Video Game Culture in Japan

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Posted on December 18, 2014 5:59 pm | Leave your thoughts

Japan became a major exporter of video games during the golden age of arcade games, an era that began with the release of Taito’s Space Invaders in 1978 and ended around the mid-1980s. Following the North American video game crash of 1983, Japan went on to become the most dominant country within the global video game industry after the releasing the Nintendo Entertainment System and third-generation consoles. Japan’s dominance within the industry would continue for the next two decades, up until Microsoft’s Xbox consoles began challenging Sony and Nintendo in the 2000s. Japanese games have been less successful in recent years, even in Japan itself.

Video Game Culture in Japan (80’s & 90’s)

The 1980s were an important decade for the Japanese video game industry and the era of games like Pac-man (1980), Space Invaders (originally released 1978), Donkey Kong (1981), Golf (1984), Tetris (1984), Super Mario Bros. (1985) or the first Zelda game (1986). All these titles had a strong influence on the following development of video games. While arcade games were in the middle of their golden age, Nintendo released it’s Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), reviving interest in home consoles. In the remaining years of the decade, Sega ignites a console war with Nintendo and Nintendo also releases the Game Boy, which would become the best-selling handheld gaming device for the next two-decades.

Video Game Culture in Japan (90’s)

The 1990s were a decade of marked innovation in video gaming. It was a decade of transition from sprite-based graphics to full fledged 3D graphics and it gave rise to several genres of video games. Handheld gaming began to become more popular in Japan as well as in western countries throughout the decade, thanks in part to the release of the Game Boy. Arcade games, although still relatively popular in the early 1990s, begin a decline as home consoles become more common.

Video Game Culture in Japan (Late 90’s Era)

In the late 1990’s more advanced 3D graphics became the new standard and constantly changed the world of video games. Japan brought a lot of innovative new titles with more complex game-play elements and sophisticated story-telling within this important era.

Video Game Culture in Japan (Early 2000’s)

The Early 2000’s were a period of successful 2nd installments of series and internationally popular sequels for the Japanese video game market and with the start of the PlayStation 2 the until today No.1-best-selling video game platform was born.

Video Game Culture in Japan (from 2005 on)

In the recent years the Japanese and western taste in video games differed from each other more and more. Nevertheless, many Japanese developers adjusted their game designs a lot to the western taste. Since then also high-end graphics in the Japanese game industry gradually standardized. With the new generations of game consoles and their online and multimedia features, specials emphasis was placed on these additional features as well as on the social aspect in video gaming.

Ryan’s Rant: My 2 Yen

Japan may not be dominating the video game market like they were in prior decades, but I still think their games are more fun and playable. The Japanese get the fundamentals of what makes games entertaining and don’t try to bog the player down with useless functionality. Studios like Bungie can make first-person shooters that are cool, but the accessibility of those kind of games is limited. On the Subway in Tokyo you will see women, men, young, and old playing video games. The reason for that is that the games are made to be fun for a wider audience and they keep the functionality simple. Japanese video game developers have mastered the art of simplicity with great depth.
– Ryan


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This post was written by Matt Desmond

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