Japan is a fascinating gaming nation to look at, as its way of creating products for its local audience has proven to be very popular around the world, with its companies continuing to dominate in both hardware and software. Right now, the PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch are greatly outselling the Xbox, with games from Japanese studios notoriously becoming must-have titles each year.
Despite having an internet population a mere ninth of the size of the biggest market in the world, China, gaming revenues in Japan almost amount to half that of China. The country’s home market, however, is quite unique to the overseas market, and yet the different trends being established in Japan often go on to become popular elsewhere. So, what trends are currently ruling one of the biggest and most influential gaming markets in the world?
A different view on eSports
The likes of League of Legends, Fortnite, DOTA 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are widely considered to be the biggest eSports in the world, but in Japan, preference goes to the competitive scene of the Street Fighter franchise. Just over a quarter of Japan’s online population watches gaming videos online, with the most regularly watched franchise by the eSports audience being Street Fighter. The classic arcade game’s one-vs-one style makes for some thrilling viewing, in a similar way to combat sports, with the many international and national tournaments commanding huge audiences.
A growing fondness of console gaming
Japan is well-known for its preference of handheld and on-the-go gaming, with the Nintendo DS, Game Boy, and Nintendo 3DS being the three best-selling consoles in the country. The Nintendo Switch was almost certainly developed as a result of Japan’s love of handheld gaming, presenting an option that’s a hybrid of home and handheld gaming to suit all markets. Recently, however, games on the PlayStation 4 have been selling better than ever before, with the first week of sales for the highly-anticipated E3 2018 title, Ghost of Tsushima, surpassing the record recently established by Death Stranding. The new game set during the Mongol invasion of Tsushima even outsold Paper Mario: Origami King, which was made by the ever-popular Nintendo.
Going live with gaming
Just as gamers in Japan enjoy tuning in live to see competitive gamers battle it out, they are increasingly exploring the other ways in which live streaming can offer an immersive gaming experience. The relatively new concept of playing a game in real-time is catching on and expanding rapidly around the world, and now, the live casino with Japanese games is proving to have won over the affections of gamers in the country. The likes of Lightning Roulette, Monopoly Live, Crazy Time, and No Commission Baccarat have all been developed to expand the appeal of the innovative format, with each one giving a different way to play classic and newly-invented games as though the player was sitting at the table in person.
A lack of interest in hyper-casual games
Despite how mobile games are perceived in the west, primarily being hyper-causal creations, in mobile-mad Japan, the hyper-casual titles aren’t anywhere near as popular as they are elsewhere. Instead, localized RPGs and the relatively new genre of battle royale games are leading mobile gaming trends. Fortnite has become a global sensation across all platforms, and yet, the genre of gaming that it’s credited as popularising originated in Japan.
Koushun Takami’s 1999 novel Battle Royale established the theme for the likes of Fortnite and PUBG, and so, the Japanese audience could be considered the perfect judge of what makes the best battle royale game. In Japan, it’s all about Knives Out. The high-octane, Japanese-styled mobile battle royale game is said to have grossed more than Fortnite in 2018, with 80 percent of in-app spending coming from Japan.
Japan is one of the most influential nations in the gaming industry, with its trends and preferences of today potentially leading to future global fads.