Electronic Arts, the world’s biggest video games publisher, is hunting for a partnership or acquisition in Japan in a bid to achieve greater penetration in the second-biggest gaming market after the US.
Jon Niermann, president of EA Asia, said Japan was a “strategic priority” for the company.
Japan comprises 20 per cent of the overall $30bn games market, yet remains a single-digit percentage of EA’s overall revenues.
Mr Niermann, in an interview with the Financial Times, said EA was looking at linking up with blue-chip players, as well as smaller firms.
“[We are] exploring everything from established companies to new companies,” he said. “The relatively young start-up type companies that have promising talent that come from some of the bigger companies – it is very interesting to look at those.”
Only 6 per cent of EA’s revenues are generated from the Asian market, with the remainder evenly split between the US and Europe. Last month, the video games titan reported wider losses in the first quarter and said its market share had fallen to the mid-teens in percentage terms, after failing to capitalise fully on the success of Nintendo’s Wii.
“[The question is] can we get to the scale that we want to more quickly if we work with someone [in Japan] that actually has had success in the market,” said Mr Niermann. “I think EA offers a great global distribution opportunity in terms of taking Japanese products to other parts of the world and in turn there are certainly companies that are much better at local development than we’ve ramped up to be.”
EA has partnerships with local firms in Asia’s two-biggest growth markets: China and South Korea.
In Japan, Mr Niermann said he expected to see growth in the online games market, as well as an increase in demand for mobile phone games.
Though Mr Niermann said it was “too soon to tell” which next-generation console had dominated the market, he admitted that Nintendo’s Wii had “broadened the market” with its appeal to the non-core gamer – women and older individuals.
“Nintendo got it right,” said Mr Niermann. “We all benefit from that as an industry.”
EA is attempting to push into the online games market in China by partnering with The9, the country’s leading online games operator.
In Korea, it has made a similar push into the online market via its partnership with Neowiz.
Mr Niermann was speaking on the eve of the Tokyo Game Show, the world’s largest, which kicks off today. Analysts expect Sony to cut the price on its poor-selling 80-gigabyte PlayStation 3 model to $499 and to reduce further the price of the PS2 – the best-selling games console ever – from $129 to $99.
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