Japanese regulators insisted on age-based limits two years ago.
Japan’s biggest social network is called Mixi, launched in February 2004 by the company of the same name.
At his most “crazy” he regularly played for two hours at a time — stretching the definition of so-called casual phone gaming.
On one level, Mixi’s turnaround illustrates how inexperienced challengers have dominated the relatively new business of mobile games, while established game developers from the home-console era have struggled to make a mark.
Content revenue — essentially all from Monster Strike — reached 19.4 billion yen (1 million) last quarter, or about 90 percent of Mixi’s total income.
In June, the head of the game-development division took over as president.“It was a big bet,” the new leader, Hiroki Morita, said in an interview, of the decision to expand into gaming.
The Monster Strike app made its debut on Apple’s app store in October 2013, and Mixi spent about million on television commercials and other promotions — an unusually aggressive marketing campaign for a smartphone game.“It was a relief when we saw the numbers” for downloads, Mr. Like many other mobile games, Monster Strike is free to acquire and play, but users can spend money on special characters and to extend their lives when they are wounded in battles or killed.
Users can play alone, with nearby friends over a Bluetooth connection or remotely with their Line contacts.
And while a traditional video game developer would be under pressure to develop the next hit quickly, before users completed every level or got sick of trying, the free-to-play model is all about expanding and updating existing properties, giving Mixi time to grow into its new role.
“It’s like a social network in that it never ends,” he said.
Yet perhaps no game developer has come to the field after a previous rise — and fall — as meteoric as Mixi’s.
Unveiled in February 2004, the same month as Facebook, by a 28-year-old Internet entrepreneur named Kenji Kasahara, its social network quickly attracted a following in Japan.
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Masatoshi Kurosaki, 18, a high school student in Okayama, in western Japan, said he used Line to play with four friends about 80 percent of the time.