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This article was published on November 14, 2012

Breaking away from the app store model, games giant GREE launches HTML5 service

Breaking away from the app store model, games giant GREE launches HTML5 service
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.

Gaming giant GREE is gearing up to announce its latest financial results today but, just before doing so, it has let loose with another announcement which will see it break free of the app store model by introducing HTML5 Web apps games to its global userbase.

This summer was the Japanese firm introduced its revamped global service — which incorporated Opeinfeint, the games service it bought for $104 million in April 2011 — but it is aiming to break away from its dependence on Apple and Google (Android) with the browser-based service, which will debut in beta this month to compliment its iOS and Android apps

Browser-based gaming is the norm in Japan but, outside of the country, gatekeepers like Apple and Android rule over developers, extracting 30 percent of their revenues in exchange for providing reach and an eco-system. It’s not all bad since app stores offer vast scale and can be very rewarding when apps and content gains momentum or goes viral, but GREE is offering an alternative which it believes will provide developers with greater choice and better value.

“By expanding the compatibility of GREE Platform, developers will be able to choose the development method that best suits their technical capabilities and the characteristics of each game, providing them with a cost-effective means of distributing games worldwide,” a company announcement read.

HTML5 has shown potential thus far but it is still yet to find a true success story. Facebook initially built its mobile apps in HTML5 but, as founder Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged, it bet too much on the standard and, as a result, it rebuilt the much-criticised apps and moved away from HTML5.

So while GREE is rightly pushing the benefits of a browser-based service and Web app games, its success is no sure thing since Western mobile users are yet to take to the standard with anything like the same gusto that they’ve shown for app stores over the last 4-5 years. Not only are mobile owners less trusting of apps and content that are downloaded from outside app stores — due to malware and other security risks — but HTML5 runs slower and with fewer features, in short it’s an inferior experience.

GREE’s announcement also contains another nugget of news, which perhaps has the potential to be more significant, it is opening up its platform to a wide-range of new payment options.

As we said earlier today, when GREE inked a carrier billing deal with Singapore-based operator SingTel, the company is working on developing its overseas revenues. So, with that in mind, its decision to start to accept payments by PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, JCB and American Express will most certainly welcome as it gives users more ways to buy its GREE coins, and thus virtual goods from the service. A barrier has certainly been lifted, in that respect.

Finally, not a lot of folks outside of Japan are aware of the GREE social network but that is about to change as the company introduces 14 new languages to the service which will be part of the HTML5 game experience. In Japan, the social network acts like a glue which keeps users engaged with games and each other, and it will be interesting to see how the service is adopted in the West.

GREE’s confirmed that some of its titles will be released as Web apps but it remains to be seen if the move will be embraced by developers and mobile phone owners worldwide.

Right now there is only one HTML5 title — Cerberus Age — but the company says it will introduce more in due course.

The company’s latest financial results are due today and are speculated to be comparatively weaker. Given the spate of recent announcements, which includes the move to HTML5, the SingTel deal and a partnership with Yahoo Japan last week, the timing of these news items is certainly causing us to think that GREE is trying to distract from its latest quarter of business.

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