Coffee Chat: Social Gaming Startups in Southeast Asia, the DeNA Perspective [LIVEBLOG]


This post is a part of our coverage of Startups in Asia (Singapore), Penn Olson’s first tech conference. Our full coverage of the event can be found here, for our RSS feed, click here.


Tetsuya Mori (pictured above on the left), managing director at DeNA Asia (and ex-VC at Mitsubishi UFJ Capital) joins us to give us his insights on the social gaming market in Southeast Asia. He’s based here in Singapore, not his native Japan, leading his company’s outreach across the continent.


#13:55: And after some closing quips, the coffee chat is over. Thank you, Mori San! (Next up is a love-blog of DeNA’s equally giant rival, GREE).

#13:53: “You can make a million dollars per month,” says Mori. Wow, I’m in the wrong job…

#13:49: “Games speak a lot,” Mori notes, and so a great game is key. “Excellent artwork is very important,” he says, and so he looks for those qualities in the many great game devs he meets in SE Asia, and he then wants them help to come to (aka: launch in) Japan and make money from their title.

But it’s not so easy. Even what’s considered cute – kawaiiiiiiiiii – differs across countries. It’s 80 percent different, that perception, between Japan and Indonesia, he says by way of example. Thinking of Moe, the anime character that’s so popular in Japan, Mori says that game developers should make characters as cute as Moe so as to capture the imaginations of Japanese gamers.

#13:47: Does Mori do any personal angel investing? “It’s a difficult business,” he says, which is not just about the return, but also “your own willingness to help.” But, alas, he says he doesn’t personally invest.

#13:42: GREE. The elephant in the room. It’s DeNA’s major rival (and the next coffee chat guest at 2pm) which has also set up an office in Singapore. Mori admits they’re very similar. Plus, it has GREE Ventures, which is treading on DeNA’s toes by hooking up some great gaming startups.

How about the ongoing GREE vs DeNA lawsuit? Mori says he was surprised to see the news of that, and then chuckles. “What we do is entertaining people, so this is entertainment too. It’s a game.” Oh well, it’ll pan out in the end.

#13:40: Who, asks PO’s Willis, is DeNA actually working with in Thailand? “Well, we have many friends,” says Mori. “And now we’re going through multiple channels” and looking at some developers, but he can’t elaborate further right now.

Korea is still a major focus, where online gamers are more numerous – and, I should point out, wealthier as well.

#13:38: Turning to Thailand, Mr. Mori says that the users there are a bit more mature in terms of being prepared to spend money online. Also, startups in Thailand are blossoming.

#13:36: Vietnam is awesome! That’s the gist of what’s being said – they know how to scale, and have great developers who’re passionate about games. “And the pho noodles are great,” jokes Mori. That’s why the Japanese firm has been looking so closely at the emerging Vietnam. But not just that country. Its mobile gaming platform Mobage is spreading across Asia, being launched in new nations. Plus, a backup for its data centres is a concern – SE Asia would be a safe backup, especially after the massive earthquake last year. “SE Asia is a great place to be.”

#13:28: “We’re sowing the seeds for the future,” says Mr. Mori, because social gaming is so huge and still growing. It’s so lucrative and profitable for developers, DeNA is encouraging more devs to get into this.

#13:30: Southeast Asia is a huge focus for DeNA. But first, says Mr. Mori, talent is key. Developing is not hard in itself, he notes, but it can be tough to get all the people on board. That’s why DeNA has been looking at Vietnam, where they’ve made some strategic investments and partnerships.

#13:32: After acquiring Punch Entertainment a while back, do DeNA plan to buy any more? But Tetsuya demurs. So that’s top secret, then. But he admits they’re “scanning Thailand, Malaysia … India” and lots more places. Willis gets Mr. Mori to say that they’re keen to acquire if the price is right.

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