The Secret To Puzzle & Dragons’ Massive Success And Millions Of Dollars Is “Luck”

By Spencer . May 13, 2013 . 5:45pm

Puzzle & Dragons has been a huge hit for GungHo Online Entertainment. The game generates millions of dollars in revenue every day in Japan alone. It’s a phenomenal success and GungHo Online have rapidly expanded in recent years, acquiring developers like Akiba’s Trip maker Acquire and Lollipop Chainsaw maker Grasshopper Manufacture.


Curious to see what made Puzzle & Dragons’ a massive success in Japan, Siliconera spoke to Kazuki Morishita, CEO of GungHo Online Entertainment.


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GungHo Online Entertainment is a very successful studio and quite profitable according to previous financial reports. Why were more shares of the company sold to Softbank?


Kazuki Morishita, CEO: In terms of how the news is reported, it makes it sound like we’re all of the sudden officially a subsidiary, but they [Softbank] have always had 30-something percent of our stock. That just increased to 40%. In terms of operation and business of how it’s run, on the GungHo side it hasn’t changed at all. It’s just about how much stock they have. Softbank was an investor with 30% when we started.
Between two stock holders, one person just has more now. One stock holder gave their stock to another person. It’s not like we got a big investment. In terms of management, nothing is really going to change.


It seemed to affect Softbank’s stock. [Note: Softbank stock rose after the news.]


That’s the stock market. We’re a game developer, so that’s not our concern.


We read the reports that Puzzle & Dragons might be making two million dollars a day. Would you like to clarify this?


[Laughs] Those are just rumors.


Does that mean the amount could be even higher?


Maybe, yes. [Laughs]

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Princess Punt (left), Freak Tower (right)


Puzzle & Dragons reached a new milestone and you keep adding collaborations like with Square Enix’s Crystal Defenders series. How do you think you can replicate that success with your other mobile games like Princes Punt or Freak Tower? What’s the “secret” to making a breakout hit like Puzzle & Dragons?


In terms of quality, we’re confident in all of our games, including Puzzle & Dragons and Princess Punt. However, there are multiple factors to consider to why Puzzle & Dragons became a big hit. After we gathered that all together we pretty much assume it’s luck.


We didn’t really do anything special with Puzzle & Dragons during development. We took the same exact steps we took with our other titles. It’s not like Puzzle & Dragons was any different from our usual games. It’s just that it hit a very high success rate.


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Do you think the success has anything to do with mechanics of the game? At the beginning it’s very easy to play and you level up enough to recover your stamina. However, later on you need to purchase items to continue on in the game or wait a long time. Could it be this mechanic or perhaps how players pull the dragon’s paw to get monsters, the variable reward or “slot machine” style of reinforcement? Or did the magic stones, which allow players to instantly come back for a price?


The ideas that you mentioned were all random ideas that popped into my head while I was making the game, especially the monetization with how players use magic stones to continue if they die. There was a PSP game I really got into playing and then I died which sparked the idea.


I figured if people like the game enough they will want to continue after they die to keep playing the game. These ideas were random ideas that came by chance. These could have something to do how successful the game was, but it’s not like Puzzle & Dragons was given special treatment. These concepts were random ideas as well.


I see. I don’t think Puzzle & Dragons received special treatment, but there must be some “secret sauce” to Puzzle & Dragons. For example, while I was browsing the App Store there were many clones of Puzzle & Dragons and some had many ratings. I guess some of these even though they are derivations of GungHo’s game are profitable too, so there must be something that clicked with the core of Puzzle & Dragons.


We really focused on “chance” as a gameplay mechanic when you’re playing Puzzle & Dragons.


You mean the way pieces drop down?


Right. You are able to practice and become better at the puzzle element. However, some people are good at it and some people are not. For players that don’t get past that level, they can progress with the help of chance. Chance affects the game because you might erase one line or orbs and by pure chance you might get a combo.


The gameplay is a mixture of RPG, hack ‘n slash, and puzzle. That engulfs a lot of different genres and gameplay. The RPG element is very Japan centric and for hardcore gamers. The hack ‘n slash part is more Westernized gameplay. In addition to that you have pure puzzle, casual gameplay, all mixed into one title. That mixture could be one of the secret ingredients.


I remember in another interview you mentioned that the dragons were originally Western style artwork and there is a console version in development.


Yes! When we were originally creating the smartphone version, we always had it in mind to develop a console version as well. The console version will be different from the smartphone version. We had to optimize the smartphone version for those devices. It can’t be the exact type of gameplay with the same type of systems for the console version.


[After the interview, the console game was revealed to be Puzzle & Dragons Z for Nintendo 3DS.]



I agree. Puzzle & Dragons is a great title to play in short bursts, but I expect the console version to be deeper.


Please look forward to more news. [Laughs.]


Will GungHo Online Entertainment America handle publishing the console version in the U.S.?




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  • Neophoton

    “I figured if people like the game enough they will want to continue after they day to keep playing the game.”

    I think you meant “die”? It’s in the answer pertaining to the magic stones.

    I figure the monster capturing aspect in combination with luck is what drives a sort of gambler’s habit with the game. I don’t invest money into the game, but they’re certainly correct on the grind kicking in around later levels. I’m only level 45 and I start to see it slowing down.

    Still a cute game and it’s decent for short bursts. I’d probably be more interested to see what the 3DS release has to offer.

  • riceisnice

    The 3DS version won’t have micro transactions will it?

    • Neophoton

      I don’t think it will.

  • Ava1on

    Isn’t the bigger news here the confirmation of the US version at the end of the article?

  • Solomon_Kano

    Sweet. Makes me think of Puzzle Quest from the screens, so I look forward to giving Z a go.

  • Brion Valkerion

    Lets see, micro transactions, simple yet addicting tetris style gameplay, cute characters, rpg elements to keep you coming back, and a soild ad campaign. Yeah, sounds like a whole lot of luck there haha.

    Everyone I know plays the crap out of this game so yeah, not surprised its done well.

    • There is a huge difference in the amount of success P&D has had in Japan vs. the West. Pretty much all of the revenue is from Japan so the success has not been equal by any means.

  • alangato


    I really think you guys should ask Morishita about what will happen with some GungHo games, like if GungHo(GameArts) have plans for Lunar or, especially, Grandia…

    I missed Grandia this gen =´(

      • alangato

        Great Spencer!!

        GungHo stated in another interview that Acquire,Grasshopper and GungHo(GameArts) were doing PS4 games(?), let’s hope it is Grandia 4 hehe.

        Nevertheless, thanks for asking about Lunar at least!! Siliconera seems to be really close to this guy, and that is amazing!

        • We talked to GungHo about Grasshopper too, in fact we saw their “secret” game. Morishita-san also talked a little bit about RPG development too –

          • alangato

            Another awesome interview , Morishita and Suda seems to be a nice team!

            I remember looking at the last part of this interview, when Kazuki said “Making role playing games is a very taxing process. Whether it’s new Grandia or a new Lunar” ,but when he said this I think he was refering to Lunar silver star harmony and Grandia Online(2009~2012)… They really like to make online stuff!! lol

            Thanks Spencer

  • Joseph Steinhilpert

    saw this quite some time ago was like dam puzzle game with rpg elements like pokemon also, sign me up but then saw it was for the phones and shit was like fuck can’t get it now because I don’t own one of those devices but then the talk of 3ds version got me sparked again because hey I got a 3ds and would love to add this game to it when the chance comes.

    I just have natural hate for ios/cell phones I have a home phone thatis good enough for me. and if I want games on the go I got the ds psp and 3ds for that stuff.

    • Suicunesol

      I was like you, once. I had one of them flippin’ cell fones. All it could do was call people. I had pride in my frugality.

      Then I got Android 2 Christmas’s ago. I was like “I ain’t gonna become one of them phone addicts. I’m a real man.” But before I knew it, I became a convert. Dat thing’s bomb-diggity. Maps. Memos. Music. Videos. Siliconera on the go. No can do without it, games or no! No minute is left unwasted with my phone in my jeans. Waiting for my burger and fries? Check Siliconera. At a red light? Check Siliconera. In a boring lecture? Check Siliconera.

      Going out without my Android is like going out without a sword. It’s just dangerous to go alone.

      • dragoon_slayer12

        I know what you mean. When I got my 1st cell in 05,i only needed the walkie walkie for my peoples, calls for work, fuck Web and games. Then I got a palm Centro 3 years later, and I was spoiled ever since. Web AND music, in one device, that fits in your pocket!!?? I didn’t start texting till 09 (thought it was dumb, lazy, and inefficient unless you needed to get a quick message through like”wwhat’s for dinner”), now, I can’t stand to hear other voices unless their in the same room. I lovemy android (fuck apple) bbecause of its (originally complex) ease of use and all its multifaceted features, BUT, it’s not a gaming device in my eyes, and never will be unless there’s a 2ghz quad core device with a full gamepad

  • vin2pro

    I love the mobile game. Can’t wait to play the 3DS Z version!

  • michel

    This is the power of 3DS: when an interesting game comes out in Japan, no matter what, it comes out for the western market as well. I wish Sony handhelds were just as blessed, but the Final Fantasy Type-0 case has been an unforgettable harsh lesson…

  • gamerdude

    I know I’m pretty down on mobile stuff usually but this one actually looks really cool since I’m a huge bejeweled 3 fan.

    • Ah, but that’s the beauty of it! If is NOT like any Bejeweled clone out there! This game’s puzzle aspect plays more like a sliding puzzle mixed with match-three mechanics! Think “Puzzle League with 8-directional tile movement”!

      Although, it is funny when you think about it. Monster Capturing, RPG Elements, “Puzzle League-like” gameplay (with very similar-looking tile design). It makes me think: “What if Nintendo did this before GungHo?

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