Point 1: Japan-Only Success Factors • Key success factors that fueled DeNA and GREE‘s growth in Japan don‘t apply elsewhere. • Examples: • Carrier billing • Game-friendly society • Mobile-centric users • Japan‘s ARPU for social games is unique globally • Fast, reliable 3G networks (example: in SEA) • Affordable mobile data plans
Point 2: Popularity of Japan-Specific Games • The biggest social games in Japan are card battle games: acceptance abroad is uncertain. First titles from Japanese game firms flopped. • Genres like dating simulations or social horse racing games difficult/impossible to transplant. • Game design is heavily influenced by Manga and Anime culture. • US and European game developers have caught up/overtaken their Japanese counterparts.
Point 4: Japanese Management Is Unique • Incompatibility between Japanese and foreign management styles and business cultures is well documented in economic literature. • Example from the social game industry: the Openfeint <-> GREE case from September 2011. • Integration of startups (Openfeint, ngmoco) and listed large-cap companies (GREE, DeNA) makes things even worse.
Point 5: History • Fact: in the entire web and mobile business history, absolutely no Japanese company succeeded abroad. • Example: NTT Docomo‘s i-mode. But there are many, many more. • Nintendo and Sony PS comparison doesn‘t count (the social game market in the 2010s has nothing in common with the video game market in the 1980s/1990s).
Point 6: No Causality • Being successful in Japan and understanding mobile does not automatically lead to success outside the country, as DeNA and GREE suggest (see point 1). • Zynga got burnt in Japan even though they have acquired a startup, teamed up with local companies (SoftBank Mobile, Mixi), and clearly know how to do social games. -> similarity?