PC or console; we also consider it a negative if the controls become too complicated. When creating new games, we start by considering the game model. We think about whether the game will still be fun and playable even after abstracting it down to that core game model. That's our basis. We then add sound and graphics to a level that won't burden the essential gameplay experience. Going forward, our games will have a “richer” appearance, but that won't mean their content or usability will be more complex.

Are there any new directions you want to take on?

This is in part my own idea, but I think what are currently called social games could take on many different forms. I'd like to take a stab in that direction and see the new expressions for social games. In addition to being game developers, we are also a social platform, and as such one of the most vital things is keeping in mind that a social platform is about how many people we can get on the service and play the games. We'd like to make interaction among users more robust, making it really fun to play with friends and making the games that much more accessible and appealing to new players. For instance, I imagine situations where someone sees a friend having fun playing a game, and then downloads it right away and joins the action. This is really “social” in the best sense. People make connections and then the userbase expands outward. I'd like to make that kind of situation a reality.

Smartphones are without a doubt becoming more ubiquitous and widespread, and the gaming culture is changing as a result. In the near future, games we used to play on consoles will be playable on mobile devices. Not only that, but we want to take on new challenges and create never-before-seen game experiences, too.

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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.