Today may be holiday time in the U.S., but it also seems to be a time for cleaning in Japan. Line, the messaging app company with 500 million registered users, just announced the closure of 15 of its third-party games, that’s nearly half of the titles on its games platform and its second purge in six months.
In an announcement made suspiciously late on Friday evening Japanese time (to bury the news?), the company said the games — which include the likes of Punch Hero, Homerun Battle Burst, Sonic Dash S and Zookeeper — were closed to “focus its resources on titles that are enjoying greater growth in order to further propel the service as a global gaming platform.”
You won’t find games on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, but they are a major part of the Line experience. Users download separate apps for iOS and Android which then link up to their Line app to provide a game ID and the ability to share scores, battle friends and more. The service also offers non-gaming companion apps, which include apps for sticker creation, translations, photos and more.
With those 15 games removed from app stores, Line now offers 43 apps for iOS and 55 for Google Play — around half of those are games, including Disney Tsum Tsum (below), which has 30 million downloads. Line introduced its games platform in November 2012, and the company said this month it had clocked 470 million cumulative downloads.
Games barely affect Line users who don’t play them, but they can be hugely lucrative. In-app purchases — such as power-ups or boosters — from apps on the games platform collectively account for over half of Line’s revenue, which doubled annually to reach $192 million in Q3 2014.
Line, which this year postponed an IPO at a reported valuation of $10 billion, shut down one-third of its games (20 titles) in June, so this second purge just months later suggests that many of its titles were not sufficiently engaging or quickly became too dated.
The need for new material could mean titles from Gumi, the Japanese games studio Line invested in this summer, and 4:33 Creative Lab, a Korean company that Line and Tencent jointly put $110 million into. Either way, compelling content is important for keeping existing users engaged, reaching new users and maintaining Line’s revenue growth. That latter point is particularly crucial, as Line is likely to reassess its plan to go public in 2015.
Line was among the first to offer games, but these days U.S.-based duo Tango and Kik include similar services, too, as well as Kakao Talk in Korea and WeChat in China. Facebook recently revealed that it tested highlighting games before ultimately deciding to focus its platform and vast reach on app install ads instead.