DeNA Gains Traction in the U.S. With AT&T Social Games Partnership

A week after launching its social network on Android, Japan-based DeNA already has some surprises in the works, including its first carrier partnership in the U.S.

The company said its mobile social network, called Mobage (pronounced mo-bah-gay), will serve as a hub for AT&T Android owners to discover and download new games, post scores to leaderboards and play against others around the world.

Mobage has some catching up to do in order to compete against others, such as Apple’s Game Center on iOS devices, or OpenFeint, which is owned by Japan-based Gree and operates on both iOS and Android.

Mobage was developed by San Francisco-based Ngmoco, which is a subsidiary of DeNA. The agreement is the first between Ngmoco and a U.S. wireless carrier.

The terms of the deal have not been disclosed, so it’s unclear how closely the two will be working together.

In a release, Ted Woodbery, a VP at AT&T Mobility, said its Android customers will gain access to Mobage later this year.

Since the app is currently available in the Android Market, that may mean AT&T will preload it on devices before they ship. Typically, apps that are already loaded on a device end up being used more by subscribers — at least that was the widely held belief back when it was difficult to download apps to feature phones.

The partnership seems to be in contrast with AT&T’s original stance on third-party app stores. For instance, when the Amazon App Store was released, it only allowed users to install programs purchased via the official Android Market.

Since then, it has started to become more lenient, and said it would have to push software updates to the phone to make third-party downloads possible.

Mobage may not have those problems, since it generally refers users to the Android Market to purchase a game before they return to Mobage to play it with others.

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