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Business deals

Japan's Gree taps Bilibili to promote virtual stars in China

Duo aims to combine strengths to expand fan base in both countries

Gree hopes to cater to strong demand in China for Japanese anime and games through a tie-up with Bilibili. (Photo by Yoshino Sakurai)
Gree hopes to cater to strong demand in China for Japanese anime and games through a tie-up with Bilibili. (Photo by Yoshino Sakurai)

TOKYO -- Japanese game maker Gree said Tuesday it will partner with Chinese streaming site Bilibili to develop smartphone games and promote virtual internet celebrities, looking to tap into the large base of Chinese fans of Japanese anime and games.

So-called virtual Youtubers -- animated avatars that appear in videos on platforms like YouTube -- are a growing phenomenon in Japan and starting to take off in China as well. Gree will share content from its virtual Youtuber app with Bilibili's platform. While the videos will still be in Japanese, a translation function will be provided.

"There's strong demand overseas from those who want to enjoy the same content as in Japan," said Gree CEO Yoshikazu Tanaka. Gree wants Bilibili to promote the characters by featuring them in movies and having them appear at events in China.

The two companies will also form a joint game development venture here in December, led by Zhang Feng, Bilibili's vice president of game operations. The size of each company's investment in the venture and the ownership split have not been disclosed.

The venture's first project will be a mobile game planned by prominent Japanese producers, developed in mainland China and distributed in both markets. Gree Senior Vice President Yuta Maeda hopes for a release around 2020.

Gree and Bilibili will also consider translating and distributing games in each other's markets. "The global market of people who like Japanese anime and games is at least as big as the Japanese market, if not bigger," Tanaka said.

Bilibili also sees an opportunity for its games to succeed in Japan, where Chinese smartphone games have gained a following in recent years.

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