Card-battle games are very popular in Japan and are a major offering for social game platforms. In the west, the card-battle game is not an alien concept, as shown by the popularity of Pokemon on Gameboy, as well as the Magic, the Gathering and other card-battle games of the same genre. Western social gamers are now slowly getting used to Japanese social games.
Western social gamers are now slowly getting used to Japanese social games. Kids who have played the original Pokemon are now adults and more than willing to play Japanese-style social games and card-battle games. It is fair to say that the former Game Boy users would still play card-battle style games or RPGs on the browser or with smartphones. This market segment goes both ways.
Social games have had a big growth which grew along with Facebook. It can also be said that it helped fuel Facebook’s growth during the past few years. Zynga is one company which had a phenomenal growth due to their social games. It earned more than $317 million during the first quarter of 2012. However, even with a worldwide market, it is still nowhere near the earnings of one of the biggest social gaming company in Japan, GREE which had earnings of $558 million for the same period while catering mainly to the Japanese market.
Lately, GREE and DeNA have been focusing on expanding outside of Japan. With a better model for monetizing their mobile game apps, these Japanese firms should be able to grow even more with new markets, while maintaining their hold on Japan. Even with Western companies trying to penetrate the Japanese market, it is not assured that such efforts would have the same success as local Japanese mobile gaming developers and channels.
If there’s anything to be learned about companies trying to enter the Japanese market, it is safe to say that having a Japanese partner or a distribution channel goes a long way in getting in. However, being a success is a different matter altogether. Zynga has been trying to get into Japan, as well as other countries in Asia, and it seems that they still have a long ways to go before they can compete toe to toe with the Japanese companies.
For smaller companies, partnering with Japanese distribution channels is a much better proposition. Japanese distribution channels are open to representing Western game developers which is a leg up for these smaller players. Additionally, it also helps that Japanese channels are always on the look out for new titles.
Another advantage when working with a partner is the localization and culturization which is required for any app in order to be able to compete in the Japanese market. The additional customization by a third-party (which may or may not be the distribution channel) makes the app more acceptable to consumers.
Unlike in Western countries where anime and manga fanboys live to play untranslated Japanese games, the reverse is not true. Mobile games in Japan are very Japanese. The culture and motifs are not just decorative but play a part in the game design and in the game play.
This is a rigid cultural difference which is slow in changing. It has been a lot easier to change perception and cultural acceptance of things Japanese in the West. Lately, there have have been Western cartoons which have been re-imagined as Japanese-style anime for showing in Japan, even though these same comic characters have a big following in their original western style drawings, the owners thought that an anime-style retelling would make it big in Japan – and they did.
The additional step of culturization and choosing to have a Japanese distribution channel are sound strategies, considering the size of the market and the extent of monetization by Japanese mobile game channels.
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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.