I sat down with Yusuke Amano, GREE’s Senior VP of Asia-Pacific, this Saturday at China Joy 2012 to gain an understanding of GREE’s plans in the China region. GREE is making an aggressive push into China, and they are investigating partnerships to get there faster. Mr. Amano was happy to let me know a few developments about their current business.
Tell me a bit about GREE in China.
We just entered the Chinese market, as you might know. In the beginning, we set up a branch in Beijing with a game developing studio. Until recently, we have been mainly developing content from China and selling to markets in Japan and the West. It was a “factory.” We are now working to change this, thinking to create dedicated content for the Chinese market. We recently hired a great engineer. In total, we have about 100 people including operations and business development.
Thoughts on the Chinese market.
“The Chinese market is booming right now, especially with the penetration of smartphones getting pretty high. We are discussing with some big players, including Tencent.” So far, these companies have been very positive about cooperation with us. We plan to release some of our titles in China either later this year or the beginning of next year.
We are very successful in Japan with card games, “though we are not sure that this can be successful in China, especially with different tastes here.” Therefore, we are in the process of doing research and marketing. When it comes to China, “you need a good partner.”
Many companies are afraid of the fact that Chinese aren’t often willing to pay money on mobile phones, do you think this might change?
“In a new market, you need to make a kind of system where everyone can benefit and make money, otherwise you never see new companies growing up.”
What is the biggest difference in the work environment?
There are not so many differences. We have more chances to hire people. It is better compared to Shanghai as well. We have one location in Beijing at the moment with mostly Chinese engineers.
What is your target market?
We are first targeting the larger cities and urban areas of China. Additionally, we have plans for other areas of Asia. We have a branch in Singapore that covers all of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. We think that there will be chances to monetize and market our products there.
What is the most exciting product that you are preparing?
I can’t reveal that at the moment. I will say that in China, social gaming is not very popular. Most people play casual games. I think it’s going to change, with more people playing social games where they can chat and message with their friends.
How will you monetize?
We are going to stick to the free-to-play model as in Japan and build on the success we have seen there.
So are you willing to lose money in China?
I hope not, but we are thinking that it will take some time to be successful. It’s not the same as in Japan or in Western markets. You need more time, even 2 or 3 years. It’s a different timeline. “In terms of the Chinese market, we have to be very patient.”
So there you have it. If anyone is looking to work with GREE, they are quite serious about the long-term in China and they seem to have a good understanding of what it takes to be successful.
Coming from Japan to China will probably be an easier process than coming from the US to China. Business practices vary in each environment, but Japanese business mentality is probably more familiar in China than Western business practice, for instance. It will likely be difficult, but it can be done.
Zynga has notably had some trouble entering the Chinese market. Will GREE be the same? What do you think?