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Secret strategies behind making money from free mobile games

Top Japanese publishers use psychology, art and big data to get players to pay for digital extras

GungHo, whose Puzzle & Dragons is the world's second-best earning mobile title, taps into social media and real-world events, relying on intuitive techniques honed over a decade of running online games.


A FEW months ago, Yoshiki Watabe, a producer at Japan's DeNA Co, was looking to draw attention for the company's hit mobile game. He introduced a spiky-haired hero armed with an outsized sword - then gave players a mere four days to bring down an evil megacorporation.