Japanese Companies LINE and Gree Join to Form Epic Voyage Inc
At a press conference in Tokyo, the LINE Corporation announced several new ventures, including the creation of Epic Voyage Inc -- a new company staffed with veterans from Gree, whom will develop games specifically for the LINE social games platform.
LINE is a mobile social networking platform that was introduced in 2011, and has now become the largest social networking platform for the Japanese market. It is similar to other apps and mobile social networking platforms such as Skype, Viber, WeChat, Tango, etc., in that users can freely text message one another, as well as make voice calls.
Originally a response to creating a way to communicate after the Tohoku earthquake in Japan in 2011, the app has become immensely popular in Japan, and also is widely used in countries such as Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, India, and Spain. LINE was produced by the Japanese arm of Naver Corporation of South Korea, but not operates as an independent subsidiary called LINE Corporation.
In 2012, LINE introduced a game layer to the app, that consists primarily of in-house produced games, along with a handful of games produced by 3rd parties. Most of the games are casual in nature (like the "connect 3" type of games) and feature cute animal characters.
While Gree is technically a social networking service as well, it is more commonly regarded as a mobile game developer and publisher. The games launched in the US tend to have more of a core gamer look and feel to them.
Not many details have surfaced about this newly formed joint venture, however, the games will be developed specifically for the LINE game platform.
It seems that this is a win-win for both LINE and Gree. For LINE, this will take its game platform to the next level, and may bring it to the forefront of mobile gaming. For Gree, this will allow it to get games out to a very large network both domestically in Japan, and internationally.
Being a LINE user myself, it will be interesting to see how the games will evolve under Epic Voyage. To me, LINE is more of the medium for playing casual games, while Gree is a platform to play games that are quite a bit more involved. Is LINE trying to extend its reach outside of casual games and cute characters? Is Gree trying to attract a wider audience, and going to start making more casual games?
Maybe the two companies will meet somewhere in between?