In Tokyo, Mixi is already yesterday's news. Just as in anywhere else, SNS fashion trend has already moved on to someone else. The talk on the street today is Mobaga (pronounced "mow-baa-gay" - short for "mobile game") Town.
Mobaga Town is a mobile-only SNS site that combines free games, customizable avatars, chats, customizable mails, etc., free to users and supported by advertisement, run by a company called DeNA. Sounds generic, doesn't it? Well, if you are a PC net user, it certainly does. Not in this little mobile town.
It started off as a teen-oriented free game + SNS site in February, 2006. According to Yuka Okada's interview with Isao Moriyasu, mobile business executive at DeNA, in last December for ITmedia News (and by the way, she usually writes great interview articles with IT people in Japan), Moriyasu believes that the key was "high-quality games" even though they are free, and "brand-new type service on mobile net" for mobile-only generation.
He says that PC users are accustomed to high quality games on PC, and SNS type services also are already commodities on PC. But in Japan, there are some 19 million users who only use mobile devices for net access, vs. 16 million PC-only users, and for these 19 million (mostly teen and early 20's), free high-quality games and SNS service were totally awakening experience.
Now Mobaga boasts over 5 million registered users, with increase of 1 million every other month pace, and 420 page views per day, according to company's 1st quarter financial announcement. DeNA has already recognized the limitation of teen-only market niche, and has expanded their target to wider young adult population in recent months, by adding more UGC-type applications, and looks like it is paying off; On Feb. 1, teens made up 62% of its users, but by May 10, teen portion has shrunk to 53%, and 20's/30's users increased from 38% to 47%.
On the same day, mixi also announced their user number, and it states 9.83 million users, still way ahead of Mobaga, but analysts and bloggers pose questions about the decrease of "active" users among them, and the pace of its growth, in comparison to Mobaga's spectacular momentum.
It may only be a special case in Japanese market environment, but certainly is an interesting case study of SNS market place.