Developer Spotlight: Mobage/DeNA

DeNAAbout a year ago, I was told I should check out a mobile game called Blood Brothers, which I downloaded and intended to give an honest month’s play to see if it were any good. Almost a year later, I am still playing this game. Like any good mobile app developer, this one advertises their other games on splash screens while loading up, but I paid them little mind (does anyone actually click on those things?) until their latest ad, this one for a game called Final Fantasy: Record Keeper. I was intrigued enough to take a look at all the games this developer has created, and was surprised to see that they carry some pretty big brands. Their impressive list of titles includes Transformers Battle Tactics, Marvel Mighty Heroes, Star Wars Galactic Defense, and the latest Final Fantasy offering from Square-Enix. These names have been known all over the world for decades now, and for one developer to have use of all of these intellectual properties at one time is quite an accomplishment.

blood brothersMobage, now DeNA, the developer in question, launched in 2006 and has since become a major player in the mobile games market. It has succeeded in becoming an excellent games portal and social gaming market, allowing players to communicate with each other not only on the same platform, but also across mobile devices–even across operating systems–all over the planet. From the DeNA website:

“DeNA’s original Mobage social game platform in Japan hosts a wide-ranging catalog of more than 1,000 free-to-play mobile games to over 50 million registered users. With a single user account, the gamers can access the games and use Mobage’s social networking features and virtual currencies. DeNA also operates the Mobage platform localized for the West, Greater China and South Korea.”

Competing with Apple’s “Game Center” and Facebook’s “App Center,” Mobage set a goal to allow Android users to compete with IOS users. They were purchased by DeNA in 2011 and DeNA has since made good use of their acquisition. They have attracted new app/game developers which are hosted on the service and have also started making their own offerings, including the games that finally got me to notice them. Seems I’m not the only one. They have also garnered the attention of Nintendo.

star warsAs of March 17 of this year, Nintendo and DeNA exchanged the equivalent of 22 billion yen worth of shares. Nintendo now owns 10% of DeNA stocks and DeNA now owns 1.24% of Nintendo stocks. This basically means that Nintendo can utilize DeNA’s immediate reach into the global mobile game market and DeNA now has the ability to leverage all of Nintendo’s intellectual property. I’ve been sad for Nintendo ever since they lost the console wars to Sony and Microsoft. They held onto the top spot for mobile gaming, however, and no one has come close to overtaking Game Boy. This being the case, it makes sense to me that Nintendo is now interested in making everyone’s phone a “Game Boy Lite” by allowing their characters used in games on DeNA’s mobile platform. I’m very interested to see how this marriage works out. At the very least, Mario and Luigi will be sitting pretty alongside Optimus Prime, Captain America and a platoon of Storm Troopers in DeNAs lineup. Should make for some fun gaming as the titles roll out.

– By Kurt Klein

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