A Unique Marketing Tool For Japanese Mobile Games: Collaborations

Japan is the only country in the world where mobile games are regularly being advertised on television. And this isn’t about cheap night time slots in niche TV programs no one watches: DeNAGREEGungHo, and many other developers are paying for spots aired during prime time, on national TV channels, and in heavy rotation. This has been going on for years.

TV advertising is – in my view – the key reason why Japan’s mobile social game industry became so big so quickly: DeNA and GREE, for example, are among the nation’s top TV ad spenders – often ahead of Toyota, Sony, and other global consumer brands.

Apart from TV, there is one (relatively new) marketing and user acquisition tool that I have seen being used in Japan only.

Developers over here call it “collaborations” (using the English word), and it essentially means that two companies partner up to inject new life into games.

Under the concept, content from “game A” (mainly special, recognizable characters) appears in “game B” and vice versa, usually for a limited period of time. Game A and B can come from the same company, but often, that is not the case.

In other words, collaborations are used to market and acquire new users for existing games – and are not to be confused with the simpler concept of cross-promotion. In contrast to ordinary events, collaborations are time-limited but take place within two games from different companies simultaneously (theoretically, this could involve more than two titles), and they require more time for coordination and preparation.

In contrast to TV, this marketing tool can be used by smaller developers as well.

Example 1:

Here is the most recent example, a cross-company collaboration between Princess Punt Sweets (from Puzzle & Dragons maker GungHo) and tower defense game Battle Cats (from much smaller developer Ponos).

Both games are super-quirky, meaning the collaboration makes a lot of sense in this case. The corresponding event ends on May 12.

Here is Princess Punt appearing in Battle Cats:


And here are Battle Cats characters used in the GungHo game:


Example 2:

Konami has linked two of their top social games, namely “Metal Gear Solid Social Ops” and Dragon Collection, a few months ago.

For a few days only, Dragon Collection players were able to get this limited “Gear Rex” monster card:


Metal Gear Solid players were given this card featuring a Dragon Collection background and a cute slime monster from that game on Snake’s shoulder:


This Konami collaboration was conducted within GREE’s Japanese platform. The Dragon Collection card was given as a reward to Metal Gear players who completed the tutorial and vice versa.

Example 3:

Tokyo-based developer xeen has entered a collaboration under which it exchanges content from its mobile social game “Magical Girl Wars” with Capcom’s card battler “Ninja Arms”. This cooperation has been running since March and is still ongoing.

Ninja Arms players can lay their ands on this limited-edition card (which features a popular character from the xeen game):


On the other hand, players of Magical Girls War can dress their characters with clothes worn by a character in the Capcom game:


The way it works is that players in both games just need to use a special serial code that’s currently displayed on the top pages of both titles to get the items.

Example 4:

Sega even went cross-device, promoting two of their own games in one of their recent collaborations.

Last month, a number of characters from 7th Dragon 2020, an RPG for the Sony PSP, appeared in Sega’s popular coin pusher/RPG hybrid Dragon Coins for smartphones.


Example 5:

It doesn’t always have to be game <-> game collaborations. Some titles are using characters from famous anime or manga to keep things fresh for existing users and possibly acquire new ones, i.e. among fans of the works of the partner company.

Drecom has signed a deal with anime studio Kinema Citrus to use a set of characters from popular series Yuyushiki in the Japanese version of Reign Of Dragons for a week (ending May 7). Lucky players getting the cards will hear the original voice of the character from the anime in the game as well.

Here is one Yuyushiki character card that is currently available in “Dragon Dreizehn”, the Japanese version of Reign Of Dragons:


Based in Tokyo, Dr. Serkan Toto is an independent consultant focusing on Japan’s mobile gaming industry. You can follow him on Twitter and his personal blog. This post originally appeared on his personal blog, and has been reprinted here with express permission.

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