Disney and one Japanese mobile gaming group, DeNA, announced a new partnership on Friday that plans to launch a jointly developed mobile social games later this month.
The first title expected out of this coupling is Disney Party, which has a release date of March 28 for the Mobage network in Japan -- a network with an audience north of 35 million.
DeNA, which manages the platform Mobage, and Disney also plan to rapidly turn out their second title, Disney Fantasy Quest, on April 2, and the third title based on Marvel Comics characters this summer in Japan.
Disney Party is a freemium social party-simulation game for mobile phones where layers organize parties and decorate their interiors with various gifts that will attract Disney characters. When the characters drop in, players can greet or take photos with them, which can be shared with other Mobage users.
Disney Fantasy Quest, on the other hand, is a social card-collection game where players collect cards of popular characters from Mickey & Friends, princesses and other Disney series to create magic books in a quest brighten up the world. This game is also based on the free-to-play model with virtual items for purchase.
The Marvel-themed game, also free-to-play social, is card-battle game where players collect cards with characters developed by Marvel and battle against enemies.
The two companies aren’t only focused only on Japan, even though that is where DeNA is based – the companies want to make all three titles available worldwide. Localized versions of the two games will arrive both as smartphone apps as well as on Mobage’s non-Japanese networks: Mobage Global for North America and Europe, Mobage China, and Daum Mobage for South Korea.
In addition, the new agreement will also see Disney and DeNA teaming up on other efforts, including Disney movies, Disney TV shows and smartphone apps. Disney Japan’s president told a news conference that he hoped the unnamed Marvel Comics game would help raise awareness in Japan where the characters don’t have a built-in audience, ahead of the film which opens in August. (The Avengers, perhaps?)
DeNA has been doing well as of late. The company posted a strong third quarter in February, which saw net sales up by 16%, boosting its valuation to $4.8 billion. It’s now working on building up its presence in the U.S., Europe, China and South Korea – and this Disney deal will certainly help.
The gaming platform Mobage currently has more than 1,800 game titles for smartphones, feature phones as well as PCs and has generated annual sales of more than $1.3 billion, according to the company. In order to expand the Mobage platform globally, DeNA is currently building a presence in the US, Europe, China and South Korea.
Partnerships in gaming
Disney has the great advantage of having a tresure trove filled with recognizable characters and names that it can pull from to build new games and meld worlds together to attract young audiences as well as those in for some nostalgia.
Other gaming companies have gone a different direction, by partnering up with celebrities to match that same recognition.
Celebrities are finding their way into more than just the use of social media, they are also becoming characters in the games we play too. And one of the latest additions to the gaming world was announced this week when Zynga revealed that Martha Stewart will make a guest appearance in the social game CastleVille.
The popular renaissance-period CastleVille has built up a usership of 26 million monthly active users and this is the first celebrity integration for the game. Players will be able to interact with Stewart's avatar and get special in-game rewards for their interactions.
Stewart already has her own neighboring kingdom, designed to closely resemble her home in Bedford, Conn, including a Friesian horse, Araucana chickens and black sheep. The Stewart estate is also the largest building ever introduced in CastleVille -- how fitting for the Queen of DIY home design.
With Easter just around the corner, Stewart will host an Easter egg hunt and party in her kingdom. Players are able to then craft a special gazebo and work on crafts such as egg decorating.
At first glance, this Stewart-Zynga partnership may seem a bit odd, but the designing diva is the perfect icon for the usual audience of world-building social games (women 40-65) and with all the customization and personal touches that those social games provide, it only seems right that Stewart would want more people to get in the habit of creating something that reflects their personality.
Back in May, Lady Gaga worked with Zynga to create GagaVille -- a spin off of FarmVille. And now Madonna is testing the power of Fab.com's divalicious membership base to get more buzz about her new album.
Zynga also partned with Lady Gaga to offer branded virtual goods via Rewardville across ten of its games. Players could log onto RewardVille to redeem zCoins for exclusive limited edition Gaga inspired virtual items for the Zynga game.
It's unclear just how much money it takes to attract these celebrities into the gaming world, but its clear that they wish they had the catalog that Disney has to work with for free.