Zynga, GREE knows that feel, bro. In a way, you could say that GREE, the Japanese mobile social game network that looks to go global soon, is one of the CityVille maker's primary competitors. It's one of the only mobile or social game developers to go from game developer to game publisher and network provider, just as Zynga has with the recently launched Zynga.com.
"We've been through what Zynga's now going through--sort of first party game making to becoming a bit of a destination--and I think the space needs it," GREE SVP of marketing and developer relations Eros Resmini (pictured below) says. "I think players want these kinds of experiences."
With the help of OpenFeint, GREE's largest U.S. acquisition totaling an estimated $104 million, the Japanese company looks to create a global destination for play--just like Zynga. However, there's one key difference: GREE is a mobile social gaming network, whereas Zynga has made no mention of a mobile version of Zynga.com. (Though, the company would be remiss to let that opportunity stew for too long.)
And like Zynga, GREE has opted to partner with big-time game developers in Japan, like Capcom and Konami. This trend is only likely to ramp up, Resmini predicts. According to Resmini, GREE looks to apply the free-to-play business model on mobile to all sorts of game experiences--not just your property simulators. (This was made evident by the release of Zombie Jombie [pictured below], the first GREE-made mobile social game for Western audiences.)
But still, the question remains: Why would players opt for GREE or Zynga.com over, say, Facebook or Game Center? "When you use the example of Facebook or Game Center, I would consider those light gaming experiences, and not necessarily deep social experiences yet," Resmini explains. "Whereas gaming destinations, like GREE, are focused on building a very rich, very intensive gaming experience that's almost unique to gaming only. If I'm looking for a really deep, dedicated gaming experience, I think I'm inclined to go to a destination that's going to serve those needs."
However, GREE didn't necessarily create its own network to escape another, which is what many speculate is Zynga's true intention with Zynga.com. Namely, many analysts and media outlets think that Zynga.com is a first step in the developer's attempt to distance itself from Facebook. Which is indisputable, Resmini tells us, but only in part.
"I think that's definitely got to be part of their thinking," Resmini admits. "But I think it's maybe less about the reliance on Facebook. They still will be relying on Facebook with [Facebook Connect and Credits], obviously. So, I think it's a tough argument to make that they're not relying on Facebook any longer, rather they're about building a specific game experience."
Regardless of intentions, there's a definite sea change stirring in the mobile and social game worlds. Kixeye is rumored to be working on its own game platform, DeNA has pushed its mobile social game network, Mobage, on Western audiences and Kabam has enlisted others to help it differentiate its game experience. That said, GREE has its own advantages and challenges that lie ahead.
"There really is no one else in the space that has been operating platforms for as long as GREE has. Clearly, experience counts for a lot in the space, and we've got a lot of it," Resmini says. "We think that over time, mobile will be the dominant place for gamers to go, and we have a tremendous amount of experience on mobile specifically. Brand adoption and brand awareness is gonna be important for us outside of Japan. Fortunately for us, we have a tremendous amount of experience built in from the OpenFeint network alone."
With mobile social gaming networks cropping up all over, it's strange that Apple hasn't invested more in its Game Center, especially considering many point to the company as the future of gaming. So, why doesn't Apple get GREE on the horn already? "I would be very surprised, just given Apple's history of partnering with outside companies," Resmini admits. "That said, if Apple was interested in partnering with GREE, I'm sure we would be more than happy to entertain the conversation."
[Image Credit: TechInAsia]
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