Japan: How The Gaming Culture Has Shaped the Nation

The first computer game was developed in 1962 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. Yet, gaming as we know it now was born in 1970s Japan. During this period, Japanese video game firms began releasing games that would go on to rule the world, such as Space Invaders, Super Mario, and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Not only have these games contributed to the global appeal of video games, but they have also transformed Japan into a video game-loving nation. By 2023, there will be approximately 75 million people in Japan who identify as gamers. There are casual amateurs who play video games to unwind, but there are also a large number of professionals. Actually, Japanese eSports players are among the greatest in the world, known for their amazing dedication to gaming, which may have roots in the Japanese idea of “otaku.”

Japanese Video Game “Otaku”

The term “otaku” refers to those who are completely obsessed with anything, whether it’s a hobby or a career. It essentially means becoming addicted to an activity in a positive way. In Japan, being called an “otaku” signifies being recognized for your dedication. This term also implies that your hard work has culminated in a respectable understanding of the subject.

In the past, this term was frequently used to describe athletes and artists, but in the twenty-first century, it is frequently used to characterize avid gamers. As a result, if you’re a gaming otaku, your peers respect and support you. This title allows you to go all-in on your passion and become a part of the community without being deemed odd. As a result, gamers in Japan frequently dress and act like characters from video games.

Video Game Industry Powering Japanese Economy Since the 1970s

Video games have had a significant impact on Japanese fashion, but they have also influenced their purchasing habits. Consumers in Japan spend a lot of money on video game subscriptions and gaming systems like the Sony PlayStation. All of this has contributed to Japan’s video gaming sector posting remarkable revenue figures.

With reported sales of $22.9 billion in 2023, Japan is ranked third in the world for gaming revenues. To put this in context, Japan accounts for more than 15% of total video game revenue worldwide. It is indeed impressive, but it was considerably higher two decades ago. Japanese companies controlled half of the worldwide video game industry in 2002.

Japanese Gamers Going Mobile

Japanese people were infatuated with arcades in the early days of gaming. Then their affection shifted to home consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NEC). In the 2010s, handheld game consoles such as the Nintendo Switch took dominance. These devices, together with mobile phones, now govern the gaming sector in Japan. The fact that mobile gaming generates more than half of the industry’s revenue attests to this.

Japanese gamers spend more time playing mobile games than players from any other country in the world. Plus, a significant percentage of them also play Japanese online casino games, and that number is bound to go higher if (or should we say “when”) the country regulates this market. Until that happens, the favorite pastime of Japanese mobile users is almost certainly going to be Pokemon. The mobile games from the Pokemon franchise keep topping the charts in this country.

Japan’s Love for Pokemon Showing No Signs of Subsiding Anytime Soon

Two of the top three highest-selling video games in 2022 in Japan were games from the Pokemon franchise. The titles in question are Pokemon Scarlet/Violet and Pokemon Legends: Arceus. The two sold more than 4.6 million copies last year and are on the way to repeating the same in 2023. This goes especially for Pokemon Scarlet/Violet which started the year as a bestseller in January, with nearly 450,000 sold copies in Japan.

Then, there’s Pokemon GO, which still remains one of the top smartphone games in Japan some seven years after its initial release. This media franchise is the one that’s had the biggest impact on the nation. The evidence is that a huge number of Pokemon-inspired films, TV shows, and manga series were created over the years.

Other games have played their part in shaping the modern culture of Japan as well. Among those is The Legend of Zelda, whose leading character Princess Zelda is one of the most commonly cosplayed characters among female gaming fans in Japan. When it comes to male gamers, their cosplaying favorite is Super Mario.

Final Thoughts 

It is clear that gaming culture has had a significant impact on Japan, influencing the country’s fashion, business, and entire way of life. Japanese video games have contributed to gaming’s global success, with legendary titles such as Space Invaders, Super Mario, and Sonic the Hedgehog achieving international acclaim. The concept of “otaku” has also played an important role in Japan’s gaming culture, allowing people to embrace their enthusiasm for gaming without fear of being judged. While the business has evolved over time, with mobile gaming now dominating the sector, one constant has remained – Japan’s love for Pokemon, which shows no signs of abating anytime soon. The influence of video games on Japanese society is undeniable, making it a fascinating case study for the impact of gaming on culture and society.


  • Carl Fisher

    Owner/Administrator/Editor/Writer/Interviewer/YouTuber - you name it, I do it. I love gaming, horror movies, and all forms of heavy metal and rock. I'm also a Discworld super-fan and love talking all things Terry Pratchett. Do you wanna party? It's party time!