News Article

Smartphone Game Market Shows Impressive Growth in Japan

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Nintendo is no doubt watching

We've written on a number of occasions, including on its third anniversary, that the 3DS represents a triumph against shifting trends for Nintendo. Traditionally dominant in the portable gaming space, Nintendo's faced arguably its toughest generation to date with the rise of smart device gaming, itself perhaps stripping away a significant proportion of the sizeable DS 'Touch Generation'. Despite those challenges, a poor start and analysis in 2011 that the portable gaming space was no longer sustainable, Nintendo has — to date — made a success of the 3DS family of systems.

With Japan still a vital market for Nintendo, it will be watching sales and trends in the region. Japanese web firm CyberAgent has been looking into total games market value in Nintendo's homeland and seen it grow in the past two years, with much of that growth driven by smartphone markets.

The overall Japanese game market (hardware and software) increased from 2012 to 2013, though that was driven by the smartphone market; according to these figures non-smart device gaming contributed ¥670.5 billion in 2012, as opposed to ¥556.8 billion in 2013. Not only is the smartphone percentage rising, but the value of the conventional market fell last year.

As you can see in the graph below, meanwhile, the smartphone game market is expected to continue to rise in the coming year, with momentum slowing.

Nintendo has already made clear that it's planning to utilise smart devices — through an app or service — to complement and drive consumers to its hardware. With the 3DS now three years old and with time remaining in the market, it'll face continued challenges from the emerging smartphone game market. It can also be argued, of course, that smartphone gaming is having an impact on the home console scene, which is relatively weak at present in the region.


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User Comments (46)



ikki5 said:

isn't the gaming market as a whole growing overall anyway? So this is is really no suprise



Phantom_R said:

The smartphone market is still split into factions like consoles. For example, there's an awesome Rhythm Thief sequel on the App Store, and I don't have an iOS 6 device... No love for Android.



Action51 said:

Smart phone games will be a huge detriment to gaming.

Nintendo should not move their games onto those platforms, but instead develop a platform that integrates the enigmatic "quality of life" thing to mean: Nintendo makes your smartphone, so you are spared hundreds of crappy free-2-paywall apps in favor of amazing Nintendo games on your phone.

Thus improving your quality of life by sparing you from garbage mobile apps with wonky controls.



cyrus_zuo said:

The 3DS should have RULED last year w/the lineup it had.
It didn't and that is why Nintendo, when they talked about how bad 2013 was talked more about their disappointments w/3DS than w/WiiU (even though WiiU's numbers were terrible).

I love Nintendo, but they're in a hard place. I treasure the games they are making and hope they can keep doing it despite of the struggles of dedicated consoles to be successful.

I worry that their new Quality Of Life approach is very out of touch w/their current market. In the US they are completely unable to sell to adults, and are in fact focusing their advertising on children to sell both the 3DS and WiiU. They've stated they feel they should do well in that demographic.

HOWEVER, the demographic that would be interested in QOL is a TOTALLY different demographic. It's a demographic already well-served and one they have no foothold in. I fear this approach is going to be very difficult.

Still looking forward to each game, and I spend WAY too much on Nintendo games and hardware...I am trying to support them myself to success...but...I recognize the struggles they have fitting between (finding an audience in-between) the phone gamers and shooter fans who buy xboxes.



Ninhau said:

love my ipad and the tons of great games it has (Ascension best portable game ever!!!)... but i really play different games on it than i do on my 3DS XL

theres space for both. if they ever decide they want to jump onto smartphones, then they should do it on a nintendo phone, one that thinks outside the box and is made for the best gaming experience possible



DreamOn said:

Nintendo will have a lot riding on the success of its QOL hardware. If it's not a success... possibly have to downsize to report profits again.



Alucard83 said:

Playing Nintendo games on smartphones just doesn't work! Period! Some people really want to play everything on their smartphone don't they? Control sucks so how the hell can you enjoy the game without a true joystick? Sure you can get a blue tooth joystics to connect to your GSM, but i can use it on my PC as well and on bigger screen.... LOL



retro_player_22 said:

Meh, mobile gaming is trash, it's just a platform with cheap bargain bin shovelware with worst control, worst gameplay, worst battery life, attractive graphics, greedy practice, lack of value, and lack of innovations. I'm glad a company like Nintendo still makes console games physical. Without Nintendo it's either these smartphone crap things, the PC market, or those retro clones (which aren't that great anyways). I hate to live in a world where console is ancient history, no more console means the best part of gaming is gone. Console is the heart of gaming, you destroy consoles, you destroy gaming forever.



XFsWorld said:

Smartphone gaming will never replace handheld or console gaming in my book. The only games I play on my iPhone is Temple Run 2 and Dead Trigger 2.



3MonthBeef said:

Nintendo may be watching but that certainly doesn't mean they'll use that knowledge for the better. They may wind up making a potted plant in retaliation.



AVahne said:

Seems like mobile has a long waybto go before it can appeal to more people. So far, I'm absolutely loving it. Playing Asphalt 8 with a controller is amazing.



ZurrrrBlattTron said:

If Nintendo enters the phone market I'd be horrified for Ninty here's why:

  • Nintendo will HAVE to meet and go beyond modern Smartphone standards this means high quality EVERYTHING
  • The Phone Market is a CRUEL market I'm serious on this one Smartphone companies are cruel Samsung and Apple are known for taking ideas of others and smashing those ideas into their phones if Nintendo brings something new to the table it won't be new for long
    The Public go on YouTube and look at phone reviews or comparisons Etc Many people are VERYYY biased look at ijustine she's has Apple so stuck up her donkey's rear that she can't look at anything non apple let alone give it a decent review same for Android Authority people completely judge their phone purchases off of these biased people who will certainly Flame QOL phones
    more competition Samsung and Apple on one side And Sony and Microsoft on the other? (Technically Sony and Microsoft are on both sides but their phones suck)


AJ_Lethal said:

Even though the mobile market is growing, it's still a unstable, cutthroat ground where you just don't last too long and creativity is sent to drown in a sea of me-toos.



Farmboy74 said:

While I have played some decent games on my iPad, the majority of the mobile market is flooded with freemium apps that are looking to fleece you for more money at every turn.
It's a market in which I turned my back on about a year and a half ago. Call me old fashioned but I'd rather pay the full cost of the game upfront than having to buy 69p - £2 packs just to progress. The worst offenders are the now EA owned Firemint who wanted £69 for an extra car in Real Racing 3.
I know some mobile games have come to the 3DS and Wii U, like Guman Clive and Kung Fu Rabbit, these games have made the transitsion well.



Peach64 said:

I think just looking at the handheld market says it all. Last gen the DS and PSP sell a combined 230 million, and now the gaming market is bigger but the 3DS and Vita are sitting at less than 50 million combined. A big part of that is Vita, but 3DS is also way down on previous Nintendo handhelds despite all those PSP owners not picking up a Vita.



unrandomsam said:

@retro_player_22 Not always at least Double Dragon Trilogy / R-Type / R-Type II / Crazy Taxi (Has the proper music and analog control) / Sonic / Sonic 2 / Raiden Legacy are by far the best on a tablet with a controller. Sonic CD is good but only on the Xperia Play (Cannot turn off the on screen controls otherwise).

Tons of other stuff in the humble android bundles that is pretty decent as well. (Rest of the stuff by those dev's is proper games as well most of the time).

Then there is stuff like 14px that is miles better than it has any right to be.

Anything where instead of a rubbish NES port I can get the Arcade version and am able to use real controls for 50% of the price is obviously the best.



Epona14 said:

@Peach64 Um...but both DS and PSP were around for about 10 years so of course they sold much more than the 3DS and Vita which have been around for only 3 years



Peach64 said:

@Epona14 And the DS alone was on 70 million sales when it was 3 years old, and the PSP was on 40 million like the 3DS is now. There's no way these two handhelds are even going to come close. 3DS sales are dropping sharply this year.

It's not a criticism of Nintendo, they've done a fantastic job, but the handheld market is in trouble.



IronMan28 said:

All of Nintendo's problems would be solved if they went third party. I think we all knew that already.



andrea987 said:

Just make the next ds triple-up as a portable, home console when connected to a tv and a smartphone. Make that as tiny as an iphone, costing half of that, and we're good to go. Oh, and offer digital as well as physical release on sd cards (handy slot on the side of the phone/ds...pds?).



cfgk24 said:

WE need a Nintendophone with a CLOSED Nintendo Ecosystem so it can't be contaminated by Bloatware and freemium crap. It can have Google Maps and Nintendomail We don't really need Twitter and FaceCrook - we just need Miiverse Pro,



cfgk24 said:

Oh Am I wrong in saying the most famous game on Mobile Platform is Flappy Bird - I mean - come on what? Really? Jeez!



unrandomsam said:

Much of the problem is Nintendo's insistence on using cheap and nasty quality. It has always been the case. (Even with the SNES if they had put the SA-1 in as the main CPU all the early stuff with lots of slowdown wouldn't have been a problem).



unrandomsam said:

@cfgk24 If they do it then it will only be the worst bits for the consumer as always. (When they did DLC they didn't do the best bit which is GOTY versions). When they did freemium they didn't do the best type (Like DOTA2).



Manaphy2007 said:

@Ninhau if nintendo wants to make a smart phone then it might bring sales away from 3ds and wii u, mini games would be best as long as it is not canon or a full fledged game, maybe some companion apps that is not required. nintendo is not stupid enough to add mario kart 7 and phones, that would make people not want a 3ds



PachterStation said:

Looking at prices of the 3DS XL in the UK, which can top £250 ($415) with a game (from Nintendo's UK store), handheld gaming is expensive, not forgetting the high price of smart phones. 3DS XL prices around the world are at rip off prices. If Nintendo is bringing in the money, handhelds are here to stay. The 3DS XL and Wii U are on par with each other (price wise). Nintendo's pricing is all to hell.



emiru69 said:

Is it really that impressive? Sure Japan's smartphone went up... but Japan's game market also went up.



unrandomsam said:

@PachterStation I find the situation with the games worse. The Wii U games are almost the same price (For the first week slightly more) but the difference is the 3DS just uses stuff that was already done for the Wii. (Hardly any exceptions - Zelda and 3D Land). Easier than ever as well.



retro_player_22 said:

@Daisaku36 Actually they would be in much bigger hot water had they gone third party and besides they had no reason to go third party anyways. They are still making millions in all their quality software and hardware. Just because mobile sell billions in trash doesn't mean Nintendo had to turn their quality into trash too. I mean just look at last year, Super Mario 3D World, Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Pokemon X & Y, Fire Emblem Awakening and the sales of the 2DS had earn them good profit for the year even though Wii U doesn't sell as good.

This year by promoting Brave Default here in NA scores Nintendo even more dough and that's not even the end of it, when Super Smash Bros. 4 and Mario Kart 8 arrive Nintendo will even earn more to cover for this year too and even after that Nintendo will be promoting Monster Hunter 4 too. Heck Nintendo could even snatch the three Dragon Quest games over there for release here later in the following years too to insured major success for its handheld and if that's not enough they can always rely on a future Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire remake or a Pokemon Grey or Pokemon Z or whatever color/letter they decided to use next for the next gen Pokemon games.



MAN1AC said:

Or finally get their act together with their consoles. The days of relying on their handhelds to make huge profits or make up losses they have in the console market are gone and they need to adjust.



Action51 said:

@MAN1AC - That's the case now, and it was the case for the Gamecube era, but that Wii machine just printed money alongside the DS.



kobashi100 said:

its a problem for nintendo no doubt. Nintendo should not enter the phone market though. competing with Samsung and Apple would be suicidal and be a huge mistake.

I honestly not sure how nintendo reverse the trend. I dont think they can, instead we have to accept that the handheld market has shrunk so nintendo has to lower there forecasts.



gilvelez1 said:

@cyrus_zuo the 3ds did not sell as expected but that doesn't mean it was horrible. To say the best selling system in Japan last year did horrible doesn't sound right...
And this "qol" thing Nintendo will bring is an entirely different market. It won't be games. They are expanding their buisness to have more outlets to make money so they compensate for when their video game branch struggles. I.e., what sony and microsoft do.
Saying they cant sell to adults is ridiculous. The adults are the ones who are buying the systems and games for kids.
They tried to get the hardcore gamer crowd to come over with wiiu but that obviously didn't work.
And you can blame every reason in the book for that one... marketing. . Lack of games.. lack of power.. graphics... third party support... etc.
Eventually Nintendo will catch on like they are starting to do with their online focus. Linking accounts. More games with multiplayer.
Power n graphics will be next..
Then again... with Nintendo who knows



IronMan28 said:

@retro_player_22 your post was well though-out and correct. I, however, was trolling. I completely disagree with the notion that Nintendo needs to go third party. It seems like articles such as this imply Nintendo needs to put content on devices other than its own, which isn't nearly as attractive as it sounds at first. Regardless, I think your post stands on its own as to why Mobile gaming and Nintendo don't mix quite as well as people like to assert.



TheRealThanos said:

If you look at the first graph it just shows that even though there is growth, the difference has stayed more or less the same (around 6000) and the second graph not only shows a significant decline in growth, but also that smart phones are NOT going to win from dedicated handhelds any time soon, especially Nintendo's, so not something to lose a single minute of sleep over, methinks.



LAA said:

Nintendo? Looking at current trends? I don't think so, ha ha.
The news is disappointing though, the once great Japan gaming nation going to mobile... Though it seems Japan is more of a country into portable gaming, so mobile may just be a platform that suits their culture more.
Just hope it doesnt affect Japanese devs making on consoles/PC, a lot of my favourite games are from japanese devs, would be a shame to see them sacrifice their visions for the mobile platform.

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