Idle Games in Japan (aka Clickers): Top Grossing Charts

Idle games (aka idlers, clickers, etc) have been gaining traction in the Japanese app store top grossing charts. We look at 3 example idle games in Japan and what it means for the genre.

We have looked at social casino games in Japan both in terms of their success and their top grossing charts. To switch gears a bit, let’s look at a trendy category in western markets, idle games, and look at the top grossing idle games in Japan.


Idol Games vs. Idle Games in Japan


A quick note: while idle games mean clickers, incremental games, etc., Japan is different. Idle games in Japan often are confused with “Idol Games” (アイドルゲーム) as they’re pronounced the same in Japanese. So if you ask a Japanese person about idle games, they may think of these ‘Idol Games,’ which are completely different (and are a completely separate blog post to why they’re popular).

Idol Games in Japan

Not this kind of アイドル game.


In case you’re wondering, this category is called 放置系ゲーム, or “leave it alone” kind of game.


Idle Games on the Top Grossing Games Charts in Japan


For our purposes, let’s focus on the western meaning of idle games. Also, while idle games rely heavily on rewarded video in western markets, Japanese players are more accustomed to spending on in-app purchases (IAP). While the revenue from rewarded video would change revenues and possibly rankings, we’ll ignore for simplicity (and because it is not as big of a factor in Japan).


The first game we come to in the top grossing charts in Japan at $167 is Tap Tap Fish, a Korean clicker that includes a VR element.


Tap Tap Fish - Idle Games in Japan


Definitely a clicker in every meaning of the word, you upgrade your coral to buy more plants and fish which in turn, are used to gain more soft currency. Hard currency can be used for upgrades to increase your idle accumulation of soft currency. The VR element to this game is interesting though I’m not sure how relevant it is to the Japanese market–you can view your aquarium that you’ve upgraded in Google Cardboard.


How The Top Grossing Idle Game In The US Fares In Japan


When we look at the US top grossing chart for the app store, the first idler we come to is Idle Heroes. While not a clicker in the truest sense, there’s is leveling up and progression while you idle or exit the game.


Idle Heroes - Idle Games In Japan


Idle Heroes seems to have hit a respectable top 500 for Japanese games. It’s hard to say but I don’t believe they’re doing anything unique in Japan in terms of user acquisition so this is really surprising (mostly global DSP or Facebook ads). It also is doing significantly better than other idlers such as flaregames’ Nonstop Knight or Kongregate’s AdVenture Capitalist.


Does IP affect the Clicker Genre?


Obviously yes. You might ask, what about our favorite Pokemon? Not Pikachu. I’m talking about Magikarp in Magikarp Jump. While not a true idler, it is largely a clicker for most intents and purposes. How did Magikarp Jump do after it’s launch?


Pokemon Magikarp Jump - Idle Games in Japan


Keep in mind that this is almost purely organic albeit with some heavy brand recognition from Pokemon IP and brand recognition from Pokemon Go. It also is relatively light in terms of monetization. So while it’s been in decline since its launch, it overperformed in many respects and is sitting just outside the top 500 for the Japanese app store.


There was one other big clicker that used IP that launched in the first half of 2017. How did Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire do in Japan?


Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire - Idle Games in Japan


Oh wait, that’s right. Sega didn’t launch their Japanese IP game in Japan!!!! Interestingly, one of the big boys in Japan, Sega, developed their own idle game with their own IP. While it did decently well in the US for a bit, it was not launched in Japan, Korea, nor China. That’s right–Sega launched their first idler everywhere but the 3 largest Eastern Asian markets.


What does this mean?


For clickers/idlers/idle games in Japan, it seems like Japan is starting to warm up to the genre. However, it’s not quite at the level we see in the west. Tap Tap Aquarium has seen significant success in this category as did Magikarp Jump for some time. Idle Heroes has done well but probably could do better with more focused UA in Japan. But it seems that other studios are hesitant to try in Japan. Just look at Sega who is hesitant to introduce their own idler outside of western markets, even though it’s their own IP in their home country.


I’d imagine that these first two games (Tap Tap Aquarium and Magikarp Jump) are played during commutes one handed (while standing on the train) and players would like that you can check in during your breaks at work. The idle mechanic could be fun and find potential as a secondary or casual game.


However, this is still largely an under-tapped (no pun intended) market with the plenty of room to grow. Idle Heroes seems to be trying to make a stab at it combining RPG elements and idle gaming mechanics (though not really a clicker). But I’d imagine that if/when Sega tries to launch Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire in Japan, we may see additional growth in this segment as more players grow accustomed to this style of gameplay and other studios follow suit.



All charts courtesy of App Annie.

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