In just the last week, there have been reports of Zynga entering talks with the Softbank Japanese investment firm and now Yahoo Japan is partnering with DeNA to launch a PC-based social game platform. Are we going to see popular North American social games ported to Japan? DeNA’s mobile gaming site is already a very popular destination with 18 million registered users, so these moves won’t be the first time that Japanese players have experienced social gaming.
DeNA’s existing service, Mobage Town, is a huge virtual world available on mobile phones where players can play games, earn currency and chat They tried to port it to PC in 2008 and failed pretty badly, so this is the second attempt to bring their market to the online world. Japan is ranked highly in any survey of international web connectedness, and surely there is a large demographic that is interested in social gaming. Especially seeing as South Korea is one of the hotbeds for MMOs and social games, Japan is likely an untapped market when it comes to web games. Yahoo and DeNA are planning to open their new portal to third party developers who can make games and tools to develop the games, and therefore allow a high amount of freedom. It seems as if they are appropriating the ‘app store’ model inside their virtual world, so if they can get a critical mass of audience, they can become the standard Japanese game portal.
Zynga has not announced anything officially, but they’ve been having talks with a big Japanese tech investor called Softbank, who invest in technology based companies and are one of the largest investors in Japan. It’s interesting to note that they have many links to wireless and mobile technologies, and there has been no real information on what Zynga is discussing with the company. In any case, it would be likely that Zynga is offering to export their games to some sort of network there, mobile or web, and have a sort of profit sharing deal with the platform taking a small cut of the profits. We’ll see how this one pans out.