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GREE Partners Fund earmarks $10 million for developer partnerships

GREE has $10 million earmarked for mobile game developers. Announced today, the Partners Fund is a tangible representation of GREE's desire to find talented developers and fund their games.

The company is aiming high, as Jim Ying, GREE International's vice president of publishing and partners, explained in a recent interview.

"Ultimately, we want to find very talented developers who are capable of building games with our help," Ying said. "The kind of developers we're looking at have the potential to build a top 25 grossing app."

GREE began in Japan, built up a social network there and wants to put its experience to work stateside with the Partners Fund. The first steps will happen simultaneously: GREE will identify and reach out to developers it's interested in working with, while it's also soliciting developers through its website.

Though Ying said that the company expects to have equity stakes in the companies it works with, he frames the GREE Partners Fund as a collaboration. GREE wants to "jump in early" with the developers, help them build games and then help them become successful.

GREE has a first-party studio, but the intent of the Partners Fund is not to fold new developers into the corporate structure. Instead, Ying said, it's a "recognition that there are very talented developers out there that are going to be making games."

"We have a lot of talent and knowledge to share as well as dollars to support these developers."

"We have a lot of talent and knowledge to share as well as dollars to support these developers," he said. "We'd like to do so."

The idea, then, is to leverage GREE's expertise in three key areas: dollars, user acquisition, and cross-promotion. GREE believes that it can identify independent games and developers with potential, fund the games and lead new users to them through GREE's network.

It all hinges on the free-to-play model. GREE's focus is intensely free-to-play. Ying says that model offers advantages and disadvantages, and GREE has the knowhow to make each successful. He's seen both sides, having worked on the Xbox platform for Microsoft.

"I actually believe that free-to-play will lead to better gaming experiences," he said. "Ultimately, if you're giving away the game for free, the only people that are going to stick around are one who really enjoy the title."

That's a large part of why he joined GREE a few months ago, he said. This is the beginning of a new model for distributing and marketing games, and he wanted in on the front lines. He illustrates the difference between the emerging free-to-play market by saying that it reverses course on the way he saw games sold while working on consoles.

"Having spent a bunch of time on the console side of the world where it's more about the PR being able to drum up early on before launch as well as the marketing dollars," he said.

In the free-to-play ecosystem, it's more often about shipping a game and then being able to direct potential players to it. GREE believes it knows how to get eyeballs on games. That's the sales pitch to the developers it hopes to court: GREE has the experience and financing to do this, both before and after a game launches.

Though GREE has acquired studios before — in 2012, it purchased Modern War developer Funzio — the company is focusing here on funding partnerships. It wants to collaborate, to build relationships over many games. Those are its goals.

"Ours are more about longterm, vested relationships with the developers, as opposed to one-off relationships where the publisher isn't taking much risk," he said. "Because we're investing so much in terms of dollars and effort, we're really going to be focusing on the long term."