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DeNA’'s Tomoko Namba on the platform business, expanding westward and kickstarting Japanese PC social gaming

Wants US and European developers to get involved
DeNA’'s Tomoko Namba on the platform business, expanding westward and kickstarting Japanese PC social gaming
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Running any platform business is hard work. Just ask the likes of Facebook, Apple or Nintendo.

The bigger and more successful your platform becomes, the more thirdparties rely on you and the more vocally they react to any changes you make in terms of your technology and business standards.

Even in Japan, where social publisher DeNA is the process of migrating from being a key mobile platform provider, in the shape of its Mobage-town technology, to launching its Yahoo! Mobage PC-based operation, as part of its new strategic deal with Yahoo! Japan, focus needs to be sharp.

Shifting the target

"When we launched, three of our first four games on Mobage-town were huge hits," says DeNA CEO Tomoko Namba.

"Coming from a mobile auction background, we were surprised how thirsty people were for this sort of content."

"But since January 2010, when we opened up to other developers, we now have 200 games from thirdparties. This is better for everyone, especially the users, who have a wider selection to choose from.

"We have been really careful to treat all games equally. The ones that sell the most are the ones we highlight. We are careful not to impose anything difficult on developers."

Of course, this makes sense in terms of the business model, which sees DeNA splitting revenue 30:70, after the Japanese mobile carriers have taken their typical 10 percent cut.

"We run a platform business," Namba explains. "We also have a game studio, which is good as it means we understand developers and can convey more information to them.

"But now the platform business is the main thing for us."

Building the foundations

Yet, while its mobile social platform makes DeNA one of the most profitable gaming companies in the world - operating income of $228 million on sales of $517 million in its FY09-10 - it's looking at a bigger prize.

"The PC market isn't big in Japan, but with our social platform in place, we see huge potential. We will stimulate demand," Namba says.

Yahoo! Mobage is due to launch in September 2010 and DeNA is keen to encourage US and European social developers to get involved in its PC initiative.

"It's an opportunity for them to get into the lucrative Japanese market using a familiar environment," Namba explains.

"They can capitalise on our expertise in the market."

Flipping the nation

As for DeNA's own expansion outside of its core domestic market, it's already dipped its toes in the iPhone and Facebook markets with its Bandit Nation game amongst others, which support its MiniNation avatar and community platform - effectively a cutdown version of Mobage-town.

More releases are planned for MiniNation - three or four in 2010 - while the company will also heavily focus on smartphones.

Part of this drive will include the currently iPhone-only OpenFeint social gaming network, in which DeNA has a 20 percent strategic investment.

"I can't talk specifically about what it's doing but we want to help OpenFeint grow and cross-platform is a natural progression," Namba explains.

All systems go everywhere in other words.