Riding high, Gree opens office in London to seek global opportunities



One of Japan’s great entrepreneurial stories of recent years, Gree Inc., has opened a regional office in London to expand its reach into Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.

“We are seeing more opportunities. They are not fully realized,” Daisuke Kobayashi, country manager at Gree’s London base, said in an interview.

The company, which makes games for smartphones and other mobile devices, has been capitalizing on the rapid development and use of Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy series across the world.

The iPhone 5 saw product sales of more than 5 million in the first three days after going on sale Sept. 21, numbers that broke previous Apple sales records.

“We started globalizing our services and operations about two years ago. Our objective is to develop local titles in each region. East London is becoming a tech center and is the best place to recruit,” said Kobayashi.

Gree has expanded in the last two years. In 2010, it had just 100 employees and now has 1,900. It has tapped into the spread of the Internet, smartphones and tablets.

“We are Internet-based and can measure everything about the usage of our games, which is what differentiates us from other traditional gaming companies,” Kobayashi said.

“In terms of the technology, the smartphone is the platform we were working on. They are becoming pretty common across the world. That is one of the reasons that we started to expand globally. Apple and Google have become more successful. Technology has become more standardized,” he added.

While iconic companies like Sharp Corp. and Sony Corp. are struggling in the current economic climate, Kobayashi said Gree is considering expanding its workforce.

“We look to hire people who understand both the Japanese way and the U.K. way of doing business. We have many subsidiaries with Japanese companies in London and we can find such talent.

“On the games development side, this country has a tradition of console games. So we can hire game designers, game graphic artists and engineers here (in London),” he said.

The reputation of London as a world-class commercial center is vital for Gree’s plans for expansion into Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. These three markets all present different challenges for the game maker.

“From a market point of view, Europe is diverse. It is challenging for us to cope with such variety in language and culture. In terms of game development, European companies have their own tradition of game development which is quite unique to this market.”

In Latin America, Gree’s strategy is focused on Brazil, the largest country in Latin America.

“The smartphone penetration was low but is now booming. Foxconn has their own factory there now. We can see more improvements in the network,” said Kobayashi.

In the Middle East, “the market has high penetration in smartphones and the amount of spending we can expect is high,” he said.