14-year old CyberAgent is close to a radical transformation of one its main pillars of business, the Ameba platform. Over the years, Ameba has transformed itself from a pure blogging platform on PCs and feature phones to a cross-service platform (using a single log-in approach) and successfully expanded onto smartphones.
But the 22 million subscribers will see an entirely new Ameba as early as next month, when CyberAgent will turn the platform into a social network with a focus on social games. This move was already announced in January.
In the online presentation video of the financial report, CyberAgent says that “almost all content on Ameba will change” but that most existing users won’t notice a change.
I’m not sure how this is possible, but CyberAgent plans to initially limit the strategy to smartphones only. That’s just one indication that the company is readying itself to take on DeNA‘s Mobage and GREE, two companies that have shot up past CyberAgent in recent years (in terms of market cap and user base).
The growth strategy is to build mobile “communities” first to boost engagement and pull in users – before following up with social games later (there are also many such communities/forums on GREE and Mobage).
Technically, these communities are social apps on iOS and Android that have to be downloaded separately. It’s unclear yet how exactly CyberAgent will try to push users from those apps into the funnel.
The company speaks of Q&A communities, social commerce services, dating sites, a community for pet lovers, photo sharing sites, etc.
Members can log in with their existing Ameba accounts, but new users can also use their Facebook/Twitter/Mixi/Yahoo or Google accounts – which is not possible on GREE or Mobage:
CyberAgent’s nine social gaming subsidiaries are planning to add social games to actually “make profits”, as the company states.
A total of 31 titles are supposed to be ready by the end of May/beginning of June this year, and again, all of these titles will be offered on smartphones only.
Here are some of the games that CyberAgent develops internally:
The number of Ameba MAU on smartphones is still (relatively) small, but it’s growing rapidly, and CyberAgent can use many in-platform cross-promotion channels to drive users to their social games.
But the really interesting part of the announcement is that CyberAgent plans to open the platform to third-party developers. In other words, the company plans to establish itself as a competitor to GREE and DeNA’s Mobage on smartphones (as other platforms like Joynt and entag! are currently trying, too).
CyberAgent says it has already signed up a number of third-party developers so far, i.e. Geisha Tokyo Entertainment, gloops, Crooz, or Taito.
The goal is to reach 10 million users (potential social gamers) for the new Ameba platform on smartphones by year-end – roughly a third of the user base DeNA and GREE are currently boasting in Japan: if there is one company that can endanger DeNA and GREE in the short term, it’s CyberAgent.