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GREE explains what GREE is

Here’s about the limit of our knowledge regarding GREE: it’s 1) a Japanese company that 2) does something with cell phone games and 3) has a ton of money. Beyond that, details get a little fuzzy.

So I asked Eros Resmini, SVP of Marketing and Developer Relations at GREE’s new American branch, what exactly the company is, and what it does. Basically, it’s an expanded take on OpenFeint’s existing social platform, plus a new game development studio.

“We recently announced a studio here in San Francisco,” Resmini said. “So we are making first-party games for the US market, with a local team, local artists, local engineers, and that studio — we’re at about 40 people now on that side of the house.” The company is focusing on iOS and Android phones at first, with tablets coming later. It is not developing games for non-smartphones, which the Japanese side dealt in.

In addition to games developed in-house, GREE also works with third parties, like Ubisoft and Gameloft, making deals to bring their IPs to the GREE platform. That platform, launching in America later this year, is similar to what OpenFeint already offers (and will offer through the end of the year). Resmini called it “akin to something like Facebook on mobile” — in other words, a network that allows you to interact with and discover friends within games. And as with OpenFeint, those social features will be available to hobbyists and third parties through open-source APIs. The service also allows developers to sell virtual goods in their games, from which GREE takes a cut. This is where all that money came from in Japan.

What GREE isn’t doing is selling games directly. Resmini said GREE will have a “portal app” to allow players to “see what kind of new content’s come up, see what their friends are doing” outside of games, but GREE-made games will be sold through the existing App Store and Android markets.

With the knowledge of what GREE actually is, the whole thing feels a bit less mysteriously monolithic. Another AAA-budget mobile game company, and putting social layers on existing games, are both things we can understand.

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