Japanese Mobile Games Market Overview


Appsflyer recently launched a report, The State of Gaming 2018, that includes some insights into the Japanese mobile games market overview. While focusing a bit on Asia in general, there are 3 key takeaways for us as a Japanese marketing agency who help foreign mobile game studios.


1. Localization Is Important


This is a no-brainer, but Appsflyer says “localization in [Asian] markets is a must.” We have often reiterated this exact sentiment. Whether it’s for in-game or in-app texts, app store optimization, or even your ad copy, it’s important to have high-quality localization in Japan. Without localization, you are fighting an uphill battle in very crowded space.


2. User Acquisition Costs In Japan Is High But So Is Average Revenue


User acquisition costs in Japan for mobile games can be expensive. According to apps who use Appsflyer, it’s the most expensive country to acquire new users for iOS and is the second most expensive behind Korea for Android (which makes sense given the mobile phone landscape of Korea as Samsung and Android are dominant). However, many studios are able to offset these costs because average revenues in Japan are higher. Secondary KPIs such as retention and pay ratio is higher in Japan than almost all countries (actually the highest for many gaming categories). The result is higher revenue in Japan. We see this in market size (still 3rd globally) and in terms of Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). Simply put, Japanese users are more engaged and more likely to spend. We have said this several times but it’s nice to have independent data support our findings.


3. Midcore/Strategy Games Dominate Japan


Called Midcore/Strategy in this report, this category of games we tend to refer to as hardcore games or session games. Role-playing games (RPG) and multiplayer online battle area games (MOBA), and other hardcore games are included in this category. We have stated in previous Pocketgamer interviews that this category still dominates the Japanese mobile games market. Appsflyer confirms this by showing a breakdown and comparison of paid app installs by category by country. I break it down to just the US and Japan.


United States vs. Japan in terms of paid installs for 2018:


Paid installs US Breakdown 2019


Paid installs Japan Breakdown 2019


So what does this mean? Well, Hyper-Casual games in Japan, while growing as a category, make up for only 2% of the paid installs (though keep in mind that this is strictly from paid installs, not organic downloads). Social Casino also only accounts for 2%. The rest of the installs come from casual and Midcore/Strategy games, with Midcore/Strategy accounting for a whopping 61% of paid installs.


So What Next?


While midcore/strategy is dominating, the most interesting portion of the market for many foreign games studios is in the casual category. There has been a significant increase in non-Asian app installs in Asia. Most of this increase in app installs comes from casual games. Appsflyer says this category has increased 160% in terms of installs year over year (compared to only 15% increase for Midcore/Strategy installs and an overall increase in Asian markets of 80%).


This makes sense as it’s easier to localize games with less text. Also, Casual games have more content and are typically higher quality than Hyper Casual games. We expect this category to continue to grow as Japanese players are willing to try new game genres that have fun and engaging content (such as hidden object games).


One caveat regarding this report is that the data only comes from apps that use Appsflyer as their tracking SDK. Many Japanese mobile games use other SDKs, moreso than in western countries (while Appsflyer is popular, there are many games with local, Japanese SDKs and other global ones). However, overall, this report is extremely useful and provides some great insights into the global and Japanese mobile games market.


Interested in improving your mobile game’s performance marketing efforts in Japan? Send us an email at info[at]yengage.net or click below and let’s chat!


For the full report, visit Appsflyer’s State of Gaming 2018.


By: Justin Endo. First Published: January 3, 2019.

Contact Us

Interested in hearing more about what we can do for you? Send your questions to Yengage here or click on the right to fill out a form. We'll get back to you as soon as we can!