Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.
It’s well-documented that mobile messaging apps are doing well in Asia and Japan’s Line is one of the most pertinent examples. The service reached 100 million downloads last week and now two of its top games have hit a cumulative 30 million downloads. Matching game Line Pop has reached 20 million downloads and the Bust a Move-like Line Bubble has 10 million, as Japan-based games watcher Serkan Toto notes.
It’s worth highlighting that Asian apps like Line have long moved away from WhatsApp and others used in the West by introducing a number of advanced features, one of which is gaming. Line has its ‘Channel’ feature that lets users share apps and games, while Korea’s Kakao Talk has a dedicated games center.
Line users download a game — which installs separately from the Line app, like any other game — and then play with Line friends that have also installed it.
Line Pop hit its landmark in 58 days, while Line Bubble took 28 days. Line says that, in total, more than 70 million Channel apps have been downloaded.
Line has cleverly marketed its titles and it offers free goodies — such as stickers, which are popular in Asia — to those that download certain apps. For that reason, it isn’t clear exact how many active users these games have. However, while that marketing has helped give numbers a kick, there’s no doubt that they are well used, even if to a lesser degree than the huge download stats suggest.
The fact that Line sold more than $1 million of virtual goods through Line Pop within the first 12 days of its launch, speaks for itself. Likewise, Kakao Talk’s games service made it an impressive $35.3 million in revenue during October; that was before the global launch, and was generated by users in Korea alone.
That the two Line games can rack up a combined 30 million downloads is testament both to the popularity of Line and similar apps in Asia, but also the business model that they are pursuing. We’ve seen Western messaging companies up their efforts to offer a more media-centric experience to users — Kik, for one, added ‘Cards’ in December — but we are once again reminded of the potential of gaming.
Interestingly, China’s WeChat — the single largest messaging service in Asia at 300 million downloads — has eschewed gaming so far, it is instead focusing on e-commerce and payments. It plans to integrate its Tenpay payment system into the app, which makes a great deal of sense given its vast popularity. Tencent is set to make the addition soon, so Asia may once again give Western companies an insight into possible business models and monetization streams.
Certainly the example of Line’s games should draw the interest of Facebook, which was itself a key pioneer of social gaming. The company is making big changes to its Facebook Messenger app; it is rolling out voice calls — already a standard component for messaging apps in Asia — and who is to say that social gaming might not feature at some point soon.
Headline image via archdaily.com
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