WonderPlanet, a new venture from Nagoya, creates smartphone games for the entire world.The company was listed on TSE Mothers in June 2021. The following is the second part of an interview with Mr. Tomoki Tsunekawa, the CEO of WonderPlanet.
To read the first part, click here.
We believe the user community is important. This is the starting point for the breakthrough of our overseas operations
Q. 35 percent of your total sales come from overseas market. This is a considerably large figure for a Japanese smartphone game company. Why are your overseas operations so strong?
From the founding of the company, we have have a strong orientation toward overseas expansion. We marketed our first title overseas. By the time our third title was released, our delivery services had reached 155 countries. In that time, although what we were doing was translating the Japanese versions into different languages, and delivering them,from the fourth title, Crash Fever, we made a clear change. We introduced measures to entertain our overseas fanssto enjoy our games for each area. An example is the offline events held in Taiwan and Hong Kong. By interavcting with local fans, we could cherish our fan community and have tried to involve these fans both online and offline in the enjoyment of Crash Fever for many years. I believe this local oriented events led to the speedy expansion of our overseas operations.
Also, we have the Global Studio (currently called the Tokyo Studio) in our Tokyo Office. Its strength is seamless operation of the development, maintenance and marketing of games for overseas at one place. Nearly 60% of the approximately 80 staff members in the studio are non-Japanese. They have been exposed to Japanese content and games from their childhood and are motivated to work in such areas. In addition, nearly 60% of the people we employed have been found via referrals,making me feel the significant power of Japanese content.
Q. How has the Cool Japan Fund’s investment influenced your overseas operations?
Global Brain, one of our shareholders, introduced us to the Cool Japan Fund. This is how we got to know them. Our wish to deliver entertainment services to the whole world, which matched the Cool Japan Fund’s investment goals very well. So they decided to invest in WanderPlanet in 2019.
Around that time, we were moving toward the overseas releases of multiple titles. The traditional Chinese version of Jumputi Heroes was about to be released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Weekly Shonen Jump, the best-selling manga magazine in Japan. Moreover, the releases of English and traditional Chinese versions of Square Enix’s VALKYRIE ANATOMIA -THE ORIGIN- were also right around the corner. For these reasons, the Cool Japan Fund investment was appropriated to boost the overseas releases of these titles.
A game requires the cash most when it is being released because it is important to start with a big promotion, gaining more fans and ensuring that they continue to play our games for a long time. However, a large investment is a rare opportunity for a game company. Thus, the up to 1 billion yen (circa.9 million USD) investment from Cool Japan Fund enabled us to take on big challenges overseas.
Increase Japanese content’s fan base through the power of games
Q. Your company is good at developing and operating games in collaboration with popular Japanese characters and Japanese content is spread all over the world through WonderPlanet games. What meaning do you see in this?
In the situation in which many game companies operate all over the world in order to ensure that consumers choose our titles, we need to pursue the forms of creation that are unique to us. One of the things that make us unique to the eyes of overseas customers is our being very Japanese, caused by collaborations with well-known Japanese contents at certain extent. We are happy if our games provide an opportunity with our fans all over the world to be exposed to Japanese content more and more.
For example, Jumputi Heroes features many popular characters from Weekly Shonen Jump. Reportedly, this leads many people not only children in Japan who are not familiar with the magazine but also in other countries’ players to learn about the magazine. We are confident that our games steadily contribute to the increasing of the Japanese content fan base, which leads to more people purchasing Japanese comics and related goods. In that regard, it is safe to say we have a broad positive influence on Japanese content.
Q. What is necessary to ensure the company’s continued growth?
Our overseas operations, mainly including Crash Fever and Jumputi Heroes, have achieved a degree of success in Taiwan and Hong Kong where traditional Chinese is spoken. But these titles are yet to achieve great success in Western countries and other areas. Therefore, achieving our mission, “Creating smiley time in our friends’ daily life,” requires us to expand our fan base in those countries and regions.
As people have been required to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of gamers has surely increased. However, Important thing is that we must ensure that our titles remain being chosen by fans and survive the severe competition after the pandemic is over. What we can do now to achieve that is continuous low-profile efforts to improve our games day by day. Our strength lies in our ability to operate a business long-term. So we will continuously release titles that will entertain users for ten or even twenty years.
Provide ultimate entertainment services for people around the world to enjoy every day
Q. Lastly, what kind of a company do you want WonderPlanet to be?
This company started with people who were not from the game industry. In terms of perspective, what we offer is somewhat different from how you are typically associated with games. We define our business as entertainment services. In other words, we are a service provider.
I often liken ourselves to a convenience store, which is very good at making customers want to come back every day. For example, Convinience stores exercise ingenuity in the assortment of goods and the routes taken by customers. Similarly, we should do more than just development and release of games. Rather, we should keep providing an exciting lineup that makes customers want to return and look forward to fun so that people around the world start and enjoy our games every day. This is the ultimate entertainment services for daily life that we wish to offer.
Our pursuit of the creation of smiley time in our friends’ daily lives has four meanings. First, it means entertainment. Second, it is about sharing the entertainment with friends and family. Third, it applies worldwide. Fourth, our services must ensure users a lot of fun every day. In other words, we endeavor to develop games that six billion people will enjoy every day, though this may sound extreme. This is not easy to achieve,but we will keep pursuing it. This is the essence of WonderPlanet.
(End of 2/2)