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GREE CEO's biggest target: developing nations

Going Global


Yoshikazu Tanaka is taking aim at hundreds of millions of untapped gamers.

The games industry has seen some tough times over the last few years, but one company that hasn't suffered is GREE. The Japanese social gaming company has seen tremendous success with its mobile business. In one of the two keynote speeches during Tokyo Game Show, GREE CEO Yoshikazu Tanaka, described one way in which the company intends on continuing that success in the next few years. It seems GREE's future plans for world domination are in developing nations.

In the past, he said, "copyright and pricing issues meant that games were centered around developed countries." These countries have distribution methods like game stores, but in developing nations, those options don't always exist for players, so they may turn to illegal distribution methods.

"But, I'm talking about four years from now, emerging countries will experience a drastic increase in smart phone availability and communication networks. The number of smart phone users will be ten times as much in four years," he said, with many of those users living in these emerging countries. It's a market that's almost entirely untapped, and GREE wants to be there to tap it.

Tanaka admitted that in terms of globalization, GREE still has a ways to go. While they've seen success in Japan with their mobile titles, that same level of success hasn't always reached overseas markets. But he believes that by reaching these new, emerging markets, they have a chance to stay ahead of the curve.

"The console games market overseas is very big," he said. "But game consoles are not able to cultivate demand in emerging countries, and that business will be much bigger."

At the heart of GREE's plan is their mobile gaming platform. Think of it like Xbox Live or Steam. All of their games are linked together, no matter what country you're in or what device you're playing on. And all of the income goes straight to GREE, whether it's the initial purchase price or whether it's for a free-to-play game with for-pay items. There's no need to stock stores in risky or untested markets. Once smart phones become the global norm, theoretically, someone in New York will have the same mobile games selection as someone in Kenya.

Of course, it's unlikely that GREE will be the only company taking advantage of this new market. That duty will be shared by game publishers the world over, sitting at the forefront of a new gold rush, with millions of previously inaccessible customers up for grabs.

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