Japan is currently one of the three largest markets for smartphone games. With a long history of video game development and consumption, Japan helped shape today’s home and portable console industries. Influential and wide-reaching pop culture, spanning manga, anime, novels and music, has built a unique ecosystem alongside games. App publishers striving internationally face strong competition here, as the games dominating Japan vary drastically from leading games worldwide.
App Annie is excited to announce the launch of the monthly Japan App Annie Index for Games. This report will provide a detailed look at the major movers in one of the app economy’s fastest-growing markets to help inform your business decisions in the region. To find out what’s hot in Japan in Apps, please check out the Japan App Annie Index for Apps. For more information on global top apps and publishers, see the Worldwide, United States, United Kingdom, China and Russia charts for July.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Technology Behind the Index
- This Month’s Top Performers
- More Movers and Shakers
The information contained in this report was compiled from App Annie Intelligence, the leading market data solution for the app store economy. To see how our app store download and revenue estimates can help guide your critical business decisions, take a tour or request a demo today.
While the Japanese mobile game market is booming, the competition is fierce, with unparalleled volatility and fragmentation.
For LINE (ライン), a mega chat app with 490 million users globally, games are not only a way to monetize, but also powerful tools to engage LINE’s user base. LINE currently is the #1 game publisher by downloads and #2 by revenue, second only to GungHo Online. Its flagship game is LINE: Disney Tsum Tsum (ディズニー ツムツム), a puzzle-matching game licensed by Disney. Players chain together Disney mini-avatars to clear the board. They can also purchase additional characters to add as pieces.
Following in the footsteps of other big game publishers in Japan, LINE launched a TV commercial featuring new Frozen Tsum Tsum characters from July 11-21. The game achieved 20 million worldwide downloads by July 24 and finished at #1 on both iOS’ and Google Play’s monthly download rankings in Japan. Another one of LINE’s casual games, LINE Crocodile Maniac (LINE ワニワニパニック), achieved 1 million downloads in June and launched a gratitude promotion from July 7-15, which may have helped it finish high in July’s download rankings.
LINE has established itself as a clear leader in casual game monetization. However, these casual games frequently have lower average revenue per user. The company’s recent investment in gumi, the developer of hit RPGs Brave Frontier (ブレイブフロンティア) and Sword Chronicle (ソードクロニクル), might indicate that the company is expanding to more complex and hardcore game styles such as strategy and role-playing. Traditional Japanese console developers do not rely on social platforms for distribution. This could potentially be driving LINE to build strategic investments and overseas partnerships to secure additional sources of revenue. LINE plans to launch LINE GAME Global Gateway, a US$100MM investment fund, which will collaborate with independent game developers globally.
In July, Frozen Free Fall and Maleficent Free Fall, two Disney puzzle games with similar gameplay mechanics, finished at #8 and #9 on iOS’s monthly download rankings. Maleficent Free Fall launched on July 2, the same day the movie Maleficent premiered in Japan. Downloads for Maleficent Free Fall peaked in the subsequent two weeks along with a strong performance at the box office, mirroring Frozen’s movie and mobile game success in March.
Maleficent Free Fall has the potential to generate strong returns via three vehicles we see regularly employed by movie studios looking to maximize returns on their IP:
- Direct Revenue -- The title could yield steady returns over time.
- Advertising -- It served as a good piece of marketing for the movie on mobile.
- Long-Term Engagement -- Strong franchises such as Frozen Free Fall can have a much longer lifecycle than the movie, which can prompt user re-engagement with the brand and promote merchandise, theme park activities or even movie sequels.
Dino Hunter: Deadly Shores from Glu finished #5 by downloads across iOS and Google Play despite releasing on July 9. Dino Hunter stands out as the only 3D first-person shooter game in the top 20 games by downloads in Japan -- a space normally dominated by puzzle, role-playing and strategy games.
The Japanese market has always had an appetite for high-quality 3D shooter/action games. Multiple titles from the Monster Hunter series on handheld game consoles have sold tens of millions of copies combined, consistently setting records. For these genres, control responsiveness and game physics define the gaming experience. But these are difficult to fine tune on smartphone platforms due to differing hardware profiles. Dino Hunter: Deadly Shores is Glu’s answer to this challenge.
The White Cat on the Roof
Launched on July 12, COLOPL (コロプラ)’s new role-playing game, The White Cat Project (白猫プロジェクト), finished #6 in Google Play monthly game downloads in Japan. The game’s major innovations include its paw control (ぷにコン) system, city-building and multiplayer. The paw control system uses one-finger (often thumb) gestures to replace virtual sticks and buttons used in earlier action games, providing the same control experience across different screen and hand sizes. City-building aspects increase the content depth of the game by replacing the collectible card aspects prevalent in other games. These simulated cities reflect the relative strength of players, offer in-app purchase opportunities, and set the foundation for social features in future. The White Cat Project is bringing many innovations to the market.
Taiko no Tatsujin RPG dadon! Marches Into the Top 10
Launched on July 3, the iOS-exclusive game Taiko no Tatsujin RPG dadon! (太鼓の達人 RPGだドン!) by BANDAI NAMCO rapidly climbed the download charts in the first week after its release. Taiko no Tatsujin (literally translated as Drum Master) has long been a successful franchise in arcades and on console platforms, with a large fan following in Japan and around the world. The two previous Taiko no Tatsujin iOS games were both simple paid music games with extra songs sold as in-app purchase. This time, BANDAI NAMCO added storylines and added RPG gameplay. This may be a strategic decision to increase its in-app purchase opportunities through both extra songs and other types of virtual items that are typically sold in role-playing games.
Sword Chronicles Provides Another Lift for gumi
Sword Chronicles (ソードクロニクル 世界樹の秘宝) from gumi finished #3 on iOS’ monthly download rankings following its release on July 17 and a massive advertising campaign. Its downloads on Google Play spiked in late May and early June. While the publisher bet on feature phones and HTML5 games in the past, gumi’s financial performance significantly improved after it shifted focus towards native gaming on smartphones. Sword Chronicles may have the potential to become another long-term earner alongside Brave Frontier.
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For those of you also looking for an update on Japan’s top apps outside of games, please check out the Japan App Annie Index for Apps. To keep up-to-date with all the changes at the top of the app and publisher charts, check out the complete set of App Annie Index tables.
- The publisher and app rankings reported in the App Annie Index are based on the download and revenue estimates available through App Annie Intelligence. The daily rank history charts and the home page feature app data are available to all users through App Annie’s app tracker solution, Store Stats.
- While the Index for Games covers games, the Index for Apps provides app tracking on everything but games. Note that the Top Company rankings in the Index for Games are based solely on the publishers’ games downloads and revenue, while the Top Company rankings in the Index for Apps are based on the company’s downloads and revenue from apps excluding games.
- Through September 2013, similar versions of the same app with different names (e.g., STEINS;GATE and STEINS;GATE HD were ranked separately). Effective with October data, similar versions of the same app with different names will be unified (e.g., STEINS;GATE and STEINS;GATE HD are now aggregated and ranked as a single STEINS;GATE unified app).
- Company and unified app rankings in the App Annie Index for Games and Index for Apps are based on individual apps that ranked in the Top 1,000.
- In the first month in which an app becomes unified, its rank change in the Index will compare the unified app that month vs. its highest-ranking individual app in the month prior. As a result, rank changes for newly unified apps may overstate ranking increases from June 2014 to July 2014.
- In the iOS App Store, an app can be categorized under a Primary Category as well as an optional Secondary Category. If an app has a Primary Category of Games and a Secondary Category of Entertainment, it is a candidate to be included in this Index for Games. If the app’s Primary Category is Entertainment and its Secondary Category is Games, then it will not be included in this Index for Games; it is a candidate for the Index for Apps.
- Note that the ranking approach used in the App Annie Index differs from that used in the iOS App Store. In the latter, app rankings for a given category will include all apps whose Primary Category or Secondary Category matches that given category. So an app can appear in the rankings for more than one category within the iOS App Store or in App Annie Store Stats rankings.
- In Google Play, an app can be categorized under only one category, so there is no double-categorization.
- Occasionally, a publisher may decide to shift an existing app from one category to another category. In these cases, the App Annie Index will rank that app based on its categorization in the subsequent month. Given that the App Annie Index has a Games report and an Apps report, the only scenario where an app’s recategorization could shift it from one Index to another is if its category changes from Games to a category other than Games or vice versa.
- In the App Annie Index, all apps and publishers are reported under their parent companies, where available; for example, the Brave Frontier (ブレイブフロンティア) app is reported under its parent company gumi Inc., rather than its direct publisher Alim Ltd. Note that if you view the gumi parent company page on Store Stats, you will see the publishers that roll under the parent company gumi Inc., including Alim Ltd. The Brave Frontier (ブレイブフロンティア) app will be listed under the Alim Ltd publisher page.
- Company and app rankings are based on the App Annie DNA relationships at the time of publications. App Annie DNA relationships are subject to change over time.
- App Annie Index revenue rankings are based on revenue that the iOS App Store and Google Play earned from paid downloads and in-app purchases. They do not include revenue earned from in-app advertising.
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