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Video gaming in Japan

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Note: This article is mainly about video gaming in Japan. Please see Japan for the country itself.

Japan is a country in Asia.


1970's–early 1980's

Prior to producing video games, Japanese companies like Sega, Taito, Namco and Nintendo were producers of electro-mechanical arcade games. Soon after the video game industry began in the early 1970s, many of these companies turned their attention to producing arcade video games. Japan eventually became a major exporter of video games during the golden age of arcade video games, an era that began with the release of Taito's Space Invaders in 1978 and ended around the mid-1980s.[1][2][3]

Japan's involvement in video games dates back to as early as 1971. According to video game historian Martin Picard: "in 1971, Nintendo had -- even before the marketing of the first home console in the United States -- an alliance with the American pioneer Magnavox to develop and produce optoelectronic guns for the Odyssey (released in 1972), since it was similar to what Nintendo was able to offer in the Japanese toy market in 1970s". The first Japanese arcade video games were released in 1973, Pong clones produced by Taito and Sega, soon followed by original titles, such as Speed Race (1974) and Gun Fight (1975) from Taito's Tomohiro Nishikado; these games were localized by Midway for the North American market. Japan's first home video game console was Epoch's TV Tennis Electrotennis, a wireless home console version of Pong released in September 1975, several months before Atari's own Home Pong. It was followed by the first successful console, Nintendo's Color TV Game, in 1977. Japan's first personal computers for gaming soon appeared, the Sord M200 in 1977 and Sharp MZ-80K in 1978. Eventually, the 1978 arcade release of Space Invaders would mark the first major mainstream breakthrough for video games, both in Japan and North America.[4]


Following the North American video game crash of 1983, Japan went on become the most dominant country within the global video game industry, since the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System and the third-generation of consoles. Japan's dominance within the industry would continue for the next two decades, up until Microsoft's Xbox consoles began challenging Sony and Nintendo in the 2000s.[5][6][7]

In the early 2000s, mobile games had gained mainstream popularity in Japan, years before the United States and Europe. By 2003, a wide variety of mobile games were available on Japanese phones, ranging from puzzle games and virtual pet titles that utilize camera phone technology to 3D games with PlayStation-quality graphics. Older arcade-style games became particularly popular on mobile phones, which were an ideal platform for arcade-style games designed for shorter play sessions.[8] By 2003, Japan had 8.3 million mobile gamers. That same year, 77.8% of Japan’s general public (and 69.2% of women) owned a games machine in their home. [1]

Late 2000's–early 2010's

Although Japanese video games often sell well in Western markets, the reverse is not so in Japan.[9][10][11][12] Foreign games often sell more poorly in Japanese markets due to differences in escapism.[13] However, as detailed below, Japanese games have been becoming much less successful in recent years even in their own country.[14][15][16]

In 2002, the Japanese video game industry made up about 50% of the global retail game market; that share has since shrunk to around 10% by 2010.[17] The shrinkage in retail game market share has been attributed to a growing difference of taste between Japanese and Western audiences,[17][18] and the country's economic recession.[19] Despite declining home console game sales, the overall Japanese gaming industry, as of 2009, is still valued at $20 billion, the largest sector of which are arcade games, which generated more revenue than console games and mobile games combined.[20] The Japanese arcade industry has also been steadily declining, however.[19][21] The domestic arcade market's decline has also been attributed to the country's economic recession.[19]

In recent years, Japanese companies have been criticized for long development times and slow release dates on home video game consoles, their relative lack of third-party game engines, and for being relatively insular to appeal to a global market.[22] Yoichi Wada stated in the Financial Times on April 27, 2009 the Japanese gaming industry of having become a "closed environment" and "almost xenophobic."[23] He also stated: "The lag with the US is very clear. The US games industry was not good in the past but it has now attracted people from the computer [industry] and from Hollywood, which has led to strong growth."[23]

Today, the Japanese game market is largely dominated by mobile games. Japan has had the world's largest mobile game market for the past decade, with mobile games now making up the largest share of the domestic Japanese market, followed by arcade games, then handheld console games, and then home console games.

See also


  1. Boxer, Steve (2012-03-02). Feature: Is Japan's development scene doomed?. Retrieved on 2012-10-01.
  2. Why Japanese Games are Breaking Up With the West from. Retrieved on 2012-10-01.
  3. Japan's older generation turns gamers - CNN. (2012-02-08). Retrieved on 2012-10-01.
  4. Martin Picard (December 2013), The Foundation of Geemu: A Brief History of Early Japanese video games, The International Journal of Computer Game Research 13 (2), Game Studies
  5. "Technology". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-10-01. 
  6. August 26, 2007 1:19PM PDT (2008-04-29). PAX '07: Japanese Gaming Culture 101 - Retrieved on 2012-10-01.
  7. GameSpy: Video Game Culture Clash - Page 1. Retrieved on 2012-10-01.
  8. Hermida, Alfred (28 August 2003). Japan leads mobile game craze. BBC News. Retrieved on 22 September 2011.
  9. "Video games that get lost in translation.". MSNBC. Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  10. "Local heroes take Japanese video games to the world". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  11. "Top game designers going social". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  12. "Japan's gamers are starting to shoot 'em up". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2012-03-03. 
  13. "Gunslinging the Japanese way". Japan Times. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  14. "Inafune: Japanese game industry is not fine". = Destructoid. 2013-04-04. Retrieved 2013-07-28. 
  15. Johnson, Stephen (2010-08-09). "Itagaki: japanese game industry dying". G4tv. Retrieved 2013-07-28. 
  16. Robinson, Martin (2012-10-10). "The truth about Japan: a postcard from the Japanese games industry". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2013-07-28. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Cieslak, Marc (2010-11-04). "Is the Japanese gaming industry in crisis?". BBC. Retrieved 2010-11-06. 
  18. Krotoski, Aleks (2008-10-08). "Tokyo Game Show Day 2: the state of the Japanese industry". Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-11-06. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Market Data. Capcom (October 14, 2011). Retrieved on 14 April 2012.
  20. Sambe, Yukiharu (2009). "Japan’s Arcade Games and Their Technology". Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Entertainment Computing– ICEC 2009 5709: 338. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-04052-8_62. Retrieved 25 January 2012. 
  21. "Space invaders: Seniors take over Japan's arcades". GMA Network. January 11, 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  22. "Why do Japanese developers keep us waiting?". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Square Enix eyes further acquisitions". Financial Times.,Authorised=false.html? Retrieved 2012-01-21. 

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