Games giant signs major deal with Irish developer

25 Nov 2003

Japanese computer and arcade game giant Konami has signed a major distribution deal with a young Irish software company to redesign and distribute its popular games content for the European, Asian and US mobile gaming markets.

Dublin-based Upstart Games, headed by former Irish dotcom players John Dennehy and Barry O’Neill, with offices in Tokyo and New York, has already signed a major deal in the US with AT&T Wireless to allow the network operators to sell and download popular arcade and console games onto mobile devices. The company is also understood to be in talks with T-mobile in the US about a similar deal.

Tokyo-headquartered Konami Corporation has an annual turnover of US$2bn a year and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company is noted for authoring original arcade classics like Frogger, Gradius and Castlevania as well as contemporary PlayStation 2 games like Metal Gear Solid and Pro Evolution Soccer.

The contract signed with Upstart as Konami Online’s partner for international development and distribution services for its portfolio of mobile games. Upstart will work with Konami to bring its catalogue of mobile game titles to an estimated 250 million mobile users in America, Asia and Europe.

According to Dennehy, Upstart has eight programmers based in Dublin whose job it is to transform popular games on the DoCoMo platform into games that would work on US and European mobile networks.

“We are fulfilling all of Konami’s development and distribution work for the US and Europe. We get the code from Japan and then we re-programme the software to work on European and US handsets such as various Nokia and Motorola models.

As well as adapting and distributing the games into new markets, Upstart will provide Konami with support for the marketing and business development processes.

In November, Upstart helped make the arcade classic Frogger available to subscribers of AT&T Wireless’ mMode service with compatible handsets.

According to Dennehy, the business model works in such a way that the network operators provide Upstart with details of the games downloaded from portals unto handsets and the company is invoiced.

Upstart Games CEO Barry O’Neill commented: “Konami Online’s international debut is a significant milestone in the evolution of the mobile games market. It demonstrates that the market is now mature enough to support the biggest players and brand names in the games business.”

The mobile games market will be worth US$587m in 2003 and will grow to US$3.8bn by 2007, according to Informa Media Group. A recent survey carried out by consultants A.T. Kearney and the Judge Institute of Management at Cambridge University indicates that over 6pc of the world’s 1.3bn mobile subscribers are now playing games on their mobile phones.

By John Kennedy