As a global leader in the gaming industry, Japan has been instrumental in the development of popular gaming franchises, such as Super Mario, Pokemon, and Final Fantasy, among many others. This research will provide valuable insights for game developers, marketers, and industry stakeholders looking to enter the Japanese gaming market.
Rising to the Top: Japan’s Economy and Market
The economy of Japan is one of the most powerful in the world. Its GDP ranks the third highest worldwide, and its population stands at 126 million people. The country is considered to be wealthy, with high levels of income equality and low unemployment rates. Japan also has an incredibly strong gaming market that grows yearly. Revenue in the Video Games segment is projected to reach $72 billion USD in 2023 (with an annual growth rate of 7.17%). The largest segment is Mobile Games with a market volume of $65.63 billion USD in 2023 — making it one of the largest markets globally.
Japan's robust economy makes it one of the best places in the world for individuals looking to invest in new businesses or take part in existing ones such as the video game industry. With its prosperous GDP, high-quality infrastructure network, and thriving entertainment sector — there’s no doubt that investing in Japanese markets can potentially yield great returns over time if done correctly.
And now, let’s have a look at the gamers community: what are they like?
Demographics in the Gaming Scene
Among the 1,000 questioned Japanese gamers: 54% were male gamers, 43% were women, 1% were nonbinary people, and 2% preferred not to state their gender. The respondents of this research fall between the age of 18 and 77 years old, with an average age of 36. Looking at the income of Japanese gamers, most gamers have an income of 300,000–544,999 JPY ($2,300–$4,200 USD) per month. On average, Japanese gamers live in a household of 3 to 4 people. Regarding their education, more than half of Japanese gamers have a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent (51%).
The Price of Fun: Payment Habits
The amount of money spent on video games in Japan is quite staggering. According to our research, Japanese gamers have spent an average of $1,275 USD on video games throughout the last 12 months.
When it comes to gaming, the Japanese are in a league of their own! Looking at the data from 80.lv’s Heavy Indie Gamers Research from 2022, Japanese gamers spend 3 times as much money annually as heavy indie gamers do, and 6 times more than traditional gamers from the US, UK, and Germany. Clearly, they have an appetite for gaming that knows no bounds!
According to our survey, the majority of Japanese gamers purchase their games from the Nintendo eShop at 49%; the App Store at 35%; followed by the PlayStation Store at 25%. Other popular stores include Steam (11%), Google Play (24%), and Xbox Live (4%).
Marketing Magic: Factors Triggering Sales
When it comes to learning about new releases, gamers have a wide array of sources available. According to this research, the top sources for gamers include gameplay videos/streams (41%), social media (39%), and Google searches (37%). While these three resources are very popular among gamers looking for info on new releases, there are still many other options out there including talking with friends/family (30%), game ads/trailers/websites (29%), gaming review aggregators (24%), gaming news sites/reviewers (21%), digital game stores (18%), retailer websites (14%), gaming threads/forums (10%), and, finally, podcasts (9%).
Gamers around the world have different preferences. While gameplay videos are more popular in Japan (41%), they only account for ¼ of all sources used by gamers worldwide. On top of that, communication with friends and family (18%) as well as keeping tabs on digital game stores (13%) are also key ways in which players stay informed about upcoming releases.
In the past three months, Japanese gamers have been utilizing a wide variety of social media platforms. According to our research, YouTube has seen an impressive 90% usage rate, while Twitter and Instagram follow closely behind with 64% and 52%, respectively.
Japan is a nation of independent spirits and self-starters. They're more likely to blaze their own trails and forge their own unique paths through the world of gaming. 57% of Japanese gamers don't follow any specific gamer or gaming influencer at all.
If you want to follow in the footsteps of Japanese gamers and who they follow, then look first at this list of the top 5. These influencers offer insight into what is trending among Japanese gamers, providing a great way to understand the country’s gaming market.
Exploring the Most Popular Games’ Attributes
It is no secret that Japan has one of the most dedicated gaming communities in the world, and our data supports it. The survey has shown that 68% of gamers in Japan have played AAA titles, 37% have played AA titles, and 34% have played Indie titles. The data indicate a strong preference for AAA games among Japanese gamers. But although fewer people may be playing Indie games, those who do play them tend to play more than others.
Among Japanese gamers, there is a wide variety of game genres being played. According to the survey completed by 80 Level, the most popular genre is Puzzle games at 28%. Music/Rhythm/Singing/Dancing games come in second place with 26.3%, followed by Battle Royale Games and Life/Pet Simulation games both at 25.8%.
Free-to-play games are incredibly popular in Japan. According to our survey, 64% of gamers in Japan prefer free-to-play titles such as League of Legends and Super Smash Bros., while 28% opt for pay-to-play/premium options like PUBG or New World; only 8% choose subscription-based titles like World of Warcraft instead.
The Joys and Drivers of Being a Gamer
With a total of 75.62 million gamers in Japan, and more than half of the country's population considering themselves gamers, wouldn’t it be reasonable to find out what drives the passion for gaming for Japanese gamers?
- tend more towards games being just one of many things they do rather than making it their key personality trait,
- are indifferent when deciding whether to join a team or play on their own,
- don't solely rely on opinions from friends, instead choosing both games that their friends play and those that they don't — highlighting an individualistic attitude,
- prefer cooperative titles over competitive ones,
- believe that cheating ruins the fun for them, while in-game purchases should be limited to items not helpful in winning (i.e. cosmetics only),
- have (shared with other players around the globe) an appreciation for stylized art within video game titles more so than realistic art styles.
It's clear from these results that story is an incredibly powerful aspect when trying to appeal to Japanese consumers. This should be reflected in any game design intended for release on this market! However, don’t ignore the importance of good gameplay mechanics either, nor the art style and graphics quality — both will play a vital role in ensuring maximum reach among the target audience in Japan!