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'Puzzle & Dragons' gamers given chance of tournament glory

Developer GungHo moves to attracts new fans with competitive events

Kazuki Morishita, left, president and CEO of GungHo Online Entertainment, appears at a "Puzzle & Dragons" promotional event in Tokyo on Jan. 11.

TOKYO -- Nearly six years since GungHo Online Entertainment's signature "Puzzle & Dragons" game made its debut, it is set for a reboot. GungHo recently unveiled plans to hold esports competitive video gaming events, as well as to publish manga and TV anime centered on the game, nicknamed "Pazudora" in Japan.

GungHo, founded by Taizo Son, younger brother of SoftBank Group Chairman Masayoshi Son, released the first edition of "Puzzle & Dragons" in February 2012. Though the game generated 84.3% of GungHo's sales for the year ended December 2016 at 94.8 billion yen ($856 million), this was about 40% lower than in 2014. The company's move into esports and multimedia is aimed at restoring the shine to the aging game -- and the company's bottom line.

"Esports has become a big market," said GungHo President Kazuki Morishita at a promotional event on Jan. 11. The "Puzzle & Dragons" tournaments will let three levels of players test their skills.

The Challenge Cup, an amateur tournament open to anyone, is part of a two-day gaming event scheduled for February at a large venue near Tokyo. Many gaming companies will be there.

GungHo in October added an online battle mode to "Puzzle & Dragons Radar," a treasure hunting gaming app linked to the original "Pazudora." Qualifying matches will be held online via the "Radar" app, with top-ranked players invited to the February championships. The top three finalists from the Challenge Cup will be certified as professional "Pazudora" players.

The Open Cup will bring together amateurs and pros to battle it out. Three Challenge and Open cups each will be held, with the top finishers advancing to the Champions Cup to be held sometime in 2019.

A new "Puzzle & Dragons" comic book series is also coming out soon in CoroCoro Comic, a monthly manga published by Shogakukan. TV Tokyo will also air a new anime series starting in April that tells the story of a boy who competes in esports.

"Professional game player could be one of most popular jobs among children in the future," said Morishita. "And I would be happy if such children say 'Pazudora' inspired them to become professional gamers." 

GungHo also plans to roll out "Pazudora" toys in April in collaboration with toymaker Tomy

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