淺談《智龍迷城》開發商Gungho多年來的財政狀況

淺談《智龍迷城》開發商Gungho多年來的財政狀況

原文作者:Jon Jordan 譯者:Megan Shieh

說來也怪,日本是所有發達國家中智能手機普及率最低的國家之一。

據估計,大概只有50-60%的日本居民擁有智能手機,而在西歐和美國,70%以上的人口都擁有智能手機。

(遊戲邦注:這是因爲日本的功能手機相對而言比較先進,比起智能手機,許多退休的日本人更原意繼續使用功能手機。)

在這樣的背景下,《智龍迷城》的成功就顯得更不可思議了。

Puzzle & Dragons(from pocket gamer.biz)

Puzzle & Dragons(from pocket gamer.biz)

《智龍迷城》是Gungho Oline旗下的一款三消寵物養成RPG,推出至今已有6年之久,該作在日本的下載量突破了4700萬次,這意味着75%以上的日本智能手機用戶都玩過這款遊戲。

作爲全球第一款收入突破10億美元的手遊,自推出以來,它已經創造了超過6000億日元(約合60億美元)的收入。其中約有90%來自日本;另有7%和3%分別來自亞洲和北美地區。

更有意思的是,儘管《智能迷城》這些年來的財務狀況起起落落,但Gungho自身的財務狀況卻沒有出現明顯變化。

“一夜致富”

多年前,一個四人團隊用Unity引擎開發出了這款遊戲。

該遊戲於2012年2月20日在日本iOS商店中首次亮相,並在短時間內創造了驚人的成績。

安卓版本於同年9月18日在日本推出,正是在這一階段,Gungho開始在日本電視上大力宣傳這款遊戲。

結果,《智龍迷城》的下載量和Gungho的銷售額出現了爆炸式增長。在接下來的三個財季裏,Gungho的銷售額分別增長了210%、129%和41%,致使該公司在2013財年的總銷售額達到了1630億日元(約合17億美元)之多。

2014財年,Gungho的銷售總額達到了巔峯(1730億日元), 其中92%(約合15億美元)來自《智龍迷城》業務。

到了這個階段,《智龍迷城》的業務範圍已經超越了原作本身,包含了各種相關的手機應用,包括《智龍迷城Z》和《智龍迷城:超級馬里奧兄弟版》在內的多款3DS遊戲、街機遊戲、手辦、漫畫、動漫,還有一個非常成功的年度大會。

驚人利潤率

不過在這之後的三年裏,《智龍迷城》的銷售額一直在下降。在2015年間下降了14%,佔Gungho年度銷售總額的89%;在2016年間進一步下降了27%,佔公司年度銷售總額的84%。

在這之後,Gungho就不再計算《智能迷城》業務在公司年度銷售總額中的佔比了。2017年,Gungho公司的總體銷售額下降了18%。

然而,這一趨勢的重點並不在於銷售額下降。

由於日本手遊市場相對較小,因此隨着《智龍迷城》業務的爆發式增長,該國的同類市場已經達到了飽和狀態。銷售額激增,接着是緩慢而穩定的下滑,這種情況總是意料之中的。

雖然利潤率的下降得比銷售額快,但Gungho仍是一家非常賺錢的遊戲公司。

2013年,Gungho的利潤率達到了驚人的55%,而在2017年,該利潤率下降到了37%。作爲對比,動視暴雪的利潤率爲22%,EA的利潤率爲25%,就連其主要競爭對手、目前日本營收最高手遊《怪物彈珠》的發行商Mixi,也僅在兩個高峯季度中實現過略高於30%的利潤率。
正是這種持續高水平的盈利能力,凸顯出了一個意料之外的信息,那就是《智龍迷城》這些年來創造的收入對Gungho業務的影響似乎很小。

韓國開發商藍洞工作室近期決定將其最成功的遊戲《絕地求生》發展成爲一家品牌獨立的公司(PUBG Corp.),以鞏固其價值。

而Gungho的做法則與之相反,該公司繼續像以往那樣零敲碎打,在移動設備和主機平臺上發佈遊戲,而這些遊戲之間似乎沒有什麼協同作用,這種運營方式從外部看來甚至有些雜亂無章。

那麼,錢都花哪了?

問題是,《智龍迷城》在過去六年裏爲該公司創造了大筆財富,Gungho到底把這些錢拿去做什麼了?

其中一部分以紅利的形式支付給了股東,而剩餘的很大一部分則在2015和2016年間,用來從投資商“軟銀集團(Softbank)”手中分兩批迴購股票。

此外該公司還完成了一系列收購,被收購的公司包括Grasshopper(2013)和PlayPhone(2014);另外,Gungho還投資了一款名爲《Kamcord》的遊戲共享應用;正在進行的發行業務包括Gameloft的《迪士尼魔法王國》、Turbo的《Super Senso》以及Signal工作室即將推出的一款遊戲。

然而,這些業務中並沒有特別成功的例子。目前Gungho僅持有5億美元左右的現金和等價物。

或許,這一現象突顯了日本手遊市場所存在的最大優勢和劣勢:

在日本,擁有一款高收入遊戲意味着公司將會獲得大筆資金,但這些遊戲在海外市場似乎很少會獲得成功,因此公司業務也會跟着止步不前。這就不難解釋爲什麼有些日本遊戲利潤一向很高,可最終總會不可避免地走下坡路。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

It’s a technological quirk but the Japanese mobile market has one of lowest levels of smartphone penetration of any developed nation.

Estimates range from as low as 50 per cent up to around 60 per cent, whereas in western Europe and the US, well over 70 per cent of the population have a smartphone.

(The reason is Japanese feature phones are relatively advanced and the large number of retired Japanese prefer to stick with them.)

Given this context, the success of Gungho Online’s match-three monster RPG Puzzle & Dragons, which is about to celebrate its sixth birthday, is even more stark. It’s been downloaded over 47 million times in Japan, which means up to 75 per cent of Japanese smartphone owners have played it.

Small wonder it’s become a national phenomenon.

As well as being the first mobile game in the world to do $1 billion of revenue, it’s since gone on to generate over ¥600 billion (around $6 billion give-or-take the vagaries of exchange rates) in revenue in the years since it was released.

Around 90 per cent of this total has come from Japan, with Asia and North America the game’s other territories, albeit with around seven and three per cent of lifetime sales respectively,
What’s more interesting to consider, though, is how the game’s financials have changed over over the years and how little Gungho itself has changed.

Riding the rocketship

Famously developed by a team of four using Unity, Puzzle & Dragons was released for iOS in Japan on February 20th 2012 and quickly proved successful. The Android version followed on September 18th and it was at this stage Gungho started aggressively advertising the game on Japanese TV.

The result was an explosion in downloads and Gungho’s sales, which grew 210, 129 and 41 per cent respectively over the next three financial quarters, rising to a total of ¥163 billion (around $1.7 billion) in 2013.

The company’s sales peaked in 2014 at ¥173 billion, of which Gungho reported 92 percent (around $1.5 billion) came from its Puzzle & Dragons business.

By this stage this had expanded beyond the original mobile game to include various related mobile apps, a 3DS game (Puzzle & Dragons Z) and the usual array of merchandising and ancillary revenues.

More 3DS games, including Puzzle & Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros. Edition, arcade games, merchandising, toys, manga, anime and a very successful annual convention have followed since.

Down and down

In the three years since those peak revenues, Puzzle & Dragons’ sales have declined.

They were down 14 per cent in 2015, when they accounted for 89 per cent of Gungho’s total annual sales.

They dropped a further 27 per cent in 2016 (84 per cent of Gungho’s sales), which is when the company stopped breaking out the percentage of its sales generated by Puzzle & Dragons. In 2017, Gungho’s sales were down 18 per cent

Yet, what’s significant about this trend isn’t the decline.

With Puzzle & Dragons’ sales dominated by the relatively small Japanese market, which has reached saturation, this trajectory of explosive growth followed by a slow and steady decline was always to be expected.

And although its profit margin is falling faster than sales, Gungho remains an incredibly profitable games company.

Down from an insane peak of 55 percent in 2013, Gungho’s operational profit margin in 2017 was 37 per cent, which compares with 22 per cent for Activision Blizzard and 25 per cent for EA.

Even arch-rival Mixi, which publishes the current number one top grossing mobile game Monster Strike in Japan, has only managed a gross profit margin of just over 30 per cent for a couple of peak quarters.

Printing money

It’s this continuing high level of profitability that highlights the biggest surprise arising from Puzzle & Dragons, which is how little impact the riches generated by the game have had on Gungho’s business.

It’s remained an odd collection of disparate Japanese games development businesses, including quirky studios such as Grasshopper Manufacture, Gravity, Acquire and Game Arts.

Not for Gungho the recent decision of South Korean developer Bluehole Inc to spin out its most successful game (Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds) into a branded standalone company (PUBG Corp.) to consolidate value.

Instead, Gungho has continued to operate pretty much as it always has, piecemeal and – from the outside – somewhat haphazardly, releasing games across mobile and console platforms with few apparent synergies.

Under the mattress?

In that context, the key question is, given how much profit Puzzle & Dragons has generated for the company over the past six years, what’s Gungho done with it all?

Some has been paid out to shareholders in the form of dividends, while a big chunk was spent buying back shares from investor Softbank in two tranches in 2015 and 2016.

Acquisitions included Grasshopper (2013) and mobile gaming network PlayPhone (2014) and there were also investments such as gameplay sharing app Kamcord (since acquired by Lyft), and ongoing publishing deals including Gameloft’s Disney Magic Kingdoms in Japan, Turbo’s Super Senso and the forthcoming game from Signal Studios.

None of these could be called particularly successful, however, and at present, Gungho only holds around $500 million in cash and equivalents.

And perhaps this highlights the biggest strength and weakness of the incredibly lucrative Japanese mobile games market.

Having a top grossing game in Japan means a company will generate a lot of money but find it almost impossible to expand its game, and by default its business, outside the domestic market.

And this leaves it hostage to the arc of a long and highly profitable – but ultimately unavoidable – decline. (Source: pocketgamer.biz )