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Help re: Japanese arcade industry


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Hi guys, I'm not sure where this thread really belongs - so moderators, please feel free to move it if necessary. I have a request for all of you. I'm in the process of working on my master's thesis this semester, and because I have a flexible advisor who is himself obsessed with Japanese pop culture, he's allowed me to write about the Japanese arcade industry, a topic of great personal interest to me.


So far the main idea of my thesis concerns the survival of the Japanese arcade industry and how it has managed to remain sustainable for the past decade (although it is shrinking), while arcades in America are, for the most part, dead. My argument is cultural - that arcades still exist because Japan's culture does not regard video games as an inherently inferior medium, but as a socially acceptable hobby for people of all ages (although the attitude that games are only for children is slowly changing in America as the public realizes the ever-increasing magnitude of the video game industry). The acceptance and scope of "otaku" culture and Japan's rapid integration of technology, particularly technology-mediated communication, have attracted people to arcades much longer than in America. Additionally, innovation and the willingness to invest large amounts of money in hardware and unproven genres, and the economic benefits of interchangeable JAMMA boards in a single cabinet, have also played a large role.


I have a pretty good start in terms of research materials, but I am always looking for more information. I know that some of you have ties to the gaming business and/or access to relevant information, and I would really appreciate your help finding information concerning the game industry in Japan. Specifically, I'm looking for the following:


- Materials regarding the state of the arcade industry in Japan - number of institutions, market trends, etc. (and/or America, for comparison's sake)

- Information about the audiences of arcades in Japan

- Sales figures for game consoles in Japan

- Participant data for online games in the East Asian market - MMORPGs, etc.


If you have ANY suggestions about where I might want to look for such things, I would be truly grateful. Journals, trade publications, market research, websites, anything. I know it might be a stretch, but I just thought I'd ask. Also, even if you don't have any ideas for research, I'd like to hear general suggestions about the topic. I'd be very curious to hear what types of issues you'd like to see addressed. There may be aspects that I had not yet considered, so any input will be helpful as well. Thank you all in advance!

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For Japanese sales data, the best site I know of is Magic Box. For Japanese arcade info, I have no clue unfortunately.


I suspect the industry /isn't/ as well off as it appears, and I know I've read anecdotal interviews with arcade developers that all is not healthy in the niche genres (think topdown shooters) - it's the likes of Sega's big networked 'collectable' games (horse racing, beetle battling) that appear to be dominating the revenue, but are very expensive for arcade operators to install.


You might want to track down a copy of Arcadia, a Japanese monthly magazine dedicated to arcade games, just as a 'snapshot' of what's current.

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I don't have any definite sources for you other than old Edge mags and forum posts, but it's my impression that the big difference is that families go to Japanese arcades together. Parents take their children, and play alongside each other, rather than the traditional UK setting where the only adults present are parents hunting for their wayward childred, gambling addicts, drug dealers and the odd paedophile.


This is helped by the fact that Japanese arcades are well-lit, well-maintained and generally Not Seedy.

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Interesting idea for a thesis. Some things you might want to look at:


Types of games-From what I've seen, the games that have survived in arcades are unique experiences that either thrive in a social setting or are dificult to move to consoles. Things like DDR, Beatmania etc are all good examples of this.


Space considerations and social gaming-For something like a fighting game, if you want to get a bunch of people together to play it's pretty easy here. Everyone piles into the living room/basement and takes turns on the big ass TV. In Japan though, space is usually at a much higher premium, correct? Would that not make it more difficult to get large numbers of people together for multiplayer games? An arcade takes this outside to a neutral setting with more room.


Comics-Your point about games being regarded as "more than a child's medium" is mirrored by the Japanese attitude on comics. Many different genres of Manga are read by many different social groups, which is a contrast to North America (this is also changing though). Just thought that there might be some parallels that you can exploit with a literature search.


Good luck!

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- it's the likes of Sega's big networked 'collectable' games (horse racing, beetle battling) that appear to be dominating the revenue, but are very expensive for arcade operators to install.

This is exactly right, and a big part of what my work will concern. For example, in an Asahi Weekly news article from 2001 that I just read, they mentioned "Derby Owners Club." A deluxe, 8-person sit-down unit cost nearly $100,000. But even though that was the case, the game was so immensely popular and had such a good turnover rate that a busy arcade could bring in $60,000 in a single month. So it really didn't take them THAT long to get a return on their investment.


And you're right about the beetles too - Mushi King is huge over there right now.

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