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Gree's bold predictions for mobile games
Gree's bold predictions for mobile games
September 20, 2012 | By Kris Graft

Amid the negativity surrounding the purported struggles of the Japanese video game industry, Gree has proven to be a bright point. At a Tokyo Game Show 2012 keynote, CEO Yoshikazu Tanaka laid out the future of the mobile game company, and made some bold predictions about the future of the industry.

Localized studios

Tanaka is doing his best to look ahead and meet the enormous challenges of the mobile game business head-on. One of the key strategies for Gree is an aggressive worldwide studio expansion.

Currently the company has 1800 employees with studios in locations including (but not limited to) Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo, Osaka, Singapore, Sao Paulo, London, Vancouver and San Francisco.

"We would like to be a company that creates games worldwide, and our company is growing," he said. But the expansion isn't just for the sake of expansion. Tanaka predicted a growing importance of having game-making studios in many different regions, which will allow the company to serve the specific tastes of global audiences.

"As time goes on, localized services will be required," he said. "In three years time, local development of games will be bigger. That's why we engage in worldwide development activities.

"Global participation will help us come up with new ideas," he added.

The disappearing PC

Another emerging trend in the coming years, Tanaka said, will involve the PC. "The line between PC and mobile has blurred, and that's a trend for this year," he said.

Eventually, he added, "The traditional PC will disappear, and smartphone and PC will converge to become a new platform." He noted that more and more people are using smartphones as their main gateway to the internet, as opposed to PC, and that smartphone shipments exceed PC shipments.

Tanaka chalked this convergence up to the rapid iteration and evolution of mobile platforms -- mobile processors are becoming more powerful, and hardware is becoming more capable with each new launch, outpacing the rate of PC hardware advancements.

Mobile communication infrastructure will improve as well in the coming years, and that will make games friendlier for multiplayer and other more interactive ways to play games.

"The hardware performance will continue to explode," said Tanaka, "and we need to take that into consideration when creating games."

With higher-powered hardware, he also predicted deeper, story-based games will become more common on mobile platforms, in addition to the quick-hit, pick-up-and-play fare.

Emerging markets to explode

Tanaka again set his sights at the global level, saying emerging markets will be exploding with new smartphone users -- and new potential mobile gamers -- in the coming years.

"In four years, emerging countries will have a huge increase in the number of smartphones. ... We'll be able to provide games to them. This is a very big change.

"The people who wanted to play games but weren't able to, will be able to," he continued. "That's a big change that will happen in the next 10 years."

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Robert Swift
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Sure, the smart phone of the future will power my 4k - 3D home gaming theater system, lol.

Carlo Delallana
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Those who lack the imagination tend to be the ones blindsided by change. It's so easy to jump on prognostications and be dismissive. Granted, statements like the "death" of something or the "future" of something is hyperbole at best but its clear that where we are now is not where we were 5-10 years ago. So isn't it a bit foolish to think that change won't happen as time passes? This includes smart phone technology that could power a home theater system.

Robert Swift
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Physical limitations/practicalities will always provide a strong incentive to have different systems for different situations.

Sure, you can output stuff from your smartphone to your home theater. But the real luxury is to have a 'physically optimal' solution for each use case. Which is why
- I have a classic mini mobile phone when I just need to be reachable by phone
- A smartphone for when I do larger trips
- A pad for internet/ light entertainment at home
- A console for TV, some movies, some games
- A 'high-end' PC for my favorite games, image/video processing and often movies (the PC is much quieter than the console)

Also the type of games I play on mobile platforms are fundamentally different from the ones I play on PC with very different requirements in terms of processing power- and input devices.

I rather see a need for an OS/software which will allow me to synchronize all my physically different devices with their different abilities and uses as comfortable as possible.

Tom Baird
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" its clear that where we are now is not where we were 5-10 years ago"
This is always the case, and things will always be changing, but this also makes a lot of these future predictions ridiculous.

Smart Phones will continually get more powerful, but so will set-top boxes, and consoles, and PCs, and Tablets, and Cloud Gaming, and saying 'This one technology I work in will be bigger and better and trounce all others' is short-sighted and biased prophesizing, because it completely ignores as-yet-unknown technologies, as well as ignoring the idea that all other sectors are going to be changing and adapting in the same time span. Technology is a tumultuous business sector, and there is so much evolution and adaption going on, as well as concurrently successful technologies, that going around telling people that your technology will be the one true technology just makes you look like an idiot.

3 years from now, someone will probably be telling the world how 'Augmented Reality Glasses' will be the the main way that people interact with the cloud, and are causing the disappearance of mobile, and he will probably be equally incorrect.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I am generally in agreement with the OP, since he left out a time metric for his predictions. Eventually this will be the trend and next result. This trend also is forcing games to get smaller and simpler, which has some negative effects on the space. Games provided on mobile platforms will, by necessity, be lower immersion products. In other words, they will be less engaging. There will always be a desire for more immersive games for enthusiasts, and those same consumers will be willing to pay much more than we typically charge them now.

Note that to advance this will require changes in not only hardware, but also business models. There seems to be a lot of resistance to this in Japan.

Andrew Chen
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Ramin, I have to disagree with the point that mobile games must be "lower immersion" products. Al though the bulk of game apps available Certainly skew to the pick-up-play-dispose mindset, this rapid iteration of mobile hardware (as opposed to the 5+ year model of traditional gaming consoles) is combining with rapid user adoption ( e.g. likely over 50% market penetration in the states) to create a readily addressable market with clearly underserved least judging by the message board comments on gaming websites :)
In other words, plenty of us gamers will have the capability and desire to consume higher immersion games on a mobile but it will take developers capable of delivering that experience given the hardware they have.
I am a believer in 1) savvy developers can overcome most any UX challenges and deliver something fun and engaging, and 2) certain game types on mobile can already be as immersive for me as games on my dedicated gaming handheld. With improvement in hardware and increasing investment of resources into mobile game development I think developers can increasingly "blur the lines" between an acceptable game UX on mobile and dedicated platforms.

One more observation, I actually get the impression a number of Japanese developers are steering their companies in a digital and mobile-focused direction: we can see it in Konami, Capcom and Square-Enix's revenue reports, we can see it in the perceived value of a mobile platform player like GREE that posseses a larger market cap than all of the above mentioned gaming stalwarts and we can see hints in the seeming shift of Japanese gaming preference to mobile platforms. There is certainly one big kahuna of an outlier here though...Nintendo :)

Greg Quinn
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The 'traditional PC' will not 'merge' with smartphones.
They are 2 distinctly unique devices, one is mobile, the other is not.

Mike Sneath
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It has been said many times that the need to have "this" or "that" will disappear in the near future. Example- VCR= no more theatres, computers = no need for paper, and so on. Mobile gaming simply will expand the gaming market and the market will become more diversified. (more gamers playing games but on more types of devices) The "traditional" PC is still here even after having had lap top computers now for over 10 years. Things are changing and I'll agree with the article in that regards but then again things are always changing right... lol.

Joe McGinn
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Good article. Don't entirely agree about merging of platforms though, especially for gaming ... mobiles are just too limited in terms of control inputs, there are many game genres that people want to play which as just not possible there.