SoftBank-Backed Supercell Bringing Clash of Clans to Tokyo

SoftBank-backed Supercell Oy is bringing the Clash of Clans franchise to the Tokyo Game Show for the first time as the Finnish company tries to spur user growth in one of the few markets it doesn’t already dominate.

Supercell’s booth at Japan’s biggest gaming event features two-story-high LED walls displaying characters from its castle-building smartphone game. Inside, the visitor can try out the game and watch live battles.

Supercell has struggled to translate the global popularity of Clash of Clans into subscriber numbers in Japan, a market that rivals the U.S. in size. Despite being the highest-ranked mobile game publishers by sales worldwide in July, the Finnish gamemaker was not in the top 10 in Japan.

“We are usually No. 1 or 2 in most markets, so there is much more opportunity to grow in Japan,” Buddy Marini, the head of Supercell’s Japan operations, said in an interview Friday. “Japan has a history of local games. It’s the toughest market in the world.”

Since its launch, Clash of Clans topped the revenue rankings in markets ranging from the U.S. and Italy to Turkey and India, according to researcher App Annie. It ranked seventh in Japan in July.

Mixi Inc.’s Monster Strike was first, followed by GungHo Online Entertainment Inc.’s Puzzle & Dragons.

Unlike its domestic rivals, Supercell doesn’t use live operations, which continuously roll out new features and events to drive revenue and user engagement, Marini said. Any changes to the game also affect customers worldwide, making it difficult to target individual markets, he said.

Total sales of smartphone apps in Japan exceeded those in the U.S. in July, according to App Annie. Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu estimates the domestic game apps market was worth 715.4 billion yen ($6 billion) in 2014, an 18 percent increase from a year earlier.

“We will measure our success in Japan by whether people are still playing Clash of Clans five, 10 years from now,” Marini said.

Supercell is part of billionaire Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group Corp., which has a majority stake in the gamemaker.

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