Japan is home to some of the biggest names in computer games. In fact, when it comes to console games, the Xbox is the only major non-Japanese brand in the market. Future growth however is moving away from consoles and towards social gaming and mobile gaming applications. With the slowdown in the growth of console games and the increase in the social gaming market, it is expected that social gaming will be the dominant platform by 2015.
When it comes to social gaming, the Japanese statistics are totally different from the rest of the world. For one, the games are mostly home-grown. One reason for this is that it is almost impossible to make inroads in the Japanese market without any localization and culturalization of the apps to make them more “Japanese.”
Localization is not only limited to changing the language to Japanese (Nihonggo), it also means that the graphics should also be changed accordingly by using Japanese place names and posters. Culturalization addresses the issue of being Japanese appropriate. Due to cultural differences, there are some concepts which are uniquely Japanese. A straight translation of the game app might not take into account the Japanese culture in terms of in-game character behavior. Porting social media games to take advantage of localization and culturalization means the difference between guaranteed failure and a fighting chance at the market. In most instances, getting help from a third-party which is experienced in localization and culturalization customization jobs would be the only path even before launching the app in Japan.
In the mobile game market, penetration is also a problem. Besides the same problems with localization and culturalization, there is the issue with the gaming platform. Currently, the Android and iOS platforms have a combined 50 percent of the market for smartphones. The remaining 50 percent is composed of feature phones which are sold only in Japan. This results in more market fragmentation than the rest of the world. Whereas phone buying decision-making in other countries have increasingly gone towards a choice between an Android phone and an iOS device, in Japan, the fragmented market remains as a hurdle. For game developers, this may be a barrier when it comes to selling more games. However, it can also be an opportunity to have a foothold in the Japanese market. The key is to port the games to run on local feature phones. Normally, this would be a daunting task. However, since the developer would also need to reprogram for localization and culturalization issues, overhauling the program would become a one-time cost.
Culturalization does not necessarily mean that the games have to be in genres which are almost exclusively Japanese. It also does not mean that the game has to be anime or manga related. These are different conditions which are uniquely Japanese, but can also be used as hooks for game development.
It can be taken for granted that any developer who would want to enter the Japanese market should also have a partner when as a conduit for promoting, and accepting payment for the apps. These are established companies which have a complete roster of games. Of course, the developer has the option to just license the app to these channels or to be complete partners with them. Licensing the apps would be less of a hassle. The developer only needs to sit back and relax while the money rolls in. For most small companies this may be the ideal approach. For larger companies which have a larger listing of games, and who want to have a larger presence in the Japanese market, they might opt for a more hands-on approach to managing the business.
Japanese gaming is not just a matter of installing a server and selling access to the game. The prudent game developer has to understand the major differences between Japan and the Western approach to mobile and social gaming. Developers have to have a man-on-the-ground for a better understanding of what they should be doing and what they should avoid doing.
Considering that Japanese gaming culture is more pervasive, it is expected that at some point in time, there would be a convergence of these technologies, where all social games would be able to run on mobile devices. Mobile games, running on social media however, has a lesser chance of happening.
Be Part of Our Cloud Conversation
About the Guest Author:
Rodolfo Lentejas, Jr. is a fulltime freelance writer based in Toronto. He is the founder of the PostSckrippt, a growing online writing business dedicated to producing top quality, original and fresh content. To know more about him, please visit www.postsckrippt.ca. Like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.