Smartphone games taking Japan by storm

Online games are big in Japan – and they’re getting bigger. The smartphone revolution has been more dramatic in Japan than just about anywhere else on earth, and in the process the people who have targeted the hand held games industry are enjoying a rare boom.

Smartphone games

There are estimates that as much as 79% of Japan’s population of 127.6 million will be using smartphones by 2017. To put that in context, the figure for the UK is a more modest 67%. But is not just the bare facts of ownership that are significant. What is every bit as remarkable is the Japanese appetite for the gaming possibilities that smartphones allow.

Providers like are extending the range of gaming opportunities by enabling players to play and win Japanese yen in virtual casino environments. Such high quality internationally backed providers are keen to tap into Japan’s voracious appetite for hand held gaming.

Market intelligence firm CyberZ estimated that Smartphone games generated a massive 5.4 billion yen in spending in 2013, up from 3 billion yen in 2012 – an increase of 178%. Those figures, and the growth they describe, are impressive in their own right but what is equally striking is that the 5.4 billion figure accounted for half of all game-related spending in Japan in the period.

The extent to which the Japanese market has embraced the smartphone revolution becomes even more evident when those figure are seen in a global context. That 5.4 billion equates to something close to a third of all spending on mobile game apps worldwide. If games are big in Japan, it’s fair to say that Japan is huge in the world of games.

Fuelling the Japanese appetite for smartphone gaming is a largely unsatisfied market of online gambling. Casino gambling is not currently permitted in Japan, so the ability to play online is particularly appealing. Sites like 32Red, Spin Palace and The Golden Tiger casino which are able to offer games in Japanese are clearly ideally suited to this rapidly expanding market. The availability of specifically Japanese offerings – such as online pachinko and sports betting on Japanese sports – further add to this specifically national appeal.

It seems that native, app specific, games are beginning to overtake the more stablished console and pc gaming industries. The situation is developing faster than many had anticipated and there is some uncertainty within the games sector in general as to what the future may bring. So much is happening so quickly that analysts are struggling to keep pace.

The same CyberZ report quoted earlier found that whilst the bulk of spending on smartphones in 2012 went on browser-based games, the equation had reversed within the space of just 12 months. CyberZ put the figures at 3.2 billion yen for downloadable apps compared with 2.3 billion yen for browser titles in 2013. The previous year’s figures had been 1.3 billion and 1.7 billion respectively.

Evidently Japan’s gaming ecology is turning wholesale towards the smartphone market. It is an area of tremendous growth and that growth is being derived from cannibalising revenues from other gaming sectors at the same time that it is enjoying an almost unparalleled level of organic expansion. Without a doubt, smartphone games are not only big in Japan, they are getting bigger all the time.

About the author


I am Vishal Gaikar, Engineer, Web Addicted, Living in Maharastra, India. Email Me @

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