Insights into 2024 marketing trends for Japanese mobile games

SocialPeta’s report on the insight into 2024 marketing trends for Japanese mobile games.

In the global gaming market, Japan’s mobile gaming market has always maintained its unique position and strong influence. It is estimated that the revenue of Japan’s mobile gaming market in 2023 was close to $14 billion, making it one of the major markets globally.

Japanese domestic game companies, such as Nintendo and Sony, are renowned globally for their popular gaming IPs and high-quality games, driving innovation and development in the gaming industry.

In terms of mobile gaming, BANDAI NAMCO leads the Japanese mobile gaming market foraying into international markets with significantly lucrative IPs like Dragon Ball and One Piece.

However, in recent years, non-Japanese publishers, especially game developers from China, have begun to take increasingly important positions in the Japanese market. For instance, in the first half of 2023, Chinese mobile game developers such as miHoYo and Tencent not only successfully entered the top 10 revenue ranking in the Japanese market but also showed outstanding performance in terms of game download growth.

In response to this trend, SocialPeta has launched  the report on the Insight into 2024 Marketing Trends for Japanese Mobile Games, aimed at assisting in understanding the latest marketing data in the Japanese market. For more information about the report, please click here to download it.

Conservative yet highly distinctive Japanese mobile game marketing

Based on the data from March 2023 to February of this year on SocialPeta, on average, there were approximately 14,600 mobile game advertisers per month in Japan during this period. Among them, 62.23% of advertisers launched new advertising creatives each month, which is 10% lower than the world average.

Japanese mobile game advertisers, on average, released 81 pieces of creatives per month. However, over the past year, the proportion of new creatives for Japanese mobile games each month was less than 30%, significantly lower than the world average. The lowest point was observed in November 2023, with new creatives accounting for only 25.5% of the total. Overall, the Japanese market appears relatively conservative in terms of marketing, with modest overall advertising efforts and slow creative updates.

Therefore, understanding the marketing patterns in the Japanese market and localizing content is crucial for companies looking to expand into Japan. Generally, there are three effective and commonly used marketing formats in Japan: Pre-registration (prior to launch), Collaboration (ongoing), and Anniversary Celebrations (time-based events).

This report also highlights examples of these three marketing formats. Taking collaborations as an example: Collaborative events in Japanese mobile gaming are a popular marketing strategy. They involve cooperation between two or more games or brands to introduce each other’s elements into the games as part of a marketing campaign.

These elements can include characters, stories, themed events, etc. Collaborations are not limited to games; they are also commonly seen in cross-media collaborations between games and anime, movies, popular culture, and other media forms.

Characteristics of Japanese mobile games’ collaborations:

Improve gaming experience: They enrich games’ contents and make them more interesting by introducing other games’ contents and characters.

Cross-industry cooperation: Collaborations with famous animations, films, and other famous works attract fans from other industries.

Market expansion: Collaborations are an effective marketing method for increasing games’ popularity and brand influence.

Interaction between communities: Collaborations improve communication and interaction between gamer communities, increasing gamers’ loyalty.

Through marketing, overseas companies slowly peel open the Japanese market

This report inventoried the download revenue data in the Japanese App Store and Google Play Store over the past six months. Japanese local companies have an absolute advantage in generating revenues. Among the top 10 games by revenue, there was only one game “Genshin Impact” that wasn’t developed by Japanese game companies. And, Chinese companies played a significant role in the Japanese mobile games market, contributing 30% of the top 100 games by revenue.

In terms of downloads, “Merge Watermelon – Fruit Crush” has become a big hit game in the Japanese mobile games market for the last half year.

These types of games have previously evolved from the Chinese mobile gaming market as well. Among the Top 100, Chinese developers account for 27%, which is approaching the 34% share held by Japanese developers. Chinese developers are gradually changing the stagnant landscape of the Japanese mobile gaming market.

In terms of advertising, Chinese developers are making significant efforts in the Japanese market. According to SocialPeta, over the past six months, more than two-thirds of the products among the top 30 mobile game advertisements in Japan came from Chinese developers. The top spot on both iOS and Android platforms is held by the card RPG game “マジックカード (Hero Clash)” published by Bingchuan Network. This game received a significant boost in late December last year, and in January and February 2024, it accumulated over 16,000 unique creatives after deduplication.

Instant games have also become a popular new track for Chinese developers to expand the global market. Among them, one of the most representative products is the mini-game “冒险大作战” (Adventure Odyssey) by 4399. After achieving success in Taiwan, the game entered the game markets of South Korea and Japan in December last year and February this year, respectively.

“キノコ伝説” (Mushroom Legend) is the Japanese version of the game. Its pre-registration advertisement campaign started on January 18, 2024. Twenty days before the official launch of the game on February 2nd, the first wave of major advertising was initiated. According to SocialPeta, this game accumulated over 8,300 unique creatives on both platforms in January and February.

In the creatives, it can be observed that advertisers have made many localization choices to cater to the preferences of the Japanese market. One of the most noticeable strategies is the increased emphasis on image-based creatives. Among the hot image creatives, those that mimic the login interface of Japanese-style RPGs, incorporate AI-driven game upgrade elements, and feature abundant rewards for continuous draws rewards have shown excellent performance.

The full report is over 30 pages, offering the latest marketing insight on the Japanese mobile gaming market. Please click here to download it and access the complete report.

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