The mobile gaming industry has experienced tremendous growth globally, captivating millions of users and generating substantial revenue. This article aims to explore and compare the characteristics of the gaming mobile app market in Japan and the US. By examining factors such as user preferences, market trends, popular game genres, and monetization strategies, we can gain valuable insights into the unique dynamics and cultural influences that shape these markets.
Mobile users ratio
When comparing the mobile app markets in Japan and the United States, several key factors emerge. In terms of the ratio of mobile users, both countries boast a high level of smartphone adoption. In 2021, Japan had a market penetration rate of 74%, which is expected to continue rising in the coming years. In the US, approximately 72.7% of adults own a smartphone, highlighting the widespread use of mobile devices in both countries.
Dominant age group
In Japan, the mobile app market is diverse and appeals to users of various age groups. However, the younger demographic, particularly individuals in their late teens to early 30s, tends to be more active in app usage. They are early adopters of new technologies and are more likely to engage with mobile apps for social networking, entertainment, and shopping. In the United States, app usage is prevalent across different age groups, with a significant portion of the population from teenagers to middle-aged adults actively using mobile apps.
Mobile app revenue and in-app purchases
In the US, the mobile app revenue was estimated at $156.2b in 2022. With a CAGR of 19.5%, mobile app revenue is experiencing impressive year-over-year growth, according to Statista.
Japanese consumers have shown a propensity for in-app purchases. Japan consistently ranks among the top countries globally. The United States, for its part, hit $55.9 in IAPs in 2022.
Dominant mobile OS
Examining the market share of mobile operating systems, Apple and Google dominate the mobile app landscape in both Japan and the US. In Japan, these tech giants have a significant presence in the markets for smartphones, mobile operating systems, app stores, and even smartwatches. Similarly, in the US, Apple and Google hold a firm grip on the mobile app market, indicating the strong influence and reach of these companies.
Read our recent study to find out how Japanese mobile users use their phones.
Market figures: Japan vs the US
Popular gaming apps
- 崩壊：スターレイル (Honkai: Star Rail): Honkai Star Rail is an action-packed mobile game where you embark on an epic journey across the galaxy. Taking on the role of a skilled warrior, players fight against formidable enemies using powerful weapons and abilities.
- 原神 (Genshin): Genshin Impact is an exciting open-world action role-playing game (RPG). Players embark on a captivating journey in the fantasy realm of Teyvat, exploring stunning landscapes and encountering various characters. With its vibrant visuals, engaging storyline, and dynamic combat system, Genshin Impact offers thrilling adventures and challenging quests.
- 勝利の女神:NIKKE (Goddess of Victory: Nikke): Goddess of Victory: Nikke is an exciting mobile game where players become a legendary warrior and embark on a heroic quest. Battle fierce monsters, complete challenging quests, and unravel the secrets of a fantastical world.
- プロ野球スピリッツA (Professional Baseball Spirits A): Professional Baseball Spirits A is an immersive and thrilling baseball game that puts players in the shoes of a professional baseball player. With realistic graphics and easy-to-use controls, players can experience the excitement of America’s favorite pastime.
- Fate/Grand Order: Fate/Grand Order is an immersive mobile game where players summon heroic spirits and embark on an epic journey through time. With stunning visuals and engaging gameplay, this game offers a unique blend of RPG and strategy elements.
Japan’s top gaming apps
- Genshin Impact: Genshin Impact is an exciting open-world action role-playing game (RPG). Players embark on a captivating journey in the fantasy realm of Teyvat, exploring stunning landscapes and encountering various characters. With its vibrant visuals, engaging storyline, and dynamic combat system, Genshin Impact offers thrilling adventures and challenging quests.
- Monopoly Go!: Monopoly Go! is a fun and fast-paced digital adaptation of the classic board game. Players can experience the excitement of buying, selling, and trading properties as they move around the virtual game board.
- Call of Duty Mobile: Call of Duty Mobile is a popular shooting game available on mobile devices. Players engage in thrilling multiplayer battles and intense first-person shooter action. With a variety of game modes, weapons, and maps, players can experience the adrenaline rush of combat on the go.
- Roblox: Roblox is a widely played online gaming platform where users can create and play games created by other players. It offers a diverse range of games across various genres and allows players to socialize, customize their avatars, and explore virtual worlds.
- Pokémon GO: Pokémon GO is a popular mobile game where players use their smartphones to catch and battle virtual creatures called Pokémon in real-world locations. It combines augmented reality with the well-known Pokémon characters, providing an engaging and interactive gaming experience.
The USA’s top gaming apps
Popular game genres
The most popular mobile game genres in Japan include role-playing games (RPGs), puzzle games, simulation role-playing games, action games, and quiz games. RPGs are particularly beloved by Japanese gamers, offering immersive storytelling and engaging gameplay. Puzzle games, simulation role-playing games, action games, and quiz games also enjoy significant popularity among Japanese audiences, catering to different preferences and providing unique gaming experiences. These diverse genres reflect the varied tastes and gaming culture in Japan.
In the US, popular mobile game genres include strategy, action/adventure, puzzle, sports, and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). These genres offer diverse experiences and cater to different gaming preferences, providing engaging gameplay on mobile devices.
Popular mobile game genres: Japan vs the US
User behavior and preferences
Japan’s gaming market is characterized by a strong emphasis on social interaction and multiplayer experiences. Many Japanese mobile games incorporate cooperative gameplay and community features, fostering a sense of camaraderie among players.
In the US, competitive gameplay and eSports have gained significant traction, with mobile games often focusing on intense PvP (player vs player) battles and leaderboard rankings.
Multiplayer experience: Japan vs the US
Japan has a unique monetization model known as gacha, which involves in-app purchases for virtual items or characters. This model has proven highly successful in generating revenue, particularly in mobile RPGs and collectible card games.
Japan’s mobile games have the unique concept of gacha, where players can obtain virtual items, characters, or enhancements through a randomized, luck-based system. In gacha-based mobile games, players use in-game currency or real money to purchase virtual items or gacha pulls. These pulls provide a chance to obtain rare or powerful characters, items, or upgrades. The items obtained are typically randomized, meaning players have limited control over what they receive. This element of chance and uncertainty adds an addictive and collecting aspect to the gameplay.
In the US, freemium models with optional in-app purchases, advertisements, and subscriptions are commonly used to monetize mobile games. However, there is also a growing trend towards premium games with upfront purchase prices and no additional in-app purchases.
Monetization strategies: Japan vs the US
Cultural factors significantly impact the gaming mobile app market in both Japan and the US.
In Japan, the concept of “kawaii” (cuteness) is prevalent, with many mobile games featuring adorable characters and colorful aesthetics. Most of Japan’s mobile games feature anime-inspired characters under the concept of “美少女” (bishōjo), a cute girl character. Most of the characters’ designs are influenced by this popular culture.
The US, on the other hand, often embraces more realistic and immersive graphics, with a focus on cinematic storytelling and visually stunning experiences.
Cultural influences: Japan vs the US
By recognizing user preferences, game genres, and monetization strategies, tailored offerings can be created to engage target audiences effectively. Understanding the cultural influences on the gaming mobile app markets in Japan and the US is crucial for developers and publishers.
The above comparative analysis provides valuable insights into the unique dynamics of these markets, enabling strategic decision-making and the development of captivating mobile games.
If you want to know more about Japan’s mobile scene, be sure to check out our insights on the ASO index.