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Role playing games overtake card battle as Japan's new hot genre

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We conducted an analysis of popular app categories on the Google Play Top Grossing, Top Free and Top New Free charts, for the month of September. On the Top Grossing chart, Role Playing is currently the most popular category, with a category frequency rate of 18.9% in September. This is in contrast to how the Japanese market was formerly dominated by card battle games, as the Card category only ranks 4th, behind Role Playing, Casual and Simulation games. Of Google Play's 44 categories, the top 10 most popular categories made up 81.9% of all Top Grossing app appearances in September, indicating that a vast majority of apps monetizing well come from only a few select categories.

We analyzed the popular app categories on the Google Play Top Grossing, Top Free and Top New Free charts, for the month of September in Japan.

Role playing is the #1 genre in Japan

On the Google Play Top Grossing chart, Role Playing is currently the most popular category in Japan, with a "category frequency rate" (the rate at which a given category appears on the chart over a given period of time) of 18.9% in September. This is in contrast to how the Japanese market was formerly dominated by card battle games, as the Card category only ranks 4th, behind Role Playing, Casual and Simulation categories. Of Google Play's 44 categories, the top 10 most popular categories made up 81.9% of all Top Grossing app appearances in September, indicating that a vast majority of apps monetizing well in Japan come from only a few select categories.

The emergence of role playing games can be seen on the Top Grossing chart, as "Brave Frontier" (gumi/Alim)", "The White Cat Project" (COLOPL)  and "Logres of Swords and Sorcery" (Marvelous/Aiming) are three role playing titles with a consistently high ranking.

Brave Frontier (gumi/Alim)

Entered the Google Play Japan Top Grossing Top 10 last October and has remained a steady presence ever since. In September, held a 1-year release anniversary campaign and a successful tie-up campaign with convenience store chain Lawson. Was also promoted with a TV commercial campaign, which is a very common and effective means of marketing apps in Japan. Brave Frontier was also a featured app in the August 21st special edition Android game issue of Famitsu (a leading local gaming magazine), offering limited edition in-game items to readers.

The White Cat Project (COLOPL)

One of the four games COLOPL currently has in the Google Play Japan Top Grossing Top 20, "The White Cat Project" is the most recent release (July 12th) of the four. COLOPL has become a regular presence on prime time television with commercials for all of their top ranking games. It reached the Google Play Top Grossing Top 10 in just 18 days after its release, reaching as high as #4 during the month of September and has remained in the Top 10 since mid-August.

Logres of Swords and Sorcery (Marvelous/Aiming)

Released in December 2013, it has remained in the Top 20 of the Top Grossing chart since late August. They began a TV ad campaign on September 8th, and a series of in-game events were held in conjunction with the ads. They also conducted a tie-up campaign with local restaurant chain Go-Go Curry alongside their appearance at the Tokyo Game Show from September 18th-21st.

Simulation game users in Japan are big spenders

On the Google Play Japan Top Free chart (total downloads for non-paid apps), the Tools category was the most popular, with a category frequency rate of 9.1% in September. By comparing these results with the Top Grossing charts, we see a couple of trends.

For the Simulation category, which ranks highly on Top Grossing (3rd) with a low rank on the Top Free charts (21st), it is evident that there are a smaller number of total users but they are demonstrating a much higher-than-average ARPU. Bandai Namco has seen success with the current top two sellers in the Simulation category, both using the popular Japanese Gundam Series IP, "Gundam Conquest" and "SD Gundam Generation Frontier". Another sub-genre of Simulation games are "romance sims", for which developer CYBIRD has done well with "IKEMEN Royal Palace" and "IKEMEN Bakumatsu".

On the other hand, for the Tools category, which ranks highly on Top Free (1st) with a low rank on the Top Grossing charts (20th), we can infer that while there are a larger number of total users, they are demonstrating a much lower-than-average ARPU.

Fewer developers targeting card battle users

Regarding the Google Play Japan Top New Free chart (tracks downloads of newly released apps) in September, the Puzzle category came out on top with a 14.9% category frequency rate. Once again we compared to the Top Grossing chart results.

For the Card category, which ranks highly on Top Grossing (4th) with a low rank on the Top New Free chart (23rd), we can assert that the category is monetizing much higher than average, but there are few new releases from that category, indicating that fewer developers are targeting card battle users like they used to.

Regarding the Personalization category, which ranks highly on the Top New Free chart (6th) with a low rank on the Top Grossing chart (32nd), there are a lot of new apps being released but they are operating with much lower than average ARPU users.

Top New Free best indicator of Top Grossing success

We took a look at whether the Google Play Top Free or Top New Free charts demonstrated a higher correlation with categories that have success on the Top Grossing chart.

The top 5 categories on the Google Play Top Grossing chart are Role Playing, Casual, Simulation, Card and Action. All five of these categories appear in the Top 10 best-performing categories in the Top New Free chart, but only two of these categories appear in the Top 10 best-performing categories in the Top Free chart. Categories with success on the Top New Free chart have a stronger correlation with the Top Grossing chart than the Top Free chart.

Role Playing share has increased

September stats reveal a snapshot of the Japanese Google Play market, so we looked at the 3-month period of July-September Top Grossing chart performance by category.

The Role Playing category has increased its share as the top category on the Top Grossing chart over the period of July to September. Simulation and Puzzle are two other categories that have increased their share over the same period. On the other hand, the Casual and Card categories have seen their share decline over the same period. Overall there was not much of a shift in the ranking of each category on the Top Grossing chart.

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