Shifting gears: How mixi expanded from mobile games to bicycle racing with TIPSTAR
How do you reinvent entertainment for a completely new audience? For Japanese social network giant mixi, the challenge was to take the successes they’ve had with mobile games like Monster Strike, now with more than over 54 million worldwide users, and apply it to broadcasting Keirin bicycle races.
As Koki Kimura, president of mixi, explains TIPSTAR's vision: “We released the social sports betting app TIPSTAR to provide entertainment in a way that utilizes our IT and communication expertise. By providing an innovative and accessible way to enjoy Keirin, we were able to acquire a wider range of users across our user base. We plan to further expand this service with Google Cloud and expect it to grow even larger.”
Since its launch, TIPSTAR’s original live streamed racing broadcasts—with commentators who offer predictions to inform users’ bets on the races—has successfully expanded interest in the sport to a whole new audience. While traditional Keirin races are typically watched by older men, TIPSTAR was able to reach a broader audience, including women and users in their 20s and 30s. Mixi's insight into their customer base helped generate this new set of users. For the technology that underpins the platform they use to bring their app to users, as with Monster Strike, mixi turned to Google Cloud.
Shifting gears from mobile gaming to live-streamed racing
Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) had been essential to the success of Monster Strike. So it was mixi’s first choice when it was time to start developing TIPSTAR. "I chose Google Cloud from among the many cloud platforms because I wanted to use GKE first and foremost,” says Product Development Group Manager Yoshiteru Kawamata at mixi. This time, their implementation included Cloud Storage, Cloud Logging for log storage and analysis, and BigQuery for data analytics.
“One of the biggest changes I made,” says Kawamata, “was the adoption of Cloud Spanner. The main reason is that it is maintenance-free and eliminates the potential for downtime.”
Spanner offers up to 99.999% availability with zero downtime for planned maintenance and schema changes. It is easy to scale with solutions like adding simple nodes as needed, and even ultimately a lower price point. This meant mixi could let TIPSTAR grow organically, scaling when needed rather than needing to start with a massive growth plan, all while minimizing downtime and other growing pains.
"About six months later I made a big infrastructure update,” says Kawamata. “As a result, my engineers have been able to shift from operating infrastructure to developing new solutions using Spanner and GKE. This made me very happy.”
Crossing the finish line
While smooth development and scalability for future growth were important, mixi had new concerns as part of their new app service, including handling monetary transactions. To ensure that this functionality was secure and user-friendly, mixi turned to Google Cloud's Customer Experience Team and the Premium Support offering for guidance. “As a member of the team, our technical account manager was able to provide us in-depth support, from architecture review to helping us adjust resources from service design to release,” says Kawamata. A named TAM is an included feature of Premium Support and provides customers with relevant information and suggestions as needed.
mixi also continues to take advantage of other Google Cloud resources such as the Advanced Solutions Lab, which teaches teams to apply AI and machine learning through classroom training by certified instructors and hands-on learning via Qwiklabs. With this training and support, mixi is set to continue to chart a path so that TIPSTAR and future mixi projects continue to grow.