One Essential Point To Be Successful In The Japanese App Market

What is the one important point to build a successful campaign in Japan? It is not what you think…

On 07/19/2017 at Pivotal San Francisco, Yengage experienced a huge milestone by hosting the first “Women in Mobile apps and Games.” Thanks to The Expat Woman for planning and organizing. We were able to host around 60 attendees and amazing panelists from Slack, Niantic Labs, TinyCo, and Google Play to talk about from market trends and working in the industry as well as Japanese app market.


Check out the video for a whole panel discussion.

I would like to summarize our presentation from the event regarding culture difference between Japanese app market and the USA. You can find the whole slide deck here.

My presentation goal was one thing: through this presentation, the audience would have ideas how to attack this attractive yet difficult app market.

I gave four apps as examples, two culture uniquenesses, and concluded with our one “Essential Point to be Successful in the Japanese App Market.”


The History of the Gacha System


First of all, I brought up two apps are popular mobile games in Japan Clash Royal and Nyanko Daisakusen in order to explain the “Gacha system”.

Gacha system is a monetization system, especially popular in free-to-play mobile games. The system was born in Japan but works very well in other countries too now. You pay in game currency to get random items. The nature of “Gocha system” is you do not know what you are getting. How could this “Gacha” be one of successful monetization method? It actually goes back to our childhood where we had our original “Gacha” as a physical arcade game. Gacha refers to Gachapon, which is a capsule toy machines like this:





Gacha System


A little fun fact about this “Gachapon” name. “Gachapon” comes from the sound of play this machine. First, you put coins into the machine.  And then you rotate the knob, which sounds “Gacha Gacha”. You get a  capsule. When you open the capsule, the sound is “Pon”. That’s why we call it “Gacha-pon”. You would get from normal things like train straps to funky things like mini headgear for dogs or straps with names of different cuts of meats. You can expect a lot of weird things from “Gachapon”.



The Reason Japanese People Love “Gacha”


People get addicted to it because you keep playing to get the item you want. I remember that I kept spending money on it just because I wanted to get this particular Hello Kitty strap. Some of the items are only able to get from “Gachapon” machine. Like the game app,  Nyanko Daisakusen.


Nyanko Daisakusen is a simulation game that you use characters fight and expand your territories. You can get rare characters by buying Gacha. Since some of them only appear in the limited time, so if you miss it you won’t get them ever.



In conclusion, “Gacha” is not something just came in Japanese mobile games market recently. “Gacha” is a symbol of our youth. In some kind of way, spending on Gacha as a millennial or young adult fulfills our old desire. Because we did not have money to get the character we want back in our childhood, as we grew up we cannot afford now.


“LINE” Or The Most Popular App In The Japanese App Market


As a third app example, I brought up “LINE.”

LINE” is no doubt the most popular and most used app in Japan. “LINE” is the only ranked SNS app in the app ranking. It is used as text, timeline share, and calls. MAU(Monthly Active User) is 66 million, which is close to three times than Facebook 27 million in Japan. The active rate is 96%. Yes, we use “LINE” pretty much every day.

LINE” was not popular in the beginning. It started an emergency messaging app when the 2011 earth quick happened. Since it was similar to other messaging apps, the marketing team came up with the idea of free call service. In order to make money to support the service, they created their own IP characters stickers to sell. The stickers idea was a great hit and set them apart from other competitors. It was similar to Snapchat, starting got popular among high school students and then expanded.

Many brands start making LINE stickers and use them as a branding tool.



We Love Visual Communication


We love communicating with visual things like stickers, however, it is not only in LINE. Before LINE stickers, we had “Emoji”. Emoji has been there for a long time and recently it is popular again. My last app example is “Shimeji”.  This app is recently got popular. It helps you to find the best emoji by typing words. Fun fact with this is the developer is not Japanese. It was actually developed by the largest Chinese search engine Baidu.



LINE stickers and Emoji, Japanese people enjoy visual communication for a long time ago.


One Essential Point To Be Successful In The Japanese App Market


Understand the story behind their habits


I know mobile marketing is 90% of data, but Japanese market is unique. If you understand the story behind the data, you can find very good customer insights that help you to build high engagement campaigns. “Gacha” and “Visual Communication” were good examples of that.


But the easiest way to find the insights is talking to us. You have data and we know the story. I am sure together we can make your app successful in Japan.


Finally, our event was featured by 8BIT/DIGI. Please check out their article for more information.

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