Delving Into the Gaming Titan That is Japan
Japan is home to not one but two of the world’s big three home consoles. In December 1994, Sony launched the PlayStation, later bringing the console to the rest of the world. Much earlier, in 1980, Nintendo broke into video gaming with the handheld Game & Watch, which led to the 1983 Famicom and the reworked NES for foreign markets.
Sony and Nintendo have been dominant forces in console gaming ever since, shrugging off the many other competitors over the decades, with just Microsoft’s Xbox remaining. The nation also boasts many leading game developers, including Nintendo, Square Enix, Capcom, Bandai Namco, and Game Freak.
Games and hardware created in Japan have led the industry across the world, with Sony also making some very well-respected Android phones and tablets that facilitate ever-popular mobile games. While gaming culture in the west is greatly influenced by the creations of Japan, here, we’ll take a look at the preferences of Japanese gamers themselves.
Japan’s console of choice
Much of Asia’s gaming markets, Japan included, have an affinity for handheld gaming. While consoles have been able to claim a segment of the gaming audience, the latest handheld console – often from Nintendo, sometimes from Sony – tends to be atop the sales charts. In fact, the Nintendo DS, Game Boy, and Nintendo 3DS are recorded by VGChartz as being the best-selling pieces of gaming hardware of all time in Japan.
Based on these historical trends, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a hybrid home-handheld console, the Nintendo Switch, is dominating the sales of this generation. It ranks tenth of all time for unit sales in its native land, sitting three places higher than the PlayStation 4. This is despite the Switch being several years the PS4’s junior and the Sony console being, by far, the best selling of this generation. In 2019, the Switch family of consoles was still selling very strongly, with Statista reporting it selling more than triple that of its nearest competitor, the PS4.
Gaming beyond consoles in Japan
Along with video games and gaming consoles, Japan has become a powerhouse for other more storied forms of gaming, too. Pachinko is a colossal business in Japan, with there being over 10,000 pachinko parlors around Japan and over $200 billion spent on the standing gambling machines each year. As noted by Business Insider, that’s 30 times the annual gambling revenue of Las Vegas. The games are simple: you drop small steel balls from the top into optimum scoring holes, like a vertical pinball machine of sorts.
With pachinko having established an almost cultural liking of luck-based gambling games, Japanese businesses have also begun to explore the space of iGaming. The online betting and casino website Japanbet has risen from the game-loving nation, offering an extensive range of the biggest slot games. As slots and pachinko are very similar in nature, performed in single turns and largely luck-based, it’s not surprising that they’ve caught on at the Japanese iGaming platform.
Gaming continues to be a major industry in Japan. The country offers the industry standard and trendsetters to other major gaming nations, and now, some of its businesses are embracing popular gaming mediums from the rest of the world. Of course, iGaming is still young in Japan and unable to rival the likes of video or pachinko gaming. Still, as has been seen in console sales, the country has become more open to gaming formats that are popular abroad.
Japan is currently, and will likely continue to be, the most influential nation in video gaming. Now, it’s expanding its reach into even more forms of modern gaming.