LeWeb '10: DeNA boss talks mobile social gaming | Mobile Games | Mobile Entertainment

LeWeb '10: DeNA boss talks mobile social gaming

LeWeb '10: DeNA boss talks mobile social gaming
Stuart Dredge

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Games / December 8th 2010 at 3:30PM

Tomoko Namba on ngmoco, social games and expansion into the West.

DeNA is expected to make $1.2 billion in revenues this year from 20 million users, according to CEO Tomoko Namba, speaking on-stage at LeWeb this afternoon.

"Most of the revenue is virtual goods," she said. "Our business is completely on mobile today, and completely domestic in Japan." The company's market cap is around $4 billion.

She explained that DeNA's Mobage community is very different to Facebook - the latter is all about connecting to your real-world friends, whereas on DeNA's community, people join in order to make friends by playing.

"It's virtual friendship rather than real friendship," she said.

Namba was asked for her advice for startups looking to do business in Japan.

"The Japanese market is today very different from the rest of the world... The Japanese 'dumb phones' are actually as smart as smartphones. You can do everything on featurephones."

She also said that "next year is the first year that smartphones are going to penetrate really quickly [in Japan] - not only iPhone, but Android also."

Namba said that it may take three years or so for smartphones to take over from feature phones in Japan, in terms of new registrations.

90% of DeNA's revenues come from virtual goods and avatars in Mobage games. "We are preparing our platform for smartphones, and we are very excited about smartphone opportunities now," she said.

Namba said she is "very proud" of DeNA's acquisition of ngmoco, and that the deal has gone "very well" since closing earlier this year.

Is DeNa now a direct rival for Zynga?

"Zynga is a game developer and we are more interested in platform," she said. "ngmoco do develop themselves, but they are more interested in the platform for games. So are we... We are developing a virtual community together, and the game engine together."

So Zynga? "I would like to welcome them onto our platform... that's our aspiration. We are big enough in Japan, there is more chance maybe to work with Zynga [there]. There is collaboration opportunity maybe more than competitiveness."

Namba said that more Japanese companies than DeNA are interested in acquisitions abroad, due to slowing growth in that market, and the exchange rate, with a strong Yen encouraging Western acquisitions.

Would DeNA acquire in Europe as well? "Oh, sure!" said Namba, saying that DeNA has learned a lot from ngmoco since buying the US firm.

"We are trying to integrate to one team, but if the aspiration is the same, high enough and there is enough commonality, there is much to build together. We have enjoyed the integration process very much... much better than trying to do something on your own when you don't know the culture or the industry dynamics."

Namba said DeNA originally planned to build a Mobage-style service in the US, but struggled - hence the ngmoco deal.

What kind of European companies might DeNA be interested in buying? "Social games on smartphones is something we're very interested in," she said.

"It would be great if we can work together with great social game developers here for smartphones."

Partnerships may not be outright acquisitions though - they could be investments, or simple commercial partnerships for developers to make games for the new DeNA/ngmoco platform.