If anything, it should be clear that the mobile gaming scene is dominated by birds, candies, warriors and dragons.
The latest top-grossing smartphone game, Puzzle & Dragons (PAD) brings in a daily revenue of US$3.7 million for Japanese company GungHo Online Entertainment, beating competitors Rovio, King.com and Supercell to the punch.
The odd thing is that while Rovio’s Angry Birds, King.com’s Candy Crush Saga and Supercell’s Hayday and Clash of Clans are well-known and are present all over the world, PAD is only available in five markets, namely Japan, Korea, Canada, the US, and most recently, the UK.
The 25-year-old company is definitely no newbie in the gaming industry, having hosted popular title Ragnarok Online on its Japanese servers in 2002.
Its next big hit came with PAD, which was apparently just a case of “good luck”. Founder and CEO Kazuki Morishita told VentureBeat writer Dean Takahashi in April that the company had reached a stage where quality wasn’t really the company’s biggest priority.
Morishita added, “I’m very hands-on with all these releases. If I have to push back certain games because they’re not up to standards, I can do that. That helped with Puzzle & Dragons when it came to controlling the level of quality.”
Earning more than Nintendo, a Japan-based global gaming company, PAD earns a daily revenue of US$3.8 million. PocketGamer also reported that GungHo had pulled a total of US$763 million in sales from January to June 2013, with a large portion of its profits attributed to PAD.
More recently, last week to be precise, Softbank, a major shareholder of GungHo went full speed ahead with a US$1.5 billion deal to buy over 51 percent of Finnish games company Supercell.
GungHo, that joined in the deal and chipped in 20 percent of the US$1.5 billion, has collaborated with Supercell to work on an inter-game event, which sees characters from Clash of Clans integrate into PAD’s gameplay for a short period of time. Both companies also announced recently, their next big collaboration, another cross-game event.
The future: not exactly a puzzle
Was the launch of PAD in the UK surprising? To be frank, it was. Did anyone really see it coming?
Before October 16, the game was only available in Japan (its biggest market), Korea, Canada and the US. In Japan, about 10 percent of the population has a PAD account. Sure, there were gamers based in other countries fiddling around with the app.
After getting in touch with a few of them through a Facebook group, it seems that a small handful of them would register for US or Japan-based App Store accounts just to play the game. Others would resign to playing clones like Tower of Saviors.
While the game was launched in the UK last week, app data on App Annie revealed that the game has jumped from zero to number 70, at time of writing, in the free games category.
Current chart toppers for top-grossing games in the UK App Store are King.com’s Candy Crush Saga and Supercell’s Clash of Clans. Will PAD ever overtake these two champions? The Guardian recently reported that it just might.
Distimo, an insights company, also reported in August that the UK ranks number four in terms of app spending across platforms.
Where else will PAD launch next? It could be other parts of Europe, given that there is an official account on Facebook representing PAD (Europe) instead of merely the UK.
Tanapon “Top” Petapanpiboon, a game developer for Candy Meleon – a smartphone game featured at WWDC, a much-watched Apple conference – said that he thinks GungHo is making the right decision by expanding to other markets worldwide. He added that it is also a right decision to expand slowly.
Thailand based Petapanpiboon, explained that for a game which monetises “ridiculously well”, GungHo is better off spending “a good amount of time and money carefully expanding” to each country, rather than having a “one-shot worldwide release where they have less control on marketing and other factors”.
Since he had designed games for both Asian and Western gamers, Petapanpiboon said that there are challenges in designing characters that appeal to both parties. He added that GungHo’s biggest weakness is the lack of appeal faced in Western countries like US and Canada. However, the company’s biggest strength is that monetisation is not a problem at all.
Petapanpiboon said, “With these two factors in mind, in my opinion, even with ridiculous amount of marketing, Puzzle & Dragons will have a difficult time competing in UK with big Western casual games like Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans, however, they will no doubt be among the top grossing contenders on the UK App Store.”
What’s better than GungHo collaborating with Supercell? GungHo joining forces with King.com, of course. Here’s a wild speculation: if PAD meets Candy Crush Saga, what happens? Will the App Store go crazy?
While PAD is ranked as the number one top ranking app in Japan’s iOS App Store, it doesn’t look so good in the US. At time of writing, the app ranks number 40 for overall apps, and number 36 for overall games on the US iOS App Store.
Infographic credit: Elizabeth Tan
Image Credits: Gaming Intelligence Agency