從實際的遊戲營收角度看待Gree爲什麼會退出西方市場

原文作者:Matt Suckley,譯者:Megan Shieh

在過去的幾年裏,Gree公司在其西方的業務縮減;終於,在2017年7月,Gree停止了在該地區的所有業務。

這家總部位於東京的機構關閉了舊金山、柏林和墨爾本的工作室,重新專注於其核心的日本市場。

這一舉動並不是空穴來風。早在2015年,Gree就裁減了其舊金山辦事處30%的員工,並關閉了溫哥華辦事處。

Gree在2012年以2.1億美元收購了美國移動開發商Funzio,似乎成功地實現了從東方到西方市場的過渡,對於這樣一家公司來說,退出西方市場是一個令人遺憾的轉折,

那麼,Gree爲什麼現在決定西方市場不再值得關注了呢?爲了試着理解推理,pocketgamer.biz 查看了該公司遊戲在美國收入總額排行榜上的表現。

Funzio 繼續存活

作爲前面提到的Funzio收購的一部分,《現代戰爭》(Modern War)對Gree來說,是一個經久不衰的西方熱門。

它最初於2011年推出,是在蓬勃發展的移動市場上,首批以軍事爲主題的大型多人在線遊戲(MMO)之一,在美國iPhone收入總額排行榜上首次躋身前十。

Modern War(from pocketgamer.biz)

Modern War(from pocketgamer.biz)

它的成功在Gree的管理下延續,在2012年和2013年的絕大部分時間裏,保持前50的排名。

到2015年,《現代戰爭》排名開始有所下降,在美國iPhone排行榜上長期處於第100到200名間的位置。但即便如此,它仍是一個可靠的收入來源。

2016年和2017年,自然衰退的狀況持續,其表現更加不穩定,但仍能隱約看到該遊戲的收益。2017年,到目前爲止,它在美國的排行最高達到了第196位(3月20日),最低跌至第1198位(7月31日)。

對於一個即將迎來六週歲生日的遊戲來說,這些峯值是不錯的,在Google Play的排行中,它的表現甚至更好。

在2012年9月的iOS版本發佈將近一年之後,它立即在美國Google Play的收入總額排行榜中產生了影響,並且,在2014年之前,僅一次跌出前50名。

即使是現在,它在排行榜前500強中仍然是一個穩固的存在。

遺留之物

《現代戰爭》已經證明了它是Gree 的寶貴財富,《騎士和龍》(Knights & Dragons)在2012年12月緊隨其後。這個角色扮演遊戲(RPG)是即Gree 的收購之後,推出的第一個由 Funzio 開發的遊戲。

它的表現進一步證明了這是一個精明的交易,該遊戲克服了一個不算理想的開局,並在2013年和2014年的大部分時間裏,在美國iPhone排行榜上保持了前50名的位置。

2015年絕大多數時間裏,《騎士和龍》保持在前100名,而在2016年和2017年,它的排名變得相對不穩定。不過,仍大致保留在500強之內。

Funzio的《犯罪城市》(Crime City)經歷了類似的旅程,自2014年以來,《帝國時代》(Kingdom Age)一直處於自由落體狀態,而現在,它只是斷斷續續地出現在美國的iPhone排行榜上。

Gree 爲西方市場最新提供的手遊產品是《龍魂》(DragonSoul),該公司於2016年10月收購自美國開發商PerBlue,此後一直在運營。

2016年5月28日,《龍魂》達到其當前收入總額的最高峯,在美國iPhone排行榜排名第102位,此次收購似乎是在本次高峯後不久發生的。自被Gree收購以來,它的排名基本上在150至300的範圍內波動,這使它成爲一個體面且不引人注目的表演者。

還發生了什麼?

看着這些遊戲-其中一些已經顯示出了非凡的壽命-很難確切地看出是什麼促使Gree做出如此極端的措施。

但由於其西方主要遊戲均來自於Funzio收購案,而現在,這些遊戲表現最好的那幾年也已經漸行漸遠了,對於在收益下降的情況下應該如何取代它們這個問題,Gree似乎沒有答案。

像《龍魂》一樣的小規模收購交易可以進行精明的投資,但不太可能成爲主要的收入來源。

爲此,Gree將希望寄託在墨爾本工作室開發的遊戲中。今年一月份,Shanti Bergel告訴PocketGamer.biz:“我們對規模和商業成果的期望是很有野心的。”

但這個工作室的關閉表明Gree顯然內部決定了遊戲的完成和發佈的成本將超過潛在的利潤。

簡而言之,Gree有着強大但隨着遊戲老化而逐漸減少的用戶基礎,然而,他們卻不知道如何將這些用戶遷移或使之重新興奮起來。

Bergel說:“有時候遊戲變老,會需要進行大規模的技術升級,但有時這反而不好,因爲玩家們可能更享受原版的遊戲。”

重心

與Gree在日本的“閃電發佈”相對比,不難看出爲何該公司改變其重心。

與在西方市場的不確定性非常不同,Gree公司清楚地知道如何在日本製作熱門手遊,還建立了一個能加快遊戲開發進度的系統。

最近的一個例子是Danmemo,它於今年6月在日本推出後,幾乎立即在該國的iPhone排行榜上名列第9。

它的排名穩定保持在前100,大部分都在前50名中,在7月31日的排名是第44位。

如果要開發出一個能在西方市場達到這種規模的熱門遊戲,Gree估計需要花費大量的時間和金錢,而Funzio創造過的好日子也開始感覺越來越遙遠。

考慮到這一點, Gree公司關閉西方業務的理由也變得更加清晰。

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After a scaling down of its Western business over the past few years, Gree finally pulled the plug on all of its operations in the region in July 2017.

This resulted in the Tokyo-headquartered outfit closing studios in San Francisco, Berlin and Melbourne, with a renewed focus on its core Japanese market.

This move wasn’t without warning though. Gree trimmed 30% of its San Francisco-based staffersand shut down its Vancouver office back in 2015.

It’s a sad turn of events for a company that seemed to have nailed its East-to-West transition back in 2012 with the acquisition of US mobile developer Funzio for $210 million.

So why has Gree now decided that Western markets are no longer worth its attention? To try and get a sense of the reasoning, PocketGamer.biz took a look at how a selection of its games have fared in the US top grossing charts.

Funzio lives on

An enduring Western hit for Gree, picked up as part of the aforementioned Funzio acquisition, has been Modern War.

Originally launched way back in 2011 – one of the first military-themed MMOs in a burgeoning mobile market – it debuted in the top 10 on the US iPhone grossing charts.

Its success continued under Gree’s stewardship, remaining solid in the top 50 throughout the vast majority of 2012 and 2013.

By 2015 Modern War was beginning to fall away somewhat, regularly occupying the 100 to 200 spots in the US iPhone grossing charts. But even then it was a solid earner, with grossing spikes that year propelling it as high as 21st.

Natural decline continued in 2016 and 2017, its performance more erratic but showing glimpses of a still-profitable title. In 2017 so far, its US grossing rank has reached as high as 196th (March 20th) and sunk as low as 1,198th (July 31st).

The peaks aren’t bad for a game approaching its sixth birthday, and on Google Play it’s fared even better.

Launched almost a year after the iOS version in September 2012, it immediately made an impact on Google Play’s US grossing charts and only dropped out of the top 50 once before 2014.
Even now it’s a solid presence within the top 500 grossing positions.

Legacy

With Modern War by now already proving a valuable asset to Gree,Knights & Dragons followed in December 2012. The RPG was the first Funzio-developed game to launch following Gree’s acquisition.

Its performance further proved the deal to be a shrewd one, with the game overcoming a sluggish start to hold down a regular top 50 spot on the US iPhone top grossing charts for much of 2013 and 2014.

Knights & Dragons remained in the top 100 for large parts of 2015, while in 2016 and 2017 it has become less consistent. However, it still remains largely within the top 500.

Crime City by Funzio has seen a similar traectory, while Kingdom Agehas been in freefall since 2014 and now appears only intermittently in the US iPhone grossing charts.

Gree’s most recent mobile title for a Western audience is DragonSoul, which it acquired from US developer PerBlue in October 2016 and has been running ever since.

But the purchase appears to have come just after the crest of its wave, with 102nd on May 28th 2016 its current US iPhone grossing peak. Since Gree’s acquisition it has mostly bounced around the 150th to 300th, making it a decent if unremarkable performer.

What’s next?

Looking at this selection of games – some of which have shown remarkable longevity – it can be difficult to see exactly what prompted such drastic measures from Gree.

But with its main crop of Western titles coming from that Funzio deal, now long past their best years in terms of performance, Gree seemingly had no answer to how it should replace them as their revenues decline.

Small-scale acquisition deals, like in the case ofDragonSoul, can make for canny investments but are unlikely to be a major income source.

For that, Gree’s hopes rested in the game being developed at its Melbourne studio. “It’s ambitious in terms of scope, and in terms of our hopes for business outcome,” Shanti Bergel told PocketGamer.biz back in January.

But with that studio now closed, it was clearly decided internally that the cost of finishing and launching the game would outweigh the potential profits.

Simply, Gree found itself with a strong-yet-declining audience in ageing titles, but with no idea how to either migrate or revitalise them.

“Sometimes the games get old and they need a massive technological upgrade, but sometimes that’s dislocating and the players actually enjoy the older game,” Bergel told PocketGamer.biz in January.

“It’s something that requires a lot of care. Upending their world and saying ‘everybody over here now’ – that can be met with trepidation.”

Priorities

Compare that to Gree’s Japanese ”release blitz”, and it’s easy to see why the firm is shifting its priorities.

A far cry from its Western uncertainty, Gree clearly understands how to make a mobile hit in Japan and has built a system that allows it to do so very quickly.

A recent example is Danmemo, which launched in Japan in June and almost immediately shot to ninth in the country’s iPhone grossing charts.

It’s remained solidly within the top 100, and mostly in the top 50, sitting at 44th as of July 31st.

A great deal of time and money would have been needed for Gree to land another hit on this scale in the West, and the Funzio days are beginning to feel more and more distant.

With this in mind, sad as any closures and job losses are, Gree’s reasoning for closing its Western operations becomes much clearer. (Source: PocketGamer.biz