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Konami president: Android, Windows phones 'not good enough' for games

Mark Milian
Konami President Shinji Hirano talks of social gaming that spans mobile and console platforms.
Konami President Shinji Hirano talks of social gaming that spans mobile and console platforms.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Android, Windows Phone 7 lack sufficient app-store models, Konami's president says
  • Konami sees social-network-enabled games as a major shift for the industry
  • Connecting games on various platforms together is a huge opportunity, Konami says
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San Francisco, California (CNN) -- Konami is aiming to make its games available on every platform, especially on phones, and to let those games network together.

But for now, President Shinji Hirano is waiting for Google and Microsoft to improve their smartphone platforms before Konami devotes significant resources into development for them.

The Japanese game company is one of the top developers and publishers of console games. Konami puts out the international hit "Pro Evolution Soccer" annually and nurtures popular franchises such as "Contra," "Metal Gear" and "Silent Hill."

Konami is in the midst of shifting its strategy, as is the case with many other big-budget game studios. A crucial part of that plan involves cranking out simpler games that can be played on phones and websites, often for free.

A year ago, Electronic Arts acquired Playfish, which makes free social games. This year Disney bought Playdom, a similar game developer.

Adding social networking features to Konami's games is "the first step that we have to go in," Hirano told CNN last week. "And it's going to be big."

"I think people's demands are changing," Hirano said. "Social networks like Facebook bring users to expect more communication through the product."

That trend has been happening for some time in Japan, and Konami has already begun deploying it here in the U.S.

"Def Jam Rapstar," a hip-hop-themed karoke game, lets players record themselves using Microsoft's Kinect camera for Xbox 360 and post their videos on Facebook. Likewise, a new "Dance Dance Revolution" game for Sony's PlayStation 3 lets players record and edit videos for uploading to Facebook or YouTube.

"That kind of thing is a first trial," Hirano said. For future titles, Konami will always be seeking to establish this type of social network integration, he said.

Connecting multiple games related to one franchise together is the next move. So you might have a version of "Metal Gear Solid" on the Xbox 360 and another on your iPhone, where actions you take in one, like unlocking codes, can affect the other.

As for the future of mobile gaming, Hirano predicts major potential for the iPhone, Android phones and the dozens of tablet computers slated for next year.

But Apple's system and the infrastructure for its App Store has the clear edge on smartphone competitors in the gaming arena, he said.

"Only iTunes is a successful application for the users," Hirano said. "Users can trust iTunes."

The digital retailers and the apps that developers are able to create for Google's Android or Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 are "not good enough at this moment," he added.

"People cannot have easy access to buy the content" on those platforms, Hirano said. "So once we see a solution with that application, I think all of the platforms have the potential to be successful."

Apple's store is the ideal model, Hirano said. The App Store provides an easy mechanism for payment, which can extend to in-app purchases. Also, the iPhone and iPod Touch hardware available is consistent, so developers are assured their games will run correctly.

Rovio Mobile, maker of one of the wildly popular mobile game "Angry Birds," said on Thursday that it will release a "lightweight" version of its flagship game optimized for older and less capable Android phones. A one-size-fits-all model proved to be an insurmountable challenge, Rovio said.

Hirano's affinity for Apple is shared by Hideo Kojima, the creator of the "Metal Gear" series who achieves a sort of celebrity status in Japan. Kojima's team even coded a virtual iPod into the "Metal Gear Solid 4" game for PlayStation 3, which the protagonist can equip throughout his adventure.

"It was really fun working with Apple," Konami's Aki Saito, who established relationships with the gadget maker, said in the game's podcast. "Mr. Kojima is a great Apple fan."

For Windows Phone 7, Konami released two games at launch based on the "Castlevania" and "Frogger" franchises. Konami makes games for the Xbox 360, but it's waiting to ramp up production there until seeing how Microsoft connects the console to its new smartphone platform. Microsoft says there's an infrastructure in place to do so.

Konami makes a few games for Android and for a 3-D operating system based on Android, which is popular in Japan. Google seems poised to put all the pieces in place to create a platform that will be more attractive to game makers next year, Hirano said.

[TECH: NEWSPULSE]

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