Though Google Inc.’s Android is the most popular smartphone software, the company lags behind Apple Inc. in generating revenue from mobile applications. Now Google is turning to a white cat and a gang of monsters to catch up.
Google, which sells games and other media through its Play online store, is boosting support for developers in Japan to take more of their apps overseas. Companies such as Colopl Inc. and Square Enix Holdings Co. have successful products in their home country and have the opportunity to do even better abroad, said Chris Yerga, Asia head of Google’s online store.
Google, which takes a 30 percent cut of sales through Play, is offering translation support in Japan, providing more analytics and expanding its own staff to help market content abroad. Colopl, which makes Shiro Neko (or White Cat) Project, and Mixi Inc., developer of Monster Strike, helped turn Japan into the biggest app market in the world in terms of revenue, despite having far fewer mobile users than the U.S. or China.
“Japan has always created great content,” Yerga said in an interview. “For the longest time it was only available on certain consoles. Now, with a platform like Android, we want to open that content to a billion people.”
Google is also expanding its teams in Seoul to better help developers in South Korea.
Google’s Android has become the dominant mobile operating system, in part because it’s available free to phone makers such as Samsung Electronics Co. and Sony Corp. The software was used on 78.6 percent of smartphones shipped in 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence based on research done by IDC, compared with about 15 percent for Apple’s iOS.
Still, Google trails Apple in mobile revenue. Though neither company discloses precise figures, the numbers can be estimated from the amount they pay out to developers, who typically get 70 percent of total revenue. Google Play paid developers more than $5 billion in the year ended June, Google said during an earnings call July 17. Apple paid almost $10 billion to developers who sold apps through its online store in the past year, Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said in July.
Japan could help trim the lead because developers there have figured out how to get people to pay for games as well as extras, like additional clothes or weapons for digital characters. Japan is the biggest app market and Tokyo-based GungHo Online Entertainment Inc. generated the most revenue last year, according to researcher App Annie Ltd.
“Google Play may be able to narrow the gap with Apple’s App Store by focusing on Japanese game makers,” said Hiroshi Naya, an analyst at Ichiyoshi Research Institute Inc. in Tokyo.