This week’s conferences on Mobile and Gaming trigger a nostalgic trip down memory lane


mark-bivens_portraitThis guest post is authored by Mark Bivens. Mark is a Silicon Valley native and former entrepreneur, having started three companies before “turning to the dark side of VC.” He is a venture capitalist that travels between Paris and Tokyo (aka the RudeVC). You can read more on his blog at or follow him @markbivens. The Japanese translation of this article is available here.

Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

This week we have the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Both major technology conferences; both happening at the same time. So difficult to choose…

So it’s no surprise then that mobile gaming is on my mind. Truth be told, I was never much of a gamer myself, yet the industry has always fascinated me from an investment perspective.

In fact I can only think of three video games which hooked me over the course of my life. Perhaps symbolically, each corresponded to a different stage of my life as well.

First there were the Nintendo Game & Watch devices which I collected as a young boy. My favorite was Fire, but I managed to amass games like Octopus, Helmut, Parachute, and then later the double-screened Game & Watches like Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. My version of Fire still has the dents from when I hurled it across the room in frustration, but the others remain in practically mint condition. That’s how I know that Fire was my favorite. A stroll in Tokyo’s Akihabara district the other day made me realize how valuable these collector’s items have become.

In the modern era, a game consultant in Japan introduced me to GungHo’s Puzzles & Dragons in 2012. This mid-core smartphone game fascinated me in two ways. First, the combination of a Match-3 game with a dragon battle game represented a level of sophistication that I had never seen in the West. Additionally, the innovation around the gacha monetization technique opened my eyes to the business potential of mobile gaming in Japan. Although after five years PazuDora is finally in decline, the game is the most profitable F2P game ever. (Incidentally, I’ve written previously about the present-day threats to the gacha technique).

For the decade in between, i.e. around the turn of the century, the game that hooked me was Snake on my Nokia feature phone. Remember those old Nokia feature phones? A Nokia was my first mobile phone, and I must have cycled through half a dozen of those reliable devices during this period. That was of course before the smartphone revolution, back when we still used mobile phones for talking. Navigating through the memorized key sequence to Snake probably fell second only to checking voicemail among my daily routine.

The union of the snake is on the climb

Two major announcements broke this week for nostalgic fans like me: At MWC, HMD Global (which now owns the rights to make Nokia phones) announced that they are bringing back the classic Nokia 3310 phone. They announced the retro re-launch as a “One More Thing,” underscoring the only three things that matter: its battery lasts a month, it has Snake, and it has the Nokia ringtone.

And on the other side of the world, our portfolio company CoolGames announced that they’re bringing Snake into the new generation. CoolGames is launching Snake on Facebook Messenger’s Instant Games, a harbinger of the next form of disruption in mobile gaming in my opinion.

Perhaps I fit perfectly into the demographic motivated by nostalgia. I for one look forward to the return of Nokia’s 3310, to the return of Snake, and to how this future paradigm of mobile gaming will entertain us while still letting us hold on to the things we cherish.