A Feel for the Japanese Game Market

The University of Skövde and The Game Incubator visit Japan

By Games Researcher Marcus Toftedahl from the University of Skövde

A big part of the Game Hub Scandinavia project is to understand how our local game development clusters can expand their target audience by understanding new, and for us, underrepresented game markets. We have made numerous research trips to emerging markets such as China and India to meet developers, educators, researchers and business persons related to the game industry.

Thanks to these recurring trips, we have managed to build a respectable network in these regions. One goal for Game Hub Scandinavia 2.0 is to expand our Asian focus by researching and exploring new markets. One region of focus is Japan.

But Japan – isn’t that the cradle of game culture and also the origin of many of the games we are playing today? Nintendo, Konami, Sega – the list of respected Japanese developers is long – how can that be an emerging region?

The Japanese market for indie game developers is different from the West

From what we have seen based on our endeavors to China, a game developer in the global game industry must understand the target market regarding both cultural and technical differences. Both China and Japan are far from us not only geographically but also culturally and technically. Just as is the case of China, the technical infrastructure with app stores and digital storefronts on different platforms is vastly different in Japan.

The big channels which the indie game developers in our local clusters are used to in Scandinavia, such as Steam, are not particularly big in Japan. And in order to understand the Japanese market, we took the opportunity to take a trip there. The Gamehub delegation consisted of Henrik Engström and Marcus Toftedahl from the University of Skövde and Per Micael Nyberg from The Game Incubator at Science Park Skövde.

Attending DiGRA, Kyoto

The purpose of the trip was twofold: to attend the DiGRA (Digital Games Research Association) Conference in Kyoto, held at the Ritsumeikan University Kinugasa campus, and to meet potential business partners in Kyoto and Tokyo.

The first stop was a week in Kyoto, mainly to attend the DiGRA Conference, but also to meet local developers and build connections with the Ritsumeikan University. Henrik Engström and Marcus Toftedahl presented two research papers at the DiGRA conference, both in the game production track. Henrik talked about the gaps in in-game production research, comparing the topics addressed by DiGRA as the premier research conference in games, and GDC as the premier developer conference. Marcus presented a paper on game engines and production pipelines, based on his research on localization in game production.

Connecting with the Japanese industry

Marcus Toftedahl, Henrik Engström, and Per Michael Nyberg visit Tose Software

The other purpose of the trip to Japan was to meet relevant companies and developers, first in Kyoto and later in Tokyo. We had good, fruitful meetings with companies such as Tose Software, Marvelous Entertainment, DMM Games, Worker Bee, and Unties.

We aim to have a continued conversation with both researchers and developers from Japan during the Game Hub Scandinavia project.

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