Japanese PC gaming has had incredible growth in the last few years

Monster Hunter: World
An image from Capcom's Monster Hunter: World, which broke with series tradition by having ready PC availability. (Image credit: Capcom)
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Japan's PC gaming market has roughly doubled in three years, growing to nearly $896 million US between 2018 and 2021. The user base of active PC gamers has increased by 5 million from 2015 to 2021, with 4.5 million of those playing exclusively on PC—up more than 100% from 2015's 2.2 million PC-exclusive Japanese gamers.

The new data comes from the latest report by Japanese game industry think tank Kadokawa ASCII Research Laboratories, a well-regarded publication which compiles yearly material about the performance of the gaming industry both domestically in Japan and abroad. Such clear data on growth in the industry will come as a surprise to many who've yet to discard the old wisdom that PC Gaming in Japan is a small niche.

The information comes from game industry analyst Dr. Serkan Toto, whose comparison (opens in new tab) of the 2021 data to historical numbers from the same reporters highlights such significant growth. Toto is a German national, but has been based in Tokyo since 2004 and has worked as a game industry consultant at his company, Kantan Games, since 2013.

Toto attributes the huge growth to a storm of separate factors separately contributing to a single outcome. Toto cites the effect of Coronavirus lockdowns, lack of PS5 console availability in Japan, growing acceptance of foreign and indie games available cheaply on PC, much greater availability of Japan-made games on PC, and availability of popular Smartphone games at launch on PC. Toto also cites improvement in the quality of not just local PC gaming storefronts, but Steam's Japanese version—which was once "terrible" but have improved, with physical Steam wallet cards now widely available.

"nNot every point set the PC gaming market in Japan on fire by itself," writes Toto, "but the individual factors combined certainly have been and still are self-reinforcing themselves over time. I believe the trend to a bigger PC game industry in Japan will continue in the next several years."

Valve, makers of dominant megaplatform Steam, have certainly put their eggs in that basket. They reported recently that Steam has a very high growth rate in Japan, and even gave it a mascot and the big-ticket treatment (opens in new tab) at Tokyo Game Show (opens in new tab) complete with absolutely adorable mascot. (opens in new tab)

And yeah, if the name of that research lab company up above sounds familiar, that's because it's a subsidiary of Japanese media megacorp Kadokawa, which also owns part of Elden Ring developers FromSoftware. And the developers of RPGMaker. (And a boatload of other things that come out of Japan.)

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.