One of the biggest games in Japan is slowly catching the attention of North American players.
The mobile role-playing title Puzzle & Dragons has surpassed 3 million downloads in North America. That’s a major milestone for the free-to-play puzzle game that has players traversing dungeons, matching gems, and collecting dragons. This will help developer GungHo Online continue to generate revenue — although the company will likely still make the bulk of its cash from Japan. In that country, more than 18 million people have downloaded Puzzle & Dragons, which accounts for more than 15 percent of Japan’s population. At points in 2013, the puzzle-RPG was making around $5 million every day largely thanks to its status as a phenomenon in Asia.
Puzzle & Dragons is one of the most profitable games in the world. GungHo is looking to the West in an effort to continue that growth. This is similar to titles like King‘s Candy Crush Saga and Supercell‘s Clash of Clans — both of those free-to-play mobile hits started out in the Europe and North America before moving to Japan. That worked out well for each game, which have both found success in that Asian market.
While 3 million downloads is a lot, Puzzle & Dragons is not quite living up to the cross-border success of Candy Crush or Clash of Clans. Currently, Puzzle & Dragons isn’t in the top-100 most-downloaded games on Android’s U.S. Google Play store. In terms of revenue, it is barely in the top-50 highest grossing.
Japan is probably the most important market for free-to-play mobile games because the cost to acquire a new player is so low compared to the average revenue per download, according to research firm Distimo. But North America, Korea, and the U.K. are also important regions for the same reason. The U.S. has a high population, which makes it even more desirable. China has many of the same attributes, but it also has a number of issues (including app-store fragmentation) that makes it a unique territory to tackle.
In November, GungHo reported that Puzzle & Dragons surpassed 2 million downloads in North America. That means it took the company a few months to reach the next million. That pace probably isn’t swift enough to carry the game to the heights that the developer is hoping for.