15 New Games: GREE Beefs Up Smartphone Offering

Another day, another GREE-related news item on Asiajin. Today, it’s about GREE’s web site for smartphones for which new games by third-party developers have been added. If you access GREE through an iPhone or Android handset, you’re now able to play a total of 15 games from twelve different companies (full list in Japanese here).

Here’s GREE’s new smartphone games section (iPhone version):

This is the just the first batch of games integrated into GREE’s web application, including titles from companies such as Sega, gumi and Tonchidot. Needless to say, you can use virtual currency to advance faster in the games.

Here are some pictures showing Tonchidot’s Augmented Reality-powered LBS RPG Demon Wars:

And for GREE, beefing up the web app is just the first step in the smartphone area. As announced by the company last month, the so-called “GREE Platform for smartphone” also includes offering native applications for the iPhone and Android (both of which will be released in the next few weeks).

The company says it so far attracted about 200 companies, which will roll out games for the smartphone platform in the near future.

Pictures courtesy of Chiho Komoriya‘s blog

DeNA (Mobage-town) Shuts Down Social Game “Bandit Nation” On Facebook

Back in May, Japan’s mobile gaming juggernaut DeNA ($3.8 billion market cap at the Tokyo Stock Exchange) took a serious step to bring Mobage-town (its highly successful mobile game community) global. DeNA formed a separate company for that endeavor (MiniNation KK) and localized a total of four games for Non-Japanese players, which were offered to iPhone users under a social network called MiniNation.

That social network and the four games it’s currently built around are still alive [iTunes link]. But today, MiniNation KK announced the Facebook version of Bandit Nation, the MiniNation game with the biggest potential, will be shut down on August 31. Bandit Nation, whose basic gameplay resembles that of Mafia Wars, is DeNA’s flagship game and biggest cash machine in the Japanese Mobage-town network (it’s called “Kaitou Rowaiyaru” there).

On Facebook, however, new user registration for Bandit Nation will stop as early as  July 31. It won’t be possible to purchase MiniCoins, MiniNation’s virtual currency, from that date on either. All users are urged to use their MiniCoins up before the service shuts down one month later.

That’s a pretty quick death, but DeNA has good reason to pull the plug: With around 250 new games appearing on Facebook every day, Bandit Nation has just attracted around 40,000 monthly active users on Facebook (and just over 3,000 people appear to play it on a daily basis).

Japanese mobile gaming startup GREE to open US and China offices within a year

Japan’s social networks seem to be hitting a ceiling growth-wise, and apparently they increasingly feel the need to go abroad in order to grow.

“Japan’s Facebook” Mixi, which now counts 20 million members, is operating “Mixiu” in China. DeNA, the company behind mobile gaming platform Mobage-town (19.4 million members), has always been more aggressive in terms of internationalization. It operates MobaMingle, a mobile social network that can only be accessed from outside Japan; it launched MiniNation, a social gaming platform for the iPhone last month; it invested in Aurora Feint, a US-based social gaming platform, in 2009; and it also acquired IceBreaker, a US- and China-based maker of “mobile social networking software”, last year.

So far, only one of the big three of Japan’s social networking world has chosen to stay home: mobile gaming startup GREE. But Yoshikazu Tanaka, GREE’s CEO and the world’s second youngest self-made billionaire (following Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg) at 32, today announced some big news via Twitter.

To make it simple, let me just translate his tweet:

“GREE moved to the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange today! But there’s more. First, internationalization. Within the next 12 months, we will open offices in the US and China. Second, we will bring GREE to more devices. Every employee will get an iPad. We will also support iPhone and Android. GREE will start to mass-recruit new employees in order to handle internationalization and smartphone development.”

I heard Naoki Aoyagi, GREE’s CFO, talking about expansion plans into China during a discussion panel at the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) last month in Beijing, but the plans for the US come as a bit of a surprise (although DeNA already runs a subsidiary in California called DeNA Global).