Gree searches for the billion-dollar game from its swanky S.F. headquarters (interview)

Gree game

GamesBeat: Is that going on Kakao?

Aoyagi: Yeah, both Kakao and also [some proper names – 25:42]. We’re going to try both, but I’m pretty interested in working with Kakao. So that’s what’s interesting with Gree this quarter. We’ll have some games from this studio as well, from casual to mid-core and hardcore.

GamesBeat: So social casino gaming is still a good business to be in, even though there’s a hundred companies in it?

Aoyagi: Some companies had the early-mover advantage in casino games. Now that we’re entering the market, we need to break that by introducing higher-quality games. We’re also going to leverage our existing user base. We introduced Jackpot Slots on iOS and Android and it’s been doing pretty well. The Android side is in the top 20. The iOS version just launched and it’s climbing up the charts.

With that market, everybody thought it was already crowded, but they introduced very basic casino games. Now we’re trying to introduce some more interesting monetization and live ops techniques. The retention rate has been a bit higher, and that allows us to spend more money on the marketing side to generate bigger revenue out of those games. That’s our high-level strategy with casino. We’ll be making more games there.

GamesBeat: Do you think the startups are going to keep on appearing and becoming successful? Supercell is something you might not have expected at this stage, when there are so many big companies that have moved into mobile. It’s surprising to me that something could start small and then boom.

Aoyagi: We’ve seen that in many regions. Puzzle & Dragons was a good case. GungHo was an online gaming company that suddenly made a move into mobile games and made it work. Companies that are coming from Facebook and online gaming have a lot of potential.

The gaming industry is very hard, but the veterans in other areas still think there’s some space for those new companies. I’m optimistic that we’re going to see more of those new companies coming into the market. But the overall market situation, I agree, is getting tough for everybody. It’s why we set up the Partners Fund, so we can support some companies like this. As long as you make great games, you’re going to find users, whether it’s by featuring from Apple or Google or creating user networks. What we need to do is focus on is making great games.

Gree Anil DharniGamesBeat: Kabam set up their $50 million fund for Japan. We’ll see if they give that out.

Aoyagi: [laughs] I heard about that. Kevin Chou is going to be traveling to Asia. I’m going to meet him in Japan in a couple of weeks. They have an office in China. Actually, a Chinese studio developed their mobile version of Kingdoms of Camelot.

GamesBeat: If they’re doing anything, I think they’re diversifying so they can eventually go public. Zynga tried that, though, and the Japan part didn’t work so well for them.

Aoyagi: Right now I think they’re trying to pursue other revenue sources. They only have Kingdoms of Camelot and The Hobbit. I understand what they’re looking for. A lot of Japanese game developers have an ambition to go global.

GamesBeat: It was interesting that this year, it was the mobile companies that were the ones throwing the big parties. Kixeye and Chartboost. Wargaming is kind of moving into mobile.

Aoyagi: Yeah. Kixeye is going into mobile too. That’s an interesting move.

GamesBeat: We wrote a story that Square Enix was selling off their free-to-play games to a private equity company in Los Angeles. I don’t know how much money they paid for them. But it’s like they’re throwing the oars out of the lifeboat. I thought free-to-play was what was supposed to save the console guys.

Aoyagi: Some of them, maybe.

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