The game runs on the iPhone and the iPad and may be purchased at the app store. Once the game starts, players are invited to register using nicknames and a password. They then may play online against other connected players, a friend or a generic player simulated by the computer. The cards are illustrated by well known artists from all over the world.
Since Moonga was launched at the beginning of 2010, 150,000 people have already registered – 70% of whom are Japanese. Moonga was ranked the No. 1 role playing game (and one of the top 50 games of all categories) in the Japanese app store in the summer of 2010.
Shaame, who was born in Geneva to a Swiss mother and Tanzanian father, obtained a Bachelor in Information Technology at the University of Geneva. After writing his university thesis on two dimensions barcodes – a technique widespread in Japan, Shaame did market research on mobile phones, after which he decided to start working on an online trading card game named Moonga.
In July 2010, Everdream Soft won a funding prize after passing the first round of the Venture Kick initiative for financing innovative start-ups. He is now looking to set up an office in Japan.
Japan Today catches up with Shaame while he was in Japan recently.
What is Moonga?
It is like those old trading card games where you buy packs of cards. You build a game, then challenge other players. We are like that, except we are completely digital. You can play all over the Internet. If you want to play with someone, the game will find you an opponent. The idea is to become the best on the leaderboard.
What is the cost?
For Moonga users, costs are progressive. Players can start playing by downloading the game for free. To progress, users have the opportunity to buy additional packs of cards for varying prices, starting at about 100 yen, to complete their collection and improve their game strategy. Regular releases of new cards help encourage game interest.
What platforms can we play the game on?
Right now, the iPhone and iPad. However, building on our successes on those platforms, Moonga is being adapted to other platforms such as Facebook. Media consumption patterns are changing very rapidly with the Internet and the smartphones and our mission is to provide simple, fun, innovative and ergonomic products adapted to a new generation of highly mobile consumers. We are also going to publish a digital comic to enhance the story of the game.
Where did the story ideas come from?
I initially created the background and the universe after I was inspired by fantasy culture like “Lord of the Rings.” Now we have a scenarist who continues and enhances the story.
How did you get the word out at first?
We did almost no marketing at the beginning. I contacted some bloggers and let them know about the game for mobile phones. After that, word spread and a lot of people wanted to beta test the game.
At the beginning, the game was only in French and English. Then we saw some interest from Japanese people. So I came to find translators and as soon as we released the game in Japanese, it was a huge success in the Japanese apps store. It was the top role-playing game in the summer of 2010. We got a lot of downloads. So far, worldwide, we have 150,000 registered users. About 70% of our players are Japanese.
What is your revenue model?
Players download the game for free. After that, they spend $1 or 100 yen for random virtual cards and Apple gives us 70% of the transaction. We give 10% of revenue we get to the artist who illustrates the card.
Why do you want to open an office in Japan?
We had a booth at the Tokyo Game Show in September. We showed the game and we got a really good response from the players. It was a good opportunity for us to test the new version and see how they play. So obviously, Japan is a really important market for us. But it is very difficult to manage Japan from abroad. We have to be here to see how people behave and what they want. Japan is great for spotting new trends. In the subway, you can see the trends just by watching Japanese people using technology like smartphones.
We actually have a translator who speaks Japanese, English and French and who understands well the card game universe. In the future, we will need marketing people in order to communicate with the Japanese market.
What about incorporating aspects of Japanese culture or Japanese characters into Moonga’s story?
Maybe not on the main product but probably in a derivative card game, we may feature Japanese characters. The idea is to make Moonga international and something that would fit any culture.
Who are your users?
Our user base is mainly in the male 15-35 age range but we have older players as well. The biggest fans already played Magic The Gathering when they were young. They are used to spending a lot on games. They don’t have a lot of time to play complicated games, so Moonga is a game they can play quickly.
What new developments are in the pipeline?
We are working with another Swiss company, Tegona for the integration of NFC Technology chips in cards. Right now, all cards are virtual, but we are working on physical cards for 2012 that would be a complement to the digital ones. We are building an Android version of Moonga and we are going to put a chip in the playing cards, so that when you touch the card with your mobile phone, the card will be directly transferred to your mobile phone.