The problems and opportunities in the Japanese social gaming space [Panel]

Takeshi Sato, Mobcast; Tomohiro Ootomi, InBlue; Hironao Kunimitsu, Gumi

This is a part of our coverage of B Dash Camp Osaka 2013.

On day one of B Dash Camp Osaka, we heard from a stacked panel from the world of social gaming, including Gumi CEO Hironao Kunimitsu, inBlue CEO Tomohiro Ootomi, Mobcast director and general manager Takeshi Sato. The moderator was DeNA chief game strategy officer Kenji Kobayashi.

Any panel including Gumi’s jovial CEO Kunimitsu-san is naturally going to be an easy-going one. But despite the lighthearted tone, the discussion kept coming back to the many problems that exist for Japanese game developers these days.

Gumi CEO Kunimitsu
Gumi CEO Kunimitsu

Kobayashi said that games in the app space are obviously growing at a great pace [1], with titles like Puzzle & Dragons, Candy Crush, and Clash of Clans doing incredibly well. Even console makers are trying to replicate their success, says Kobayashi. But he also pointed out the many games that go unfound on the app store, and that that the environment can be quite harsh if you don’t have a runaway hit.

Kunimitsu compared the gaming sector to a gold rush, and pointed out that if you dig relentlessly for gold, you will probably die. If you want to do well in gaming, it’s hard work.

“I wouldn’t recommend it for my kids,” he explained. Globalizing is much more complex, he adds:

I think many developers create and app, put it in English, press ‘launch’ (so to speak) and expect it to do well. But it’s necessary to localize. When the competition was not intense, or the market was not mature, it was not so bad. But now localization/regionization is important.

Kunimitsu-san said that his own company, Gumi, has launched and expanded globally. They struggled initially, but their games in Singapore are doing particularly well right now.

Sato from Mobcast mentioned that the problems facing game creators today can potentially distract them from their goal if they aren’t careful:

For game creators that need to deal with so many issues, I don’t think this is really their main role, or what they should be focusing their efforts on.

Sato also spoke a little about the challenge of finding new game creators:

But it is very hard to motivate creators, but our CEO (Koki Yabu) has a good feel for this. I think we should stick with good creators and encourage (and nurture) them, rather than search out new ones.

InBlue’s Ootomi also agreed that the challenges facing game developers are indeed a problem. But he also pointed out the opportunity that exists for supporting services that solve problems:

I founded the company alone, and we used external services like Github, or some GMO services, or Mixi’s DeployGate (which is very convenient). We think there’s much room for these kind of services to enter.

Kunimitsu ended the panel on a high note, saying the he hopes that if we meet again next year that they can speak on some more positive things. You never know who will have a winning idea, he concluded.

inBlue CEO Tomohiro Ootomi
inBlue CEO Tomohiro Ootomi

  1. In comparison to browser games which are relatively stable in Japan, not growing nearly as much.  ↩