Saturday, September 23, 2006

Duck ... Flash Lite content coming this way from Japan

Just listened to an intersting podcast about a Japanese Flash Lite content company called Cell who were at CTIA showcasing their games catalogue of over 400! The guy being interviewed was obviously well versed in mobile conferences outside of Japan because one of the first things he asks the interviewer is "Do you know Flash Lite?" The interviewer resonds "yeah ....Flash based games right?" So clearly the interviewer doesn't know Flash Lite .... such a classic opening to a conversation about Flash Lite, I have lost count of the amount of times I have experienced that opening sequence :)

So whats interesting about all this is that while many early adopters of Flash Lite outside of Japan have looked on with envy at the market penetration of Flash Lite over there, content producers in Japan have just been building away. Not only does the Japanese market offer a great market base, the performance of Flash Lite on the handsets is also way superior - 30 fps is not a problem.

So the success of Flash Lite in Japan is unquestionable and the net result of that is that there are lots of good sized content creation and distribution companies who specialise almost exclusively in Flash Lite. But the market is now totally saturated. Recently when I spoke to a top distributor in Japan they told me they were only interested in 3g content as opposed to 2.5g and that translated as music and manga, not wallpapers, screensavers or games!

I guess it comes as no surprise then that companies with lots of assets and production power will start to look outside Japan. Cell say they have 400+ games and a production line that produces 12 games a week. Now, these are obviously pretty impressive figures even for the casual genre that Flash Lite fits into. However the key question I think for Japanese content creators looking overseas is what percentage of their catalogue is culturally exportable. Porting their content to English version should be easy enough but will consumers 'get' a lot of the content the way Japanese consumers have?

One of the reasons Cell have 400+ games is because Flash Lite content is quick to build and quick and easy to consume. Also dont forget that Flash Lite games in Japan are entirely browser based. So in the interview when they say 200,000 downloads a day I would guess thats actually 200000 hits per day. Of course you can save browser games locally but the point should be made the consumption model is so much more appetising and free flowing when compared to games consumption in Europe or elsewhere.

So the key point to all this is that Japanese content providers face the same big hurdle that Western content providers do when trying to get into Japan - there are massive cultural differences. I think is so much more relevant to Flash Lite than other technologies because its such an expressive technology and the content is so low brow (almost viral like - see internet viral campaigns) that it absorbs a lot of cultural influence. So take the example of Playstation games - these are big budget games that feed off raw gamer needs, no frills, they are not culturally influenced. A lot of Flash Lite content has a cultural context.

I look forward to seeing how well Japanese content providers do in shifting content in the newer markets! If they select the right products, there are still a few significant technological differences between Japan and non-Japan in Flash Lite implementation. Only titles that can work with less processing power, can adapt or justify the different input methods, can find a identity graphically and have a cultural context will make it. See one such example below.

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