The mission of WonderPlanet is Creating “Smiley Time”in Our Friends’ Daily Life. This new venture company from Nagoya delivers smartphone games to the world.Its flagship title, Crash Fever has been downloaded more than 13 million times globally with many users not only in Japan but also in Taiwan and Hong Kong.WonderPlanet distributes multiple titles overseas. In fact, overseas sales account for 35% of the company’s sales. This is an unprecedented figure in the smartphone game industry.
In 2019, the Cool Japan Fund began investing in WonderPlanet based on its conviction that WonderPlanet would become a platform for globally communicating the attractiveness of Japanese content as it aggressively collaborated with Japanese content holders. (Click here to read the press release)In June 2021, WonderPlanet was listed on TSE Mothers.
In addition to developing and maintaining smartphone games, WonderPlanet will become a company that provides entertainment services from Nagoya to people all around the world. We interviewed Mr. Tomoki Tsunekawa, the Founder and CEO of the company, about the vision that WonderPlanet pursues. (Information in the following interview is as of August 2021.)
CEO of WonderPlanet Inc.
Mr. Tsunekawa was born in Nagoya, Aichi in 1981. He moved to Tokyo after leaving university. He worked as an executive officer at a mobile content company before starting an online media content company in Tokyo in 2004, which he ran for eight years. This is the first company that he started. Subsequently, he returned to Nagoya in 2012 and founded WonderPlanet Inc. as a second company whose main line of business is the development and maintenance of smartphone games.
Even after our being listed in June 2021, the essence of the company remains unchanged. That is the creation of smiley time in our friends’ daily life.
Q. What led you to start WonderPlanet?
Before establishing WonderPlanet, I had run a company in Tokyo for eight years that dealt in online media and mobile content. The business was fine though, I wanted to try something new. Around that time, smartphones began to be popularand as I looked at Nagoya, my hometown, I realized it was devoid of companies involved in IT and content, an area I had been working in for a while at that point. If I were to establish a global company in Nagoya, I would be able to contribute to my hometown’s growth in terms of employment and in other ways. This is exactly the goal of entrepreneurs and I thought it would be worth dedicating the rest of my life too.
So I founded WonderPlanet in Nagoya by making a division of the company that I ran at that time independent. I think the timing for starting the company was late. In fact, WonderPlanet is said to be “the latest domestic smartphone game company.” But I also felt that there were many talented people in Nagoya who were not experienced in the development of games. I thought that, if I could gather these people, we would be able to succeed even though we started much later than competitors.
Q. After the recent listing in Mothers on Tokyo Stock Exchange, it looks like you are steadily approaching your goal of contributing to your hometown. How do you feel about being listed?
Even after being listed, the things that we should do basically remain unchanged. Our mission is to create smiley time in our friends’daily life. To make this happen, we will pursue creating the things that are unique to us.
At the same time, we are gaining more external recognition. This may positively influence us in terms of recruiting. Establishing and developing a company in a city that is not the capital takes a lot of time, but it also means that we can retain more people and the organization becomes strong and deeply rooted in the region. I feel that this is true as I have run companies in both Tokyo and Nagoya. WonderPlanet has grown into a strong organization in the last decade. Following its listing, it will continue to grow even stronger.
Strive as one for 1% improvement. This is the biggest way that hits area made.
Q. Looking back, what was a turning point for the company’s growth?
As you would expect, it was when Crash Fever became a hit in 2015. It was our fourth title. Crash Fever has remained our flagship title for nearly six years. Before that, we had no hits and repeated the cycle of raising funds to launch a game and then failing to get it on track. However, one of our values is to continue to aim for 1% improvement. If you fail, investigate the cause so you do not repeat it. We have strived as one to achieve this 1% improvement, which has led our fourth title being a smash hit.
No one knows what will be a hit. This is a common saying in the game industry. We keep improving one step at a time. Our product development is always based on the belief that the next release will be the one that represents us. Through trial and error, we continue to be sincerely committed to creation. We have been able to do this maybe because of the influence of Nagoya culture. This city has been a flourishing manufacturing city since the ancient past.
Q. Crash Fever has many enthusiastic fans, mainly in Taiwan and Hong Kong. How did it win their hearts?
From its release, Crash Fever gained many fans including those overseas because of its unique perspective. The concept of playing with near-futuristic puzzles in a white virtual space is something they never saw before. It seems they also like the music and characters. In 2016, Crash Fever was at the top of the App Store sales rankings in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Around that time, we held offline events to interact with users in Taiwan, Hong Kong and other places. I attended them. One venue with a capacity of nearly 1,000 people was jam-packed with Crash Fever fans. The music from the game played throughout the venue as they played Crash Fever together. This cannot happen during this pandemic. I miss it. We continue to interact with fans online. But the feverish atmosphere cannot be experienced without sharing the same physical place with the fans. I hope things will return to normal as quickly as possible so we can go back there and hold events like that again.