Now here’s a twist: just when we’ve spilled a lot of ink lately telling you how Japanese mobile Internet players are succeeding overseas, in comes a press release from Dublin, Ireland-based Upstart Games Ltd. announcing that their Tokyo subsidiary, Upstart KK, has launched what they call the first multi-carrier service dedicated to providing Japanese mobilers with access to popular US and European games. With a catchy name and the allure of foreign brands, the “Best of West” gaming contents channel may just grab a few thumbs, not to mention per-download revenues.
According to a press release issued today and posted on the Upstart site, the Best of West channel will bring four titles to mobile subscribers on Vodafone live! and KDDI EZ Web; these include Ferrari Experience 3D, Extreme Air Snowboarding, and 3D Beach Putter Golf, which have all been licensed from Digital Chocolate Inc. Boulder Dash will be provided by First Star Software.
No value was mentioned for the deal, but Upstart PR spokesperson Paul Munford told WWJ in an email that sales in the first year are expected to run in the US$2-3 mn range. He added that “all of the development and customization will be done in Japan,” and said that the deal had been set up with “strong and enthusiastic carrier support from both KDDI and Vodafone KK.” Best of West will be an official site on both carrier’s mobile Internet portals.
Munford also said that billing, for now, will be on a per-download basis but that subscription billing is an option in the future. This may be one reason why the channel is not launching on NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode, which enforces subscription billing for all content except some Chaku uta music downloads.
The company says additional titles will be released over the coming months, including popular titles from TKO Software.
Digital Chocolate, a developer of games and applications for mobile phones and based in San Mateo, California, was founded by Trip Hawkins, described last year in a Forbes article as “a pioneer in the videogame industry.” Hawkins founded Electronic Arts, which, at US$3 bn in sales, is the world’s largest videogame developer.
“We are delighted Upstart Games is helping us take Digital Chocolate content to a fabulously exciting market. Upstart’s experience of the Japanese wireless sector was the key factor in licensing our games to this channel. We look forward to working more closely with them in the future,” said Trip Hawkins, who is also Digital Chocolate’s CEO.
A recent report by the Wireless World Forum (W2F) conservatively places the value of the mobile games market by 2006 at 1.65 bn Euro, growing from 460 mn Euro in 2003. Notably, the W2F estimates that Japan accounts for half of the global market for mobile games.
The entry of an overseas-based game developer into Japan is an uncommon occurrence. Other developers, such as Fathammer, a large and successful mobile game developer based in Helsinki with five years of experience in Korea, are only just now looking at entering Japan.
– Daniel Scuka