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Demystifying Japan: What Pitfalls And Chances Does The World's Biggest Mobile Game Market Market Offer? (Casual Connect Asia 2015)


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This is a presentation I gave during Casual Connect Asia 2015 in Singapore.

Published in: Technology

Demystifying Japan: What Pitfalls And Chances Does The World's Biggest Mobile Game Market Market Offer? (Casual Connect Asia 2015)

  1. 1. Demystifying Japan: What Pitfalls And Chances Does The World’s Biggest Game Market Offer? - by Dr. Serkan Toto (
  2. 2. About Me • CEO of Tokyo-based game consultancy “Kantan Games Inc.” • based in Japan since 2004 • MBA and PhD in economics • hardcore gamer for 30+ years • Japan contributor for from 2008-2012 • advisor to various game makers in the US, Europe and Asia
  3. 3. My Website On Japan’s Gaming Industry -
  4. 4. Quick Status Quo Of Japan’s Mobile Game Market In 2015
  5. 5. Mobile Gaming In Japan: Fragmented Landscape • about 500-700 mobile game providers in Japan • Japan only: roughly 40 are listed, 6 are large-cap • 20+ game platform providers (all mobile) operated by a range of companies covering the entire spectrum (incl. adult content) • 3 companies as platform and game provider hybrids: GREE, DeNA and LINE • iOS is extremely popular, Android fragmentation doesn’t exist (Google Play is dominant)
  6. 6. Japan’s Mobile Game Ecosystem
  7. 7. Mobile Gaming In Japan: Top 5 Myths
  8. 8. Myth 1: “Japan Is Not That Much Different From Korea Or China”
  9. 9. Reality: Definitely Not True
  10. 10. Reality: Definitely Not True
  11. 11. Reality: Definitely Not True
  12. 12. Myth 2: “Japan Is The World’s Most Lucrative Mobile Game Market”
  13. 13. Reality: Generally True
  14. 14. Reality: Generally True
  15. 15. Reality: Generally True
  16. 16. Beware Of The Duopoly
  17. 17. Beware Of The Duopoly
  18. 18. Myth 3: “Japan’s Mobile Gamers Spend The Most Money In The World”
  19. 19. Reality: Definitely True
  20. 20. Reality: Definitely True
  21. 21. Reality: Definitely True
  22. 22. Beware: ARPPU Is Not Evenly Distributed
  23. 23. Myth 4: “Our Games Work Well In The US, So We’ll Also Win In Japan”
  24. 24. Number Of Foreign-Made Titles In Japan’s Top 100 Selling Video Games Between 2001 and 2013 0
  25. 25. Reality: Definitely, Definitely Not True
  26. 26. Reality: Definitely, Definitely Not True
  27. 27. Reality: Definitely, Definitely Not True
  28. 28. Reality: Definitely, Definitely Not True
  29. 29. Foreign Game Makers Active In Japan With Their Own Offices • Supercell (Finland) • King (UK) • Gameloft (France) • Gamevil/Com2uS (South Korea) • Happy Elements (China) • Wooga (Germany) • Goodgame Studios (Germany) • Tencent (China) • EA/Playfish (USA) • Rovio (Finland) • Rekoo (China) • 6Waves (Hong Kong) • Playtika (Israel) • Wargaming (Belarus)
  30. 30. Myth 5: “Localization Is Key In Japan”
  31. 31. Reality: True - To Some Extent • Candy Crush, Clash Of Clans, Game Of War: these top apps are identical worldwide and in Japan (apart from Japanese text) • no real localization made: no changes in design/sound/UI, no special Japan-only live operations or events, no country-specific monetization techniques, etc. in these specific apps • “localization” outside the content (customer support, marketing, community management) should be handled the Japanese way • warning: adding samurais or characters that “look a bit more Japanese” to boost sales will most certainly backfire
  32. 32. Mobile Gaming In Japan: Chances (For Smaller Developers)
  33. 33. Potential For Smaller Makers In Japan • Japan is one of the hardest mobile game markets to break into worldwide • even bigger developers (domestic ones included) have a hard time generating significant sales • if you don’t have a huge marketing budget (Machine Zone, Supercell, King), only enter if you have: • a great game based on an innovative core concept and/or with high production value and/or targeting a specific niche • a local partner/publisher • monetization techniques generating reasonable sales even with low user numbers
  34. 34. Niches Suitable For Foreign Mobile Game Makers • core games (RPGs, strategy) • games targeted at children • games targeted at female users • edutainment • casino • etc. and Do consider Android in Japan, also for paid content!
  35. 35. Potential Partners For Smaller Makers (Past And Present)
  36. 36. • certain Japanese game makers are or have been relatively open to partnerships with foreign game developers, i.e. • KLab • Colopl • gumi • DeNA, GREE • other options for marketing and distribution include: • features by Apple or Google • “alternative” platforms (see slide above) such as Mobage, GREE, LINE • the telco app stores (even Rakuten has an Android app store now) • app subscription plans such as KDDI’s Smart Pass or NTT Docomo’s Sugotoku Potential Partners For Smaller Makers (Past And Present) (2)
  37. 37. Thank you for listening! • Twitter: @serkantoto • LinkedIn: • Email: serkan AT