Shortly after the Japanese mobile gaming giant DeNA acquired Ngmoco for $403 million, CEO Tomoko Namba told Inside Social Games that she hoped to quickly quadruple the revenue of her company in about four years, which already tops $1 billion yearly. As unlikely as that ambition sounds, the details of the plan are now emerging.
DeNA’s profit center in Japan is Mobage Town, a mobile gaming network with 22 million members. With Ngmoco’s Plus+ network as a starting point, DeNA will take Mobage to the international market. Samsung will be an initial equipment partner, with its Android smartphones, while developers like PlayFirst, SGN, Square Enix and Take-Two have also signed up.
These outside developers are necessary for the plan to work. While DeNA will take a cut of revenue – a large one, if it follows the Japanese model – it will also release a software development kit and tools to make development easier. Part of this will be an Ngmoco engine, long in the works, that allows developers to code their games just once and have it work across the range of Android and iOS devices.
Other companies are also looking to build mobile gaming platforms, especially for Android: PapayaMobile is a Chinese company attempting to do a full-featured platform, while OpenFeint and Scoreloop, which started out just adding social features to games, are branching out as they grow larger.
There could be even greater competition for DeNA, at least in America, with carriers like AT&T and Verizon. The carriers are well aware that there’s money in mobile gaming, and could well strip out third party software from mobile phones for their own.
But in the long term, the international market is both large and lucrative enough to merit a serious push. Both companies and venture capitalists believe that 2011 will be the year that market size will converge with platform innovation to create a coherent market with real leaders. For now, DeNA may be pouring more resources than any other player into becoming the dominant player.