The popularity of gaming continues to grow in Japan, offering a significant opportunity for gaming companies that strive to provide products that meet the highly specific needs of the Japanese market.
Culture is one reason gambling is so popular among Japanese — and enthusiasm for gambling is also well-documented historically. Researchers are convinced that gambling in Japan dates back to the 8th century, long before the opening of the first European casinos. Emperor Tenmu enjoyed playing a game called ban-sugoroku — the game involved dice and was similar to backgammon.
A number of other games were developed during the Meiji period (1862-1912), including the lottery (takarakuji), fukiya (form of darts), shogi (a board game), hanafuda (a card game). Although gambling and related activities are not allowed in Japan, there are a few notable exceptions, including pachinko, horse racing, cycling, motorboat, motorcycle racing, and the lottery.
Pachinko, a pinball-style slot machine game, is a national obsession in Japan — the Japanese pachinko industry takes account for 4% of Japan’s entire GDP. Unlike table games, pachinko is easy to play and does not require special skills.
The goal of this game is to win as many balls as possible, and all players have to do is adjust the speed at which balls are propelled to the top of the machine.
Players cannot exchange balls for cash on the premises due to Japan’s strict gambling laws. Instead, the little steel balls won by gamers can be played again or exchanged for tokens or prizes (anything from cigarettes and chocolates to designer handbags and TVs).
These prizes are then carried off-site to a nearby outlet where they are exchanged for cash.
Sports betting in Japan is currently not permitted, with some special exceptions. As per Japanese law, Japanese citizens are only allowed to bet on horseracing, cycling, motorboat and motorcycle racing.
It is estimated that combined betting revenue on these sports in Japan is around $55 billion.
At the same time, Japan has begun internal discussions with regards to regulating betting on football and baseball, Japan’s two most popular sports.
This move would create one of the largest regulated betting sectors, with a combined sports betting market estimated at more than $65 billion a year.
The Japanese lottery has been around for ages — the first lotteries in Japan are said to date back from the 1630s.
The Japanese lottery is referred to as Takarakuji, which means ‘fortune’ or ‘treasure’ lottery and is divided into different categories.
Some of the most popular Japanese lotteries include scratch cards, Jumbo Lottery, Nenmatsu Jumbo Takarakuji. The lottery tickets can be purchased in specialized points and convenience stores.
Online Gaming in Japan
Land-based gaming in Japan is quite limited due to many factors, including strict and complex gambling rules. Add to this the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic — with the pandemic forcing pachinko parlors and other venues to shut down, online gaming bolstered its appeal.
In fact, the Japanese online gambling industry saw impressive growth rates throughout 2020 — and Japan is increasingly the destination of choice for many European gaming operators.
At the same time, Japanese customers can be very demanding and often have quite different tastes and needs than Western customers.
It is not easy to bring a foreign product to Japan, but if you tailor your product to local culture and trends, the country offers opportunities that are too big to miss.
Yolted offers a portfolio of games, customized to suit consumer tastes in each market we focus on, including Japan. Thanks to our comprehensive industry knowledge and deep understanding of Japanese culture, we are able to create unique games Japanese players can relate to.
We build games that reflect the market, ensuring that cultural sensitivities are accommodated.