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How Big is Japan’s Social Gaming Market?


I regularly get asked how big Japan’s market for social games (deployed on GREE, Mobage, Mixi etc.) actually is. The short answer is it depends on who you ask – and you should be careful which numbers to rely on.

Let’s just look at 3 sources:

1) Japanese government

In July last year, the Japanese  Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications published a report [PDF] on the country’s market for mobile content and services.

The report doesn’t mention social games per se and ignores the (relatively small) domestic market for PC-based social games. It does say, however that the mobile games market (social and non-social) in Japan was worth 88.4 billion yen ($1 billion) in 2009.

The ministry also reports that the market for virtual items in mobile games and social networks grew 185% to $508 million in 2009 (year-on-year). By way of comparison: In 2007, virtual items accounted for just $68 million of the mobile content business.

2) Seed Planning

In December, I reported on numbers coming from market research firm Seed Planning in December. To recap, Seed Planning says sales in Japan’s social game market are worth $1.46 billion in 2010, with virtual items accounting for $1.2 billion (rest through ads). Seed Planning expects sales to grow 49.3% in 2011 year on year.

3) Yano Research

According to market research firm Yano, the social game market in Japan was worth $406 million in 2009. Yano expects it to more than double to $900 million in fiscal 2010 before reaching $1.4 billion in 2011:

As you can see, the numbers differ widely (there are other sources suggesting other numbers).

That’s one problem.

The other point I really don’t get is why these numbers are that low, seeing that DeNA alone makes $1.3 billion a year, largely with mobile social games. Without even mentioning what GREE and Mixi generate with social games, shouldn’t all the numbers listed up above be much, much higher?

Serkan Toto About Serkan Toto
I am the CEO & Founder of Kantan Games, Inc., a Tokyo-based game industry consultancy focused on the Japanese market. Please subscribe to updates on this site via RSS or Email.