In this article, we take a look at the trends underpinning Japan’s gaming industry and the Japan online casino market, highlighting the opportunities for foreign brands to make their mark, edging Japan ever closer to becoming a more globally open marketplace.
How Does Pachinko Fare in Japan’s Gaming Industry?
Within Japan’s gaming industry, Pachinko is king. Even with a slight decrease in popularity over the past few years, the pinball-like pastime netted $190bil in 2018. That’s more than ten times the UK’s entire gaming industry, and this does not even include Japan’s proprietary national lottery or legal betting on sports like horse racing.
Pachinko is not formally classed as gambling and is sometimes dismissed as an industry targeting a forgettable consumer base. As a testament to its popularity, we’ve seen just how eager many patrons have been to get back into Pachinko parlours during the COVID-19 lockdown period, with long queues forming outside, even when it wasn’t necessarily safe or practical to do so. We believe that if the Japanese gaming industry can do so well without gambling even being legalised, then it could certainly do well online, even with the introduction of Integrated Resorts still on the horizon.
Finding the Opportunities in the Japan Online Casino Market
This brings us to the idea that the Japanese gaming industry, particularly the Japan online casino market, is by no means saturated. It will benefit from new blood in the form of non-Japanese brands, which have the luxury of navigating this market in a way that Japanese businesses can’t at this point in time. This is especially the case when we realise that Japan’s national lotto, Takarakuji, only started up its online presence in 2018.
Since Tokyoesque has become involved with this sector, we’ve seen a market which has slowly but surely begun to open itself up to outsiders, pushing the concept of globalisation as a way to benefit and revitalise the industry. We’re also seeing that the mainstream Japanese consumer is curious and ready to engage with this if communications around the topic can truly strike a chord and demonstrate a deep understanding of their needs.
This might seem like obvious advice to marketers and business development executives, but it can be tricky to get things right the further away from your own culture you go. And Japan is pretty far away. Never having been exposed to colonial influence, this island nation was lucky to develop modernity on its own terms. This has meant that for the most part, it’s been difficult to participate in the market if you are not ‘Japanese’. But, as with most things, there are exceptions to this. Success comes about when a company or leader is willing to take the time to learn how best to resonate with Japanese audiences. This is equally as applicable for the Japan online casino market.
Insights on the Japan Online Casino Industry
Over recent years we have seen increased interest from operators across the wider gaming industry – Integrated Resorts, lotto platforms and online casinos — looking towards Japan’s gaming industry as a burgeoning force. As we have gathered insights for land operators not only relating to the thoughts and habits of the Japanese population but also incoming tourists, it has become clear that even in Japan—a nation that seems to be homogenised—audiences are becoming increasingly multi-segmented.
Consider, for example, the tourists, who look to Japan for the trends — both in Asia and more widely abroad. Especially within East Asia, these tourists take Japanese trends and bring them back to their own home markets knowing that:
- if something is credible in Japan, it can be credible at home too; and
- if something is cool in Japan, it can be cool at home too (this is a wide generalisation, but you get the picture — this applies especially to countries like China, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea where Japan’s ‘soft’ power is strong and tourism, up until corona times at least, has been booming).
Combine all this with Japan’s current position in the global spotlight, bolstered by a successful Rugby World Cup 2019, and upcoming events such as the Olympics & Paralympic Games in 2021 and the Osaka World Expo in 2025, an ever-expanding business culture and of course the introduction of Integrated Resorts over the course of the next few years. Things aren’t slowing down any time soon.
Tokyoesque has become increasingly involved in conducting market research for key players in the casino and gaming space, and Founder & CEO Natalie Meyer has delivered a number of seminars on the topic. Her advice is always, as ever, to ask questions: as many as you can think of; and to become as aware as you can about how Japan works and what is happening.
Please contact us to discuss your projects related to entering or expanding in Japan’s gaming industry.