Electronic entertainment has been big business in Japan for decades, but outsiders may not know a lot about the trends and movements that shape the gaming scene in the land of the rising sun.
If you are eager to learn more about what Japanese gamers are playing and where they are getting their dose of interactive action, here is a quick overview of how this pastime stands at the moment.
Arcades are thriving
While arcades may have become almost entirely extinct in western nations, they are still rife in Japan, with almost 5000 official gaming centers still in operation across the country.
From the latest full-3D action titles to the pseudo-gambling fun of pachinko parlors, the arcade gaming ecosystem is not just economically important but also surprisingly diverse in terms of the types of experiences that it offers.
While mobile gaming may generate major revenues in Japan and players can enjoy everything from the latest RPGs to the finest slots games found on sites like Casumo.com, the population density in its urban centers, and the fact that gaming is seen as a social activity help to keep arcades flourishing.
Microsoft is a minnow
In North American and Europe, Microsoft has been a big player in the gaming space ever since the original Xbox launched back in 2001. However, this console family has never managed to get a foothold in Japan and while a tiny handful of consumers still choose to stick with the latest Xbox machine, the market is dominated by domestic brands.
Sony’s PlayStation 4 is the biggest selling console on the block at the moment, with a market share that regularly tops 90 percent in terms of month-on-month sales.
Even Nintendo has to play second fiddle in this contest, showing that Sony has had this niche well and truly sewn up ever since the mid-90s.
Microtransactions make serious money
The free-to-play model that has proven to be a hit globally in recent years is even more impactful in Japan than it is elsewhere, in part because of the aforementioned popularity of mobile gaming.
Players are happy to splash out for cosmetic upgrades, digital items, and minor content bundles incrementally while getting the game free upfront. This explains why titles like Pokemon Go can generate tens of billions of yen each year, in spite of the fact that they do not cost a penny to download.
Fortnite is overlooked
Once again, Japan is happy to buck international trends and take its own path, rather than jumping on the same bandwagon as its contemporaries in other parts of the world when it comes to battle royale games. Fortnite may be a global phenomenon, but in Japan, it is outshone by Knives Out, a game that shares many of the same mechanics and embraces the free-to-play model whole-heartedly.
It is the mobile-first nature of Knives Out which has allowed it to gain serious traction, as well as the fact that it has embraced tie-ins with a wealth of well-known anime franchises to keep players splashing out on add-ons.
Unique genres exist
Japan has a distinctive culture that is looked on with envy and intrigue by many other nations, so it is not surprising to find out that this also extends to their videogames.
The gaming scene is rife with undeniably Japanese experiences, including JRPGs which are quite different from their western equivalents, as well as shooters, puzzle games, and interactive narratives that are not like anything developed in other regions.
In short, if you are looking for something entirely out of the ordinary, check out some of the more obscure Japanese gaming experiences and you will not be disappointed.