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This article was published on March 5, 2012

Japan’s DeNA launches its first mobile social games for the iPhone and iPad in the US

Japan’s DeNA launches its first mobile social games for the iPhone and iPad in the US
Jon Russell
Story by

Jon Russell

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 finally happened, albeit without the big stage launch that we may have expected, Japanese mobile social gaming firm DeNA has begun offering games from its ‘Mobage’ social gaming platform for iOS devices in America and other regions worldwide.

Just last week, the company said that support for Apple devices globally was coming “soon”, according to a post on the Mobage Facebook page. Now Ninja Royale (iPhone only), Blackjack and Putt Putt Penguin (both iPhone and iPad) have been softly launched to gamers in the US, after first being made available in other countries days before.

The Mobage service, which is currently available for iOS and Android devices in Japan and China, has included titles for Android phone owners worldwide since July last year. Its move to bring it to iPhone and iPad users worldwide is likely to massively increase its visibility, user base and activity.

The initial pre-launch note below was spotted by Serkan Toto, a Tokyo-based mobile games analyst and Japanese tech watcher, who rightly calls it “big news”.

However, we can forget any great fireworks and fanfare with the launches as a DeNA spokesperson confirmed to The Next Web that the games will continue to roll out individually using a ‘soft launch’ approach. Equally, there are “no plans to launch a global portal app any time soon”.

DeNA bought American firm Ngmoco in October 2010 and the two services came together when Mobage was launched into English-speaking market in June, when it became available to Android devices.

However, DeNA has change the way that users interact with the global Mobage network  — which was essentially Ngmoco’s service — now global users can log-in to Mobage just once, when the game opens for the first time, which allows them to concentrate on playing.

The global portal settings were changed because, as the DeNA spokesperson explains, “Mobage’s global users soon started complaining about having to launch the Mobage app first to play Mobage games instead of directly launching them”.

Things are different in Japan however, where Mobage is more established. There users prefer to check-in to the site via the app portal where they can see friends, messages and do other social network-like activity before they launch their game.

iOS users that are desperate to play Mobage titles open to their Android-totting peers have a interim option while support for more titles is prepared. Some of the games can be downloaded and played as a standalone games. Of course, this means that they come without the benefits of Mobage, such as interaction, high scores, gaming profile, gamer history, etc.

In the first fiscal quarter of 2012, Apple sold more than 37 million iPhones — that’s more phones that there are babies born each day — and almost 15.5 million iPads, that latter of which has sold well worldwide, even in Korea, rival Samsung’s homeland.

Together, support for the iOS devices can take Mobage worldwide, and any deals DeNA can strike with operators and other services, such as its tie-up with Chinese social network Kaixin, will add greater reach to its worldwide expansion.

Mobage’s move to Apple’s operating system for international users has been widely expected for some time as DeNA looks to steal a march on its arch rival GREE, which is due to launch its own international mobile gaming service in the second quarter of this year.

GREE’s impending global move will combine its existing games platform with OpenFeint, the US gaming platform that it acquired for $104 million last April, and take the DeNA-GREE rivalry to a new, international level.

As well as racing for first mover advantage among global mobile gamers, the two firms are involved in an ongoing lawsuit which began when DeNA was reprimanded for influencing developers. The suit, which is taking place in Japan, took a recent twist when DeNA countersued GREE over comments that suggested that it was still engaged in unfair practices.

The mobile social game industry is already lucrative for the two companies, with GREE tipped to post record profits of $910 million, and it is looking like it will only get bigger with both firms set to go international.

If you’re not in the US but want to give the titles a spin, you can change your device’s region setting and download the games at the links below.

➤ Ninja Royale (iPhone) | Putt Putt Penguin (iPhone & iPad) | Blackjack! for Mobage (iPhone & iPad)

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