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Casual Connect Singapore: Tips from DeNA – How to create a bestselling mobile game

Tokyo-based DeNA Co Ltd, which owns the mobage games platform has had a winner with it’s Blood Brother’s mobile RPG , which has ranked #1 on Google Play in 33 countries.

So it was great to get an insight into how the company put together its strategy to come up with a winning game.

DeNA Singapore managing director Tetsuya Mori presented a session “How a Japanese mobile RPG made it big outside Japan” at Casual Connect Singapore today.

Mr Mori said that previously a game’s success had been often linked to a gaming platform, like Super Mario being linked to the Nintendo video game system and the Final Fantasy series and the Sony Playstation.

However, the trend has been towards a decoupling of games from platforms. Hence Rage of Bahamut was a hit, but not specifically tied to specific game hardware.

Similarly, DeNA has seen an encouraging take up rate with Blood Brothers, which is now celebrating it’s one year anniversary.

With its slick graphics and game engine, the average player might not be aware that its game code was developed in Hanoi, Vietnam, and some of its art was also done in Vietnam.

On a strategy level, while some might attribute the success of a game to its art/creative aspects, Mr Mori said that’s not really the case.

The ART element of a game refers to its:

  • game concept
  • game design (it helps to have a system which is ahead of its competitors)
  • visual presentation
  • audio presentation

But what’s more important is the SCIENCE, or system behind the game, referring to its:

  • Monetization architecture (the thought behind incorporating monetization in the game planning process, rather than as an afterthought)
  • Continuous event operations (events make a big difference in your revenues, as you’ll see shortly)
  • Dynamic user management (keeping them engaged and entertained)
  • Analytics driven game-balancing (keeping tabs of game balance issues and tweaking to optimise them)
  • Key Performance Indicator-based game life management




Special game events make a big difference to the game’s performance.

A well-planned event can double ARPU (average revenue per user) compared to a non-game driven period.

An event can be defined by the following criteria:

  • A game inside a game (ie: mini game)
  • Different style of game play (adds variety within the game)
  • Special set up (adds more variety to the standard game mechanics)
  • Limited rare items
  • Limited time offering (eg: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day)
  • Multiple times a month
  • Unique event each time
  • Can toggle between competitive, or cooperative event
  • Players experience a feeling of growth and power
  • Active user group managment

In the PvE context, these could include special global boss raids, treasure hunt type events.

Customisation and toggling/catering to player’s of different skill levels is also key.

With some planning, the following factors can be customised:

  • Raid boss difficulty
  • Special dungeons of varying difficulty levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
  • Player versus Player (PvP) events

Events matter!


Key event design factors:

  • Leaderboards (so players can measure their progress)
  • Separation into groups: (sub divide into categories, which players can then top a sub-category (and feel special) – still top in another category compared to being a nameless number within a huge blanket category)
  • Incentivize efforts (eg: more points for successive wins, double points when the crowd cheers (people watch, player plays, both groups entertained, win-win), give leverage, motivate)
  • Set limits to avoid saturation/boredom-one day, one match (a week long match vs same opponent = long, boring. while an optimal amount might be one day one match, 3-4 events/mth)
  • Reinforce and reward player’s effort


Game playability/usability:

  • Make player goal clear and attractive
  • Don’t let the player get lost
  • Don’t let them get overwhelmed
  • Don’t let them get bored
  • Don’t let them get exhausted
  • Don’t just reward the top guy, be sure to also give him some pain or stress, so he doesnt get lazy/overconfident (then get bored and drop out)


Making money from what you’re doing:

The size of your game’s userbase is not most important.

The player’s paid vs free player ratio is as important, if not more important.


Success game architecture:

Be sure to actively manage the game as a service (something you continually improve, enhance). The old way is thinking of a game as a product that you box up, ship out and never touch again).


I liked how Mr Mori finished off his presentation:

“Come and join DeNA as players, developers and employees!”

 PS: If you decide to try out Blood Brothers on the ios (iphone, ipod, ipad) or Android platform (phone or tablets), you can use my invite code to unlock some nice goodies: 7RGWtR

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