GREE looks to stay profitable in North America with Wizcorp’s Mithril engine

Wizcorp has more going for it than HTML5 expertise as far as GREE is concerned — the Tokyo-based startup can reduce social game development costs by a third, giving GREE’s developers an edge in the North American market.

Founded in 2008 as a service company developing open-source web-applications, Wizcorp switched to game development in 2009. The company released its first game, the HTML5-based Majuu Wars, for GREE in January 2011. As one of the first smartphone games on the network, Majuu Wars wasn’t a success, but the experience did motivate the Wizcorp team to improve the way social games were made.

“One of the things we realized after managing our own game was there was a lot of work that was actually very generic, particularly around events and campaigns,” explains Wizcorp’s co-founder and CEO, Guillaume Hansali.  “If you want to implement those events and campaigns quickly, you start to need a lot of people. We decided to develop a game engine that would shorten development time and make the management more efficient.”

According to Hansali, most game development engines tend to focus on front-end development. Wizcorp’s Mithril engine, which uses HTML5 and Node.js, was specifically designed to optimize the back-end infrastructure of a social game. The company has also developed its own database management system to improve scalability and cut down on server costs.

“What we believe is that [by using Mithril, you] should be able to spend less on server and development costs, so even if your game is not making much in terms of revenue, you’ll still be profitable,” he explains. “We can run games and cut out a third of the usual costs.”

With GREE about to expand into the North American market — where users are far less likely to convert and return much lower ARPU than the company sees in Japan — cutting back-end costs is a simple way to help its games stay in the black.

As part of GREE’s investment, Wizcorp will be both making new HTML5 games and helping other developers manage their games. The company is already involved in technical exchanges, teaching other GREE developers how to use HTML5 and to optimize their games back-ends using web application development techniques.

[Update:  Wizcorp would like to clarify some factual inaccuracies in the above paragraph. Under the terms of GREE’s investment in Wizcorp, GREE may utilize Mithril – Wizcorp’s proprietary HTML5 game engine – and enlist Wizcorp’s technical expertise. However, Wizcorp is not involved in technical exchanges with any other third-party game developers – GREE investees or otherwise – but remains committed to sharing knowledge as an active member of the open-source community. You can find Wizcorp on GitHub here.]

GREE announced its investment in Wizcorp in early April, but has not revealed the amount of the funding or the terms involved.