Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame: Kazuki Morishita

GungHo Online CEO on bringing people joy

Hall of Fame: Kazuki Morishita

Kazuki Morishita is CEO and president of Japanese gaming group GungHo Online.

Best known for its global billion-dollar franchise Puzzle & Dragons, GungHo - a floated company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange using the ticket TYO:3765 - consists of a number of different subsidiaries.

These include console game developers such as Grasshopper Manufacture, Gravity, Game Arts and Acquire.

However, the vast majority of the company's revenues currently come from Puzzle & Dragons, a card-collection match-3 hybrid, developed and launched by a small team in Febraury 2012.

Pocket Gamer: What was your favourite game as a kid?

Kazuki Morishita: I enjoyed all the classics, but my top three would be:

  • Super Mario Bros.
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Ninja-kun series; Also known as Ninja-Kid (Not to be confused with GeGeGe no Kitaro, which is also known as Ninja Kid)

When did you realize you wanted to make games as a career?

In 1999, I was working at a company that mainly focused on B2B transactions and I began to think how much fun it would be to work at a company that focused more on providing joy to people.

The first thought I had was something in the entertainment industry.

I’ve always liked games as a child and began to expand on that idea. I wasn’t sure if I would be accepted into a game company by sending in my resume, so I decided to start my own company. In March 2003, I started my company that was to later become GungHo Online Entertainment, Inc.

What was your first role in the industry? How did that turn out?

Initially, our main business was to create SDKs for online games for consoles.

Unfortunately back then, the overall lack of bandwidth and consumer knowledge of online games were still quite low, and the hardware that we were targeting pulled out of the market, so we had to give up on this business idea.

However, this experience did help us shift our idea to the open platform of PC gaming, and we decided to create a PC online gaming service.

What do you consider your first significant success?

Ragnarok Online, which began service in 2002.

Korean MMOG Ragnarok Online was a first success for GungHo

Back then, the market for online PC gaming in Japan was still small, and only a handful of users were playing online games from overseas, so it literally felt like we had opened up an entirely new market in Japan from scratch.

When did the potential for mobile games become apparent to you?

In 2002 when the company was built, one of our main goals as a company was to become number one in the mobile game division within 10 years.

So that was when we first realized the huge potential for mobile games, but we only started developing smartphone games around 2010.

What do you think is the most significant event in mobile gaming to-date?

I think the most significant is the arrival of high spec smartphone devices such as the iPhone that allows developers to create UI that are specific to gaming. This was not possible with feature phones.

We are always thinking of a new game system that provides a fresh experience to the players.

We believe we were able to utilize this touch interface and create a game that allows the user to play with the most minimal stress.

What are you most proud of? Any regrets?

I’m not sure if you’d call it being proud, but I feel very blessed that I’m able to make games for a living.

Also, I really have no regrets. All the games we made, no matter what the reviews may be, I think of them as my children and I truly feel that each and every one of them have something special.

Which mobile games have you most enjoyed recently and why?

I play every game we develop internally, but I don’t play too many mobile titles outside of our internal titles.

At home I mostly play games on my PS4 or other consoles. If I were to bring up a mobile title, it would be the new mobile game I’ve been thinking about and playing in my head.

What are your predictions for the future of mobile games?

The current Japanese mobile game market has too much supply and not enough demand.

One of the reasons for Puzzle & Dragons'  long success are its mashups with games including Clash of Clans

On top of that, there are many games out there that have utilized our Puzzle & Dragons game system as a default format. There is a high possibility that it will start making the users sick of seeing the same game system over and over, creating a bad spiral.

In that sense, we are always thinking of a new game system that provides a fresh experience to the players.

In which area of the industry do you hope to make a difference in future?

As of late, it seems like mobile gaming is being mainly focused and scrutinized, but the touch interface can only take us so far. I believe sooner or later a new interface system will be introduced and a completely new gaming experience will be born.

In that sense, I believe there’s still a huge opportunity for console gaming and look forward to seeing new and fresh game ideas.

Thanks to Kazuki for his time.

Starting out in simple monochrome in the days of Snake and WAP, the past decade has seen the mobile games industry kaleidoscope into a glorious, multi-billion dollar sector that's driving global innovation.

So it's high time we celebrate some of the people who helped make that journey possible - something PocketGamer.biz is doing in its regular Mobile Gaming Hall of Fame feature.

You can read our previous Hall of Fame articles here.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.