Japan Mobile Games Market Predictions For 2019


The Japan mobile games market is constantly evolving and it’s our job as a marketing agency to keep you informed. We have made several predictions that have been proved right such as the rise of foreign mobile games in the Japan iOS and Android app stores. We were recently interviewed by our friends at Joypac. You can see the interview here. The interview consisted of 4 different experts in 4 different regions in APAC. We obviously represented the Japan mobile games market and gave our thoughts and predictions for 2019. As some of the answers were cut for space, we’ve included the full, unabridged version below.


Interview With Joypac On Mobile Games Industry


Allison Bilas: What is the hottest market in APAC for mobile gaming and why?

Justin Endo: Japan of course! Average revenue per users (ARPU) is still the highest in the world and it’s the third largest market. You also don’t have the regulatory risk that comes with China. And perhaps most importantly for readers of Pocket Gamer Biz, Japanese are becoming more and more interested in non-Japanese games.


What are the top trends you see in Japan for mobile gaming?

In the past, foreign studios had a hard time competing against the massive Japanese titles. While Puzzle & Dragons, Tsum Tsum, and Monster Strike are still strong in Japan, this past year, you’ve seen several new breakouts. You see Japanese players who are more interested in trying different games (both genre and look and feel). I expect this to continue into 2019.


What predictions do you have for the mobile gaming market in these territories for 2019?

More use of influencers by games studios. Influencer marketing is still in its nascency in Japan and is mostly used by brands. We’ve seen more and more interested in influencer marketing for mobile games as CPIs in Japan are quite high. We expect more and more mobile games to turn to influencer marketing in 2019. Also, I predict we’ll see several non-Japanese studios’ game break into the top 50 grossing consistently.


What frustrates you about the mobile game business in Japan?

Japan is still very traditional. While the dream in the US is to work for a AAA, then eventually quit and start an indie, in Japan the dream is largely to work for a AAA and stay there until retirement. I’d love to see more indie studios in Japan but that is difficult given the environment. However, for foreign indie developers, there’s an opportunity as Japanese players will play indie games but don’t have as many domestic indie titles.


Is there anything that you believe everyone in this industry should be working towards?

Inclusivity and gender equality. Gaming is often seen as a safe haven for gamers but the industry itself has not always reflected that, especially in Eastern companies. It has gotten better but we still have a way to go.


How are mobile gamers in Japan changing in terms of what genres of games they play?

Session gaming on mobile is becoming more popular. Look at Knives Out—if you told me an FPS was going to be in the top 10 grossing in 2018 back in 2017, I’d say you were crazy! Most Japanese games can be played vertically (anecdotally, if you think about it, this makes sense if you’re commuting by train and have to hold a handlebar). However, because of the increased interest in new game genres, we’re seeing increased popularity of horizontal gameplay.


How is the mobile advertising space (both for UA and ad monetization) impacting player preferences in these markets?

User acquisition costs are still quite high in Japan. Finding high-paying users is really important as a result. Monetization in Japan is driven by gacha (loot boxes). There is not as big of a stigma in pay-to-win as there is in the west.

A note about hyper-casual games. Hyper-casual still hasn’t taken off in Japan to the extent it has in the west. However, Japan tends to look towards the west for a lot of its trends, so this may change in the next 6-12 months.


Which app stores are most relevant for game developers in Japan, and why?

In Japan, you can really just focus on iOS App Store and Google Play. Other stores don’t play a major role.


How can game developers be successful in Japan?

Ensure your localization is high quality. However, culturalizing your game is not always necessary depending on the category. If you have a hidden object game, for example, Japanese players are playing it because it’s different and not Japanese.


If you could give advice to Western developers interested in Japan, what would it be?

Win in your home country first, then the US or Europe. As a rule, Japan should be your third market at the earliest. Find a good marketing partner if you can afford to self-publish. If you can’t, it still might be worth having some hard numbers in Japan when you shop your game to publishers so consider running a test campaign (with a partner like Yengage!).



Are you interested in Japan’s mobile games market? Want to ramp up your marketing efforts for your app or game? Email us at info[at]yengage.net or click below!


By: Justin Endo. First Published: January 10, 2019.

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