Mobile Gaming is Eclipsing Consoles in Japan

Recently, Sony held a State of Play where a bunch of new games was showed off, and the live stream ended with new mobile game entries to the Final Fantasy VII Remake series, The First Soldier, and Ever Crisis. As a Final Fantasy fan, I got really excited and I couldn’t help but think how weird it was that these games were going to mobile platforms.

I thought these games were better off played on consoles or on PC but when I started to delve deeper, I saw just how different Japan’s gaming environment is and realized I made the wrong assumption. Mobile gaming in Japan is gaining ground over console gaming and making huge strides.

Massive Market

For several years now, the most popular devices to play video games on in Japan have been mobile devices with the domestic market expected to reach ¥1.2 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year.

Looking at the global mobile game market, Japan made up 22% of total revenue in the first nine months of 2020 and is the second-largest revenue stream for the App Store and Google Play. Mobile gaming is simply massive in Japan.

Some of the giants include Puzzle & Dragons from GungHo Online Entertainment, Monster Strike from Mixi, Fate/Grand Order from Aniplex, Inc., and Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle from Bandai Namco. Genshin Impact continues to be successful with Japan accounting for about 33% of player spending, ahead of China with 25% and the U.S. with 17%.

Brand in Decline

On the console side, things are interesting. The Nintendo Switch is doing beautifully with the Switch making up 87% of Japanese console sales in 2020. Unfortunately, the Playstation 5 is not seeing those numbers. The Ace Economic Research Institute’s Senior Analyst, Hideki Yasuda, said the PS5 sold around 240,000 units in Japan within its first six weeks– “the lowest in the history of PlayStation home consoles.”

In an article published on Japan Edition, Yasuda concludes with, “Looking at the present situation, in which Sony (SIE) has failed to ship enough PS5s to Japan for the year-end shopping season, we cannot help but be deeply concerned for the future of the PlayStation market in Japan”.

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Perfect Environment

Motoi Okamoto, a video game producer and director with 18 years of experience, provided his opinion as to why mobile games are so successful in Japan. Okamoto says Japanese players are already well accustomed to mobile games ever since the I-mode, a mobile internet service launched in 1999 where users could download and use apps and services. And considering how ubiquitous smartphones are and with many mobile games being free to play, the domination of mobile gaming came naturally.

Okamoto also states that RPGs are the “[kings] of mobile games” with a lot of diversification and that type of game leads to big monetization potential in the form of Gatcha. Okamoto goes so far as to call Gatcha games “avaricious”.

Left Behind

Japanese consumers feel that Sony is now only catering to Western audiences and leaving them behind. Sony’s recent censorship policy and censorship of more risqué games have frustrated Japanese developers to the point of some leaving.

Japanese gamers feel burned about being “sidelined” like when Sony moved its headquarters to San Mateo, California, and when the PS5’s reveal presentation didn’t have a Japanese narration. Japanese gamers might not cause a ruckus on social media but they’ll vote with their wallets instead.

So, what are your thoughts? What’s your favorite mobile game?

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