Develop Conference: Western and Eastern markets are moving closer together, says European CEO

Marvelous AQL: Japan is a big opportunity for Western devs

Western developers have a major opportunity to appeal to players in Japan and the Far East if they learn to treat their games as a service, the European CEO of Marvelous AQL has stated.

Speaking at Develop Conference in Brighton, Marvelous AQL’s Harry Holmwood said that, in Japan, giving good service and expecting good service is key to society.

Japanese game companies reflect this and Holmwood said that there is much that Western developers can learn from this market and its culture, which has been sold by some as ‘being in decline’ over the course of the current generation.

“It’s very easy to look at [Japanese] games and think they look alien, and to think that there’s nothing to learn from it, but I’m absolutely confident that there are many things that are happening in Japanese games now that people are going to do in the West in five or ten years time, or in some cases now, with huge success,” said Holmwood.

To illustrate his point, Holmwood discussed how Japanese arcade games have preceed the success of Western video games. He gave the example of ‘Pochenco’ – a game where you basically, pay to drop balls – is basically like Peggle.

“In Japan, at the moment, audience are still just thinking that consoles are their main gaming device,” continued Holmwood.

“If you think about the big handset manufacturers, they’re all desperate for developers to start using their phones in a more console, more cutting-edge way. If you think about it, they want to be able to demonstrate how powerful and desirable these devices are.

“So this a big opportunity for us. I think in West, we’re very good at making tactile console experiences, but also tactile tablet and smartphone experiences, and at the moment in Japan, they’re kind of playing catch-up, because their legacy is coming from [sic] niche gaming, not from console.”

Holmwood pointed to Candy Crush Saga, which is currently one of the top grossing apps in Japan, as a Western game that has successfully managed to appeal to Japanese players. This, he said, was down to good localisation, but first and foremost because it’s fun to play.

Holmwood then went to show the audience lessons that can be learnt from Japanese games and business models.

His main point was that developer should think of their games as a “service”. At Marvelous AQL, he said a team of 15 to 20 people work on the game continuously once it has been released in order to keep up that service and the relationship with its audience.

‘Gacha’, has popularised the concept of unknown collectables, through vending machines that dispense toys, figurines, stickers and other collectables that are hidden in small packages.

Relating this to trading cards or football sticker, Holmwood said this was an example of ‘positive monetisation’, which developers should look to use in their mobile games. He encourage developer to make the process of spending money, or monetisation, part of the fun of playing, and not a hindrance.

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