While the island nation may not be the largest contributor to the gaming industry’s global revenue – with the massive populations of China and the USA taking the lead – Japan is certainly one of the most influential nations.
The trends that help to sell millions of units in Japan have proven to be effective across the world, from specific games to innovative consoles. Yet, Japan doesn’t have a set template for its gamers, with new developments and trends sweeping across the nation’s gamers, further influencing how Japanese companies offer top-class games to international markets.
It’s a bustling gaming scene that’s filled with passionate gamers, allowing it to develop at an incredible rate to bring new innovations to the rest of the world.
Always on top of the game
From the humble beginnings in arcades, Nintendo, Sega, and PlayStation have outlived the competition and remain among the leading names in gaming. In the current generation of console gaming, Nintendo’s Switch and Sony’s PlayStation 4 rule the roost in terms of console units sold and their own game publications. Both consoles have sold well in their native Japan, but have done even better abroad.
The Nintendo Switch is easily the most innovative home console to come to market since the Wii, with its hybrid capabilities and ability to run massive games appealing to just about every type of gamer. The Switch itself spawns from Japan’s preference for handheld gaming, with the Nintendo DS, Game Boy, and Nintendo 3DS remaining the best-selling games hardware of all-time in Japan.
To bridge the gap between Japan and console/PC-focussed foreign markets, Nintendo created the Switch with hybrid playability at its core. However, the company also recognizes the value of its home market, with the need for more cost-effective and portability-focussed Nintendo Switch Consoles needed – hence the Switch Lite. The handheld preferences of Japanese gamers led to the creation of one of the fastest-selling consoles of all-time, with further developments on the horizon.
Influencers on future gaming developments
Mobile gaming makes up a vast portion of the global games industry, and is the dominant force in most regions. Japan, a nation of handheld gamers, was always going to be a major mobile gaming market, with insights showing that over 70 percent of the Japanese online population plays mobile games. The sheer popularity of mobile games and the revenues generated have seen console companies pivot to the space, with the likes of Pokémon Go and Mario Kart Tour.
Now, there’s another relatively new form of gaming coming into the Japanese gaming scene at the same time as the decline of a traditional game of the same sector. For decades, pachinko has famously been Japan’s offbeat gaming obsession, with the gambling machines reeling in trillions of Japanese yen each year. Presently on a four-year decline, new gambling operators have been earning favour in the country, with the likes of William Hill Casino and its offering of hundreds of games, including Age of the Gods, Justice League, and Buffalo Blitz Live, earning a large audience in Japan.
While pachinko was mostly restricted to Japan in its spread, online casino gaming has already established itself elsewhere in the world. The appeal of the online gambling platform – primarily its willingness to explore new and different genres of game themes, may rub off on console game companies, which could, in turn, result in an even more diverse gaming scene. If online casino gaming really takes off, the console companies will look to draw lessons from its rise. Companies like Konami have already started to explore the gaming sector for themselves.
The preferences of Japanese gamers have been major influencers on the global gaming market, with new trends set to guide future developments in video gaming as they have done in the past.