Japan: A Changing Scene in one of the World’s Major Gaming Hubs

Our fifth stop in our Big Asia Tour took us to Japan and the magnificent city of Tokyo. Japan has been at the center of gaming for over 30 years, with legendary game designers such as Shigeru Miyamoto, Shinji Makami and Hideo Kojima having a profound influence. Japan is the home to household names such as Nintendo, SEGA, Capcom and Bandai Namco. Every aspect of the game industry has been influenced by Japanese products.

As always, the game industry is evolving world wide and Japan is a powerhouse in the mobile game market through free-to-play games with some of the highest revenues per user on the planet. New Japanese gaming titans such as GREE, DeNA and GungHo are building multinational studio operations changing the long established landscape.

The growth and continued strength of major Japanese game conglomerates has meant that the Indie scene is growing at a slower pace in Japan than in other countries. Developers have preferred to take stable salaried jobs with large studios rather take the plunge and strike out on their own. Culture plays a large part in this, because the companies in Japan have comparatively fewer layoffs than their US counterparts.

Kenji Ohno, Head of IGDA Japan said in an interview with GameFounders, “The professional indie scene in Japan is growing step-by-step. The scene is still fragmented between several centers of development like Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa. But local meetups and events like the IGDA, Tokyo Indie Festival and the Global Gam Jam are giving Japanese indies a way to get together and show each other that it is possible to survive in this unique market.”

One interesting development that we learned is that Virtual Reality could be a real force for indies in Japan. Sony is incubating indies to build products for Project Morpheus as part of their long history of working with indies. Sony understands the value to the ecosystem of the ubiquitous creative independent developer. We will most likely see a great number of VR-indie studios emerge from Japan on the back of the Sony initiative.

Our GameFounders Big Asia Tour event was held in the delightful surroundings of the Jinnan Café. We were honored with amazing speakers including Kenji Ohno of IGDA, Ozan Kocglu of Wargaming.net who also runs local meetup “ Insert Coin” and Siow Aike Wee of MDeC. And of course, Andrew Walker of GameFounders rounded out the evening.

tokyo (800x600)

Local developers came out in force to pitch. They surprised everyone with their innovation and quality. They included Nobumitsu Kobayashi with his new cerebral puzzle game, Akihiko Koseki demonstrating the aptly titled Poo-rider (in costume!) and Chris Strohmann who showed an action combat soccer game. We loved every minute of it.

Our visit to Japan was magical and memorable. We made many new friends and were so fortunate to expand our network of connections. We will come back soon as it’s clear that the Japanese indie scene is filled with great potential. Now on to Bangkok!


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