Tuesday, February 17, 2009

uk to japan: “wot’s all this then?”

god save the wii Some time ago there was some buzz about the gaming market in the United Kingdom becoming larger than the game market in Japan, which has traditionally played second-fiddle only to the US in terms of sales. This makes sense, because, you know, the UK is bigger than Japan. There are more people in it. It speaks to the efforts Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft have made to make inroads in the region, but it also highlights further the continued sagging of the Japanese gaming market, which is actively shrinking even as other markets grow.

In the last few years we’ve seen some big shifts in gaming, specifically from Japan to the United States. The biggest earners and studios in the industry are no longer the Capcoms and Sonys and Nintendos, but the Activisions, EAs and Blizzards. Design cues have shifted similarly – where once everyone would look to the latest Mario game for inspiration, FPS games, sandbox games and MMOs have risen to the fore, inspiring countless imitations and knockoffs.

The question here: how will the games market change as it expands? Will some brave souls in the UK develop a gaming console to compete with the American and Japanese giants? What about nascent markets, like those in Central and South America, China, Russia and the rest of Europe? The continued shrinking of the once-indomitable Japanese gaming industry proves that nothing lasts forever in this industry – as the markets grow, we may even see some US studios displaced by newcomers from other areas. Keep an eye on this one – it’ll be interesting.