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Japanese innovators set sights on European igaming market

| By iGB Editorial Team
Developers from Japan, spiritual home of the games industry, are now turning their considerable talents to developing a new genre of Millennial-friendly games for the UK and European

Developers from Japan, spiritual home of the games industry, are now turning their considerable talents to developing a new genre of Millennial-friendly games for the UK and European igaming markets, reports Mark McGuinness.

Asia is the world’s largest online games and gambling market. The region has over 4.4 billion people, representing 60% plus of the world’s population.

It is, therefore, no surprise that Japan, birthplace of the modern games console and spiritual home of the games industry, is looking to the UK and Western European igaming vertical for further expansion and dominance.

Who can forget such hit games from the early '80s or '90s such as Mario, Final Fantasy, Zelda, Pokémon, Pac-Man and the Tekken series, a worldwide smash selling over 30 million.

At one point, Japan via corporations such as Sony, makers of PlayStation and Nintendo of the ubiquitous Wii, had more than 50% of the global console market.

While the console market has seen some shrinkage over the years due to growth in PC-based games, digital downloads and mobile, the Japanese games market value is US$10bn and continues to grow.

Indeed, many industry analysts are citing even more, growth and dominance to come in the mobile gaming sector. The analysts' forecast for further expansion is attributed to a mobile-first strategy with a host of new indie games creators and studios coming to prominence in Japan.

Due to this growth in the independent games sector and given the vast amounts of revenue that can be achieved with a successful game franchise, collaboration and consolidation are inevitable.

On the consolidation front, Ganapati plc, a business listed on the ICAP Securities and Derivatives Exchange (ISDX) in the UK, has started this process by bringing some major games development talent into their business under one unified umbrella.

The company is in the process of applying for a UK Gambling Commission licence and is set to become one of the first Japanese exports looking to target the UK and European online gambling vertical with a new genre of games.

An example of the collaboration that mobile games success can bring is that of Monster Strike between Mixi, the Japanese social networking service, and former Capcom executive producer Yoshiki Okamoto. Okamoto, who helped create Street Fighter II, Resident Evil and many others, developed Monster Strike.

In the game, the player battles waves of monsters to collect, fuse and evolve them, while earning gold and other items through gameplay. The game was a success both in Japan and globally, and is one of the world’s biggest grossing mobile games, reportedly making US$4m daily. It is a testament to the importance of Japanese know-how within game development. 

The ‘old guard’ console and games publishers have also embraced mobile distribution. One of Japan’s largest, Nintendo, continues to do deals with mobile publishers to increase their reach. 

One such deal saw Nintendo sign with one of Japan's prominent mobile publishers, DeNA, which owns the Mobage platform, one of the most popular cellphone-gaming platforms in Japan, to distribute its console network services to these platforms, thus further demonstrating the need for mobile distribution of games. 

Game theme and design
As with all games, whether Asian or Western European, it is important to consider the local market and player requirements. This increases the performance of the games. For example, exotic imagery of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and other cultures of the Far East have made for popular game themes and franchises.

This may include games inspired by local folklore, legends and symbolism. This can include fantastical characters, dragon-themes, geishas to martial arts and samurai warriors and much more, and is only limited by the developer's imagination.

With a multi-billion dollar market in the UK and Europe up for grabs in gaming, Yutaka Kounoe, a leading games developer, formerly of Bandai Namco Games Inc, said: “As games become an ever-more-important aspect of igaming operators' product mix and marketing strategy to differentiate themselves, then they should look to the land of the rising sun”.

The games product category is becoming more competitive; it is therefore important that operators select not only games developers with the correct technical skills and distribution networks but those with both local and global game design knowledge and game immersion.

Offering consumers variety, choice and new products is what all good operators aspire to, it enables them to stay one step ahead of the competition.

Japanese games developers such as Ganapati are adept at engaging with the latest technologies at both macro and local levels; they bring a new outlook and much-needed innovation, game design and, in particular, mobile ingenuity to the igaming market.

With brands seeking to differentiate themselves and capture the Millennial generation of gamers and gamblers, such attributes are rare and much in demand.

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