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Papaya CEO Downplays Mobile Competition From Mobage, Gree

Papaya CEO Downplays Mobile Competition From Mobage, Gree Exclusive

September 16, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

Over the past two years, the PapayaMobile network has leveraged popular self-published games like PapayaFarm into a user base that now comprises over 25 million people.

But Papaya CEO Si Shen told Gamasutra in a recent interview the company "always wanted to be a platform instead of a gaming company." So the company recently decided to stop publishing its own games, a decision Shen says separates it from competing mobile social networks.

"If you look at [DeNA's Mobage] and especially Gree, most of the revenue they make out of games come from their own games," Shen pointed out. "That's something that's going to be very scary to the developers, because it's not a fair play. You control all the distribution channels, and at the same time you're also selling on the distribution channels."

Shen said these views are well justified, since the network runners pocket 100 percent of the revenue generated by their own games, rather than just 50 percent of revenue for third party titles.

"If Facebook, for instance, was also developing games, most of the third party developers would suspect they weren't being treated fairly on the platform, because there's always the image of conflict if you do that," Shen said. "We want to be a more neutral platform, an agnostic platform, so we can help the other developers to grow. We don't want to compete directly with our third party developers."

Shen said Beijing-based Papaya isn't especially worried about DeNA's recent expansion of the Mobage network from its native Japan into English-speaking regions and China, where Papaya is already well established.

"Especially for China, I haven't seen [Mobage] do anything that's making an impact in the Chinese market yet," she said. "It seems what they try to do it try to acquire some company and move their whole way of doing business and content to China. This just doesn't work very well in the Chinese market, you have to be very, very local to succeed in the Chinese market, and I don't think they have the local knowledge or human resources."

This is important, Shen noted, because "it's very clear in the future that China is going to be the largest market for mobile game users." From her offices in Beijing, she said she's noticing people starting to transition from the popular feature phones to simple Android devices that go for as little as $80 to $100. "I'm living in China, and every single one of my friends is starting to change to Android. You can see it on the street right now."

As for the American market, Shen feels that competitors that aren't firmly entrenched are at a big disadvantage. Shen pointed to data showing the first batch of apps ported to Android under the Mobage network have largely failed to attract more than 10,000 installs after four weeks on the market, even though the original iOS versions are incredibly popular.

Shen attributed this result partly to the fact that Mobage users have to download a separate Mobage app before downloading a game made with the company's ngCore engine, creating a large barrier to entry. She also chastised DeNA for requiring developers to rewrite their games for the ngCore engine to gain access to the network, in contrast to Papaya allowing developers to embed network features into existing apps.

"I think they should really consider what users want," Shen said. "If a user has to download something else before they can play a game developed by ngCore engine, it's a huge barrier for users who want to use their products. I don't know why they chose this strategy, but they haven't considered enough the needs of users and developers."

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