Recent numbers show PC gaming doubled over three years in Japan and isn't slowing
Console supply constraints and other factors draw some Japanese users towards PCBy Daniel Sims
The big picture: For decades, many have considered the PC game market a niche in Japan --- a country traditionally associated with arcade and console games. While PC is still nowhere near dominant in Japan, recent numbers indicate multiple factors are helping it grow there.
A recent analysis from Japan's Kadokawa ASCII Research Laboratories shows that PC gaming has grown significantly in Japan over the last few years. Mobile is easily the most dominant sector of the market, but PC has seen noticeable changes recently.
From 2018 to 2021, Japan's PC gaming market doubled in size. Between 2015 and 2021, the number of PC gamers in Japan grew by 45 percent from 11 million to 16 million out of a total gaming user base of 22 million. The number of users playing games exclusively on PC also doubled, going from 2.2 million to 4.5 million.
Desktop gaming has long been a niche in Japan, but that wasn't always the case. The country had a diverse market of PC titles in the early 1980s on local home computers like the PC-8801, Sharp X1, or FM-7. Japanese RPGs originated on those platforms before moving to consoles which became dominant in the late 80s and the 90s.
One likely reason some Japanese users recently turned toward PC is the lack of console availability. Final Fantasy XVI will be exclusive to the PlayStation 5 for six months. Japanese fans are begging Square Enix to release it on Steam because, ironically, PS5s are still very hard to get in Japan despite it being Sony's home country. For some, a decent gaming PC (that can double as a work-from-home computer) might be more attainable. In September, Valve said Japan might have the world's fastest-growing PC game market.
Several other factors are also boosting Japan's PC gaming market. Newcomers who took up playing during pandemic lockdowns drifted naturally toward computers. More Japanese console games than ever now receive PC versions. Valve recently improved the Steam client's Japanese support, and native Japanese PC game services like DMM have expanded.
Additionally, some of Japan's most popular mobile games now have PC versions. The country is also more accepting of foreign-made titles, as the top-earning games on Steam in Japan include Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II and Apex Legends. Several recent big-name Japanese gaming hits, like Final Fantasy XIV, have seen initial launches on PC, further pushing the numbers.