Gaming Around the World: China, Japan, and the West

By Michael Mendis

Here at Gospel & Gaming we interact with people all over the world, people who prefer to play all different kinds of games on all different platforms.  With that in mind, we thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at some of the different gaming habits that are prominent in several regions of the world: the West (North America and Europe), Japan, and China.  This is by no means exhaustive, but should give you an idea of some of a few key differences between the way people game in these parts of the world.

 

Let’s start with North America and Europe, which we’ll call “the West.”  Even though these are two completely different continents, they share a lot of similarities when it comes to gaming.

  • Diversity of Games and Platforms

Gamers in the West hold the most diverse gaming interests in the world (probably due in no small part to the fact that they have the money to partake in just about any type of game).  You will find plenty of people who play games on all types of platforms, from consoles (Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo), to PCs, to mobile devices.  Each of these different types of gaming platforms have large, thriving audiences; no one dominates the market to a degree that endangers the survival of the others.

  • Shooters

Of the many kinds of games you can find in America or Europe, shooter games stand out as an incredibly popular genre in the West that has never gained traction in Japan or China.  First-person shooter franchises like Halo, Call of Duty, and Battlefield regularly climb their way up the sales charts and garner a lot of media attention, and third-person games like Uncharted and Gears of War also perform quite well.

 

Next let’s take a look at Japan, a nation with an incredibly rich gaming history, and a market that has undergone dramatic changes in recent years.

  • Rise of Mobile and PC, Fall of Consoles

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Japan was the epicenter of console gaming.  All the major consoles came from Japan, and many of the best console game developers were based there as well.  But fast forward to 2015, and much has changed.  While Sony still holds some sway with its PlayStation brand, mobile gaming has absolutely exploded in the Land of the Rising Sun, eclipsing just about everything else in the country.   A recent report from Gamesindustry.biz shows how the latest Tokyo Game Show, an annual gaming conference which once boasted a wide variety of console games from across Japan, is now dominated by mobile and free-to-play PC gaming. 

  • Visual Novels

The Visual Novel is a game genre that started in Japan and has gained small, niche followings throughout the world.  Visual Novels are narrative-focused games that often don’t have a whole lot of deep gameplay mechanics (outside of light puzzle solving, in some cases).  Many of these games have an art style similar to Japanese anime cartoons, and are designed as dating simulators where the player must choose the correct dialogue to woo another character.  While Visual Novels don't have particularly large audience outside Japan, elements of the Visual Novel have found their way into a number of more well-known games in other genres, namely RPGs like Fire Emblem and Persona.

 

Finishing this piece is a look at China, a nation whose gaming landscape has been directly affected by its political climate.

  • The Console Ban

For fifteen years (from 2000 to 2014), China’s Ministry of Culture banned consoles from the country in an attempt to keep kids from wasting time or being exposed to violence and pornography.  This kept the major console manufacturers (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) from releasing their best products in China, forcing them to find workarounds (such as Nintendo’s partnership with the Chinese company iQue to release a version of its handheld DS consoles).  Even after the ban was lifted and Microsoft and Sony released their latest consoles in China, the government has only let a handful of games into the country.

  • The Black Market

While the Chinese government kept consoles from being officially released, the vibrant black market in China meant that the biggest consoles were still available to those who were interested.  Even now that the ban has been lifted, the black market for consoles continues to thrive, offering cheaper alternatives to the official product.  Knockoff consoles (often made to look similar to the real thing) are also prevalent, which further complicate marketing for Microsoft and Sony.  Still, consoles failed to gain any real ground in the Chinese market, which has allowed mobile and PC gaming to dominate the gaming landscape, much like it has in Japan.

 

 

References:

http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-07-27/chinese-gamers-have-new-options-will-they-want-them

http://www.cinemablend.com/games/Why-Chinese-Gamers-Aren-t-Buying-PS4-Or-Xbox-One-72972.html

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China_Business/HD07Cb05.html

http://www.engadget.com/2013/01/30/china-console-ban/

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2015-09-18-strong-show-for-sony-but-mobile-rules-at-tgs-2015