GungHo’s CEO Kazuki Morishita talks Puzzle and Dragons at Tokyo Game Show
Willis Wee | On September 19, 2013 at 12:21 pm
This article is part of our coverage of TGS 2013.
Japanese hit game Puzzle and Dragons is a roaring success globally, generating over $4 million revenue per day. The success of the game saw its maker, GungHo Online Entertainment, enjoying a current market cap of about $10 billion. At its peak, GungHo hit a $15 billion market cap, surpassing gaming giants like DeNA, GREE, Zynga and Nintendo.
With so much attention on GungHo, Kazuki Morishita, president & CEO at GungHo Online Entertainment, took the stage to have a discussion with one of Nikkei’s representatives. Morishita doesn’t usually speak on stage but made an exception for this year’s Tokyo Game Show. His reasons for not speaking frequently in the public is simple: “I’m busy working the game,” he said.
We last reported Puzzle and Dragons hitting 17 million users. On stage today, Morishita said the current user count is at 19 million and will very soon hit 20 million.
When asked why Puzzle and Dragons is such a huge hit, Morishita didn’t have an answer. Rather than analyzing why the game is a hit, he said he spent more time analyzing user behavior to keep improving the game. Morishita humbly says sometimes it is just a matter of luck. He also said his team also made a huge difference in the success of the company.
Made intuitively for vertical screens
Puzzle and Dragons was supposed to be built for horizontal screens but GungHo realized the vertical bottom section of the screen is crucial after testing. Morishita believes that that was a turning point, because gamers can play the game even with just one hand, especially when they are on trains with their hands on the railings.
Morishita has been very involved in building Puzzle and Dragons. He believes a game must be intuitive, creative, entertaining, and have continuity. For example, the candy movement in Puzzle and Dragons is made extremely smooth coupled with its sound effect. Some of the characters for Puzzle and Dragons are made to be more kawaii to attract female gamers to play the game. To attract more female gamers, Morishita also shared that they have a “wives’ review,” where the team got their wives to test the game.
“Why are you introducing the game on 3DS?” the moderator asked. Morishita said he wishes to bring Puzzle and Dragons to as many people as possible. Are there rules or equations for a big hit game? Morishita says no. “I don’t think there is such an equation. The equation keeps changing,” he said.
As GungHo CEO, Morishita says he isn’t banking on the success of Puzzle and Dragons. Rather, he believes GungHo should remain humble and innovative, to think outside of the box.
“Puzzles and Dragons shouldn’t go on forever. We need to disrupt it to remain innovative,” Morishita said.
The dialogue ended with something more personal. Outside of games, Morishita enjoys pranking employees and skiing. When he was younger, Morishita also learned to be a comedian because he believed it could get him more girls. Now married and rich, the moderator asked him if his success has changed his life. Morishita said that he isn’t really interested in money or in fancy cars. So he believes it didn’t have too deep an impact on his life. Rather, he is more interested in building really good games for the world. Now 40-years-old, he said:
I may be old, but I would like to develop games until I die. […] Game development is a happy job for me.
Another fun fact is that Morishita isn’t an email person. If he needs to communicate with his team, he will reach out using a phone call instead. So folks, you have been warned: don’t be too disappointed if you don’t hear back from Morishita after shooting him email.
Everyone in this game industry supported me and taught me a lot of things. That’s why GungHo exists today. That’s why we were able to establish the company ten years ago.
(Editing by Paul Bischoff)