I could write a book or two about the differences between social gaming in Japan and elsewhere, but one easy and (hopefully) interesting way to take a high-level look at things is the difference in genres (with the biggest difference being that social gaming in Japan is mainly mobile).
Generally speaking, most genres that are popular in the US, Europe and other places, are popular in Japan, too:
- farming (Rekoo Japan’s Sunshine Ranch, etc.)
- pet-breeding (DeNA’s Aquarium Collection)
- restaurant management (Synphonie’s Boku No Restoran 2)
- city building (Zynga Japan’s Machitsuku)
But there is a number of genres that are very special to Japan or are especially popular over here. Here’s a quick list (all of these titles are available on either DeNA‘s Mobage, Yahoo Mobage, Hangame, Mixi or GREE – or all).
Social horse-racing games (players train horses and jockeys or become managers and run races against other users)
Host and hostess club simulations (players take on the roles of hosts or hostesses)
Example: KLab’s Koi Shite Kyaba Jo on GREE, Mixi, Mobage and Yahoo Mobage (well over 3 million users)
Manga-based social games
Example: Square Enix‘ Gleipnora on Mobage
Social dating and love simulations
Social idol- (star) raising games
Social collectible card games
Example: Konami’s Dragon Collection on GREE
Quite a few games in these genres are actually mashups, for example mixing card-collecting with role-playing elements (i.e. Dragon Collection). Among the listed, card games are – by far – the most popular genre.
Besides these unique genres, there’s also a whole bunch of unique individual titles (that can’t be listed under a specific genre). Examples include Capcom’s survival horror action game Biohazard (Resident Evil) on GREE or Polygon Magic’s “Kabu x Kuwa Battle Masters”, a battle game with insects as the protagonists (on Mobage, pictured below).