One of the fastest growing companies in Japan right now is GREE, a publicly-traded mobile social gaming network with 900 employees and on track to generate $1.7 billion in annual revenues. I interviewed GREE founder and CEO Yoshikazu Tanaka through an interpreter earlier this week at the TechCrunch Tokyo conference. Here are two videos from that interview. (You can watch a third video in my post today comparing GREE’s financials to Zynga’s).
In the video above, Tanaka talks about why he bought OpenFeint in the U.S. last April and how he wants to follow Nintendo in getting to 80 percent of revenues from outside Japan. But more than just follow Nintendo, he wants to displace it. Smartphones are replacing traditional gaming hardware and the games are different in that social features (playing with and against other people over the network) can trump graphics. “Our goal is to make our brand just as successful, if not better, than Nintendo,” says Tanaka.
Tanaka tells me how he started GREE o a server in his apartment in 2004 in the longer video below. Originally, it was a PC-based social network (the Friendster of Japan), but he shifted to a mobile social network for games a few years later. Now 99 percent of GREE’s users are mobile. “We believe the PC will get erased at some point,” he says matter-of-factly.