With 230M registered users, LINE reveals 3 new services, global expansion plans


line morikawa

For Japanese coverage of Line’s event, see here and here.

Line Corporation held a press conference today in Tokyo where it revealed some information about its progress this far, as well as its plans for the near future.

It was at this same ‘Hello Friends in Tokyo’ event last year that the company announced that it would expand from a chat application to a mobile platform. Now hosting everything from games to manga to news, Line is has become a mobile content portal that is wildly popular in Japan and quickly growing around the world.

The company disclosed the most recent user numbers for its Line service, with 230 million registered users. Of those, 47 million come from Japan, 18 million from Thailand, 17 million from Taiwan, 15 million from Spain, and 14 million in Indonesia.

Information with high public value can be disseminated faster and widely on Line in times of disaster

There have been over 7 billion messages and 1 billion stickers sent as of August 2013. And as we previously mentioned, the company made 9.77 billion yen in Q2, a 66.9% increase over the same period last year.

CEO Akira Morikawa took the stage to give some brief updates about the service. He revealed that the app is seeing 63,000 new users every hour. And on Google Play, Line is one of the few apps to exceed 100 million users. He says that while it is a service born in Japan, it now has 80% of its users elsewhere.

Morikawa also pointed out the usefulness of Line during disasters:

Information with high public value can be disseminated faster and more widely on Line in times of disaster. It is starting to become a sort of infrastructure. We’d like to turn like into a common language across the world, and our growth strategy is based on this.

Jun Masuda
Chief strategy and marketing officer, Jun Masuda

Jun Masuda, the company’s chief strategy and marketing officer, said that there have been 290 million downloads of Line’s family of apps. This includes 48 million for Line Camera, 14 million for Line Play, 13 million for Line Card, and 8 million for Line Brush. For some Japan-specific services, good progress has been seen too. Line Manga for example has 3 million downloads.

As we have noted before, Line’s repertoire of games has been successful as well, with over 190 million downloads. It was also revealed for the first time today that Line Timeline has 73 million users around the world. It has grown by 330% says Masuda.

Masuda also disclosed that sticker sales, which are a huge part of the company’s business, now accounts for more than 1 billion yen per month (or more than $10 million).

He spoke about the company’s merchandise licensing business, noting the sales of Line character goods already account for 4 billion yen in sales. He added that the company will be rebranding the character business as ‘Line Friends’, and they hope to accelerate that business in the future.

Line's director Takeshi Idezawa
Line’s director Takeshi Idezawa

He also explained that in some developing countries, many people would like to buy stickers and play games, but they can’t because of the credit card barriers. He explained that moving forward they will support Paypal and prepaid cards as well, the latter starting in Japan at major convenience stores like 7-eleven and Lawson.

After Masuda, Line’s director Takeshi Idezawa took the stage to speak about the company’s marketing business. He explained that the nature of mobile messaging lets companies develop an emotional bond with their customers. He pointed to Lawson has a standout company using the platform, now with more than 10 million friends. 500,000 of these have used the company’s Line-distributed coupons in stores.

Idezawa added that they also want to expand their marketing efforts to new regions across the globe, using it in other markets as they have thus far here in Japan.

Line Games

Line Sonic Dash
Line Sonic Dash

Masuda spoke about Line’s game platform, disclosing that they had 2.6 billion yen in monthly revenue in July 2013. Line Games are based on your real social graph, playing with your actual friends. And based on that idea their games have been casual and simple enough for anyone to start playing at any time. ‘Ease of start’ was important for any games they bring to their platform. He says that Line Pop now has 32 million downloads and 4.3 billion yen in total revenue. Line Bubble has 25 million downloads and 1.9 billion yen in total revenue.

Both Line Wind runner and Line Pokopang had 14 million downloads a piece to date, the latter being particularly successful having just launched in May.

Line Games now aspires to go global, after experiencing success in Japan and around Asia. To that end, they will be rolling out a new lineup of games, including Sonic Dash through coorperation with Sega.

Our next target is to turn Line into a universal language.

CEO Morikawa said that Line is the fastest growing globalized service, supporting a 17 languages starting this month, with more to come. They are trying to be the top instant message brand in each country, and to do this they need more locally relevant content, and they have processes in place for that. He provided the examples of Thailand and Spain where they have been moving up while competitor What’s App has not been doing quite as well.

They also have involved local celebrities to help promote Line in different regions like Indonesia, India, and Mexico. Line is now targeting 300 million by the end of this year, and they will be active in the US and Europe to reach that goal. When asked about North America in the Q&A session, Morikawa says that we can expect to see some activity near the end of this year. He added “Our next target is to turn Line into a universal language.”

Video calls, Music, E-commerce on the way

Masuda again took the stage to explain that the company’s new 3C plan, focusing on communication, contents, and commerce. He introduced a few new upcoming services, first announcing video calls. This is not entirely surprising, given the recent trend of companies jumping into mobile video.

He also revealed that Line Music will be rolled out soon, not a separate app but rather included in Line’s basic functions. Masuda said that you’ll be able to listen and share with friends too, although it will be curious to see how many music labels are on board with this when it launches. The service will not be just for Japan, but outside the country as well.

The third new service announced will be Line Mall. The idea here, says Masuda, will be to create a new shopping experience on Line.

Development of these new services are being finalized and they are coming in the fall of 2013.

For more information on the growth of Line and its vast repertoire of apps, please check out our interactive Line Timeline which chronicles its growth from its launch back in 2011.

Video Call