You won’t believe how much money these games are making.
Smartphone games are a staple of Japanese gamerdom. While mobile gaming is often derided by Western gamers, you’d be hard-pressed to find a smartphone user in Japan who doesn’t dedicate themselves to at least one game. In fact, mobile gaming could be the reason why Japanese students’ eyesight is the worst it’s been in years.
Such is their dedication, that many mobile game players are willing to spend their hard-earned money on their favorite game, in order to get that one special character or beat that one extra hard level. So much so, in fact, that the most popular mobile games have made up roughly half of the entire market’s revenue!
So exactly how much are gamers spending on their favorite mobile games? The 2018 publication of Famitsu Mobile Game Hakusho, a yearly report on mobile game statistics, revealed the top ten mobile games with the most in-app purchases.
10. Idolmaster Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage
This highly popular rhythm game, in which the player raises teenage idols to stardom, surprisingly found itself down four spots this year, compared to last year. In this spin-off of the larger Idolmaster series, players can use real life money to buy loot boxes, which might have a chance of dropping their favorite character, who can then perform in their idol group. The game, and its catchy songs and cute anime characters, have produced quite a following in Japan, even amounting to a recent Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage cruise. Perhaps that’s why it earned as much as 20.2 billion yen (approximately US$184 million) in in-app purchases last year.
9. Jikkyou Pawafuru Puro Yakkyu (Real-life Powerful Pro Baseball)
Down a ranking from last year is the mobile platform’s most popular sports game, Jikkyou Pawafuru Puro Yakkyu. The ability to build your own team with your favorite players, whom you can win in loot boxes or buy with real life money, makes this game appealing to the baseball fans of Japan. Fans of this game altogether spent 21.9 billion yen to get their favorite players in 2018.
8. Pokémon GO
Spotted a Cranidos or a Shieldon? 👀
With the recent update, more Pokémon originally discovered in the Sinnoh region… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Pokémon GO (@PokemonGoApp) February 06, 2019
The universally appealing augmented reality Pokémon game that took the world by storm in 2016 jumped up two spots from last year. Perhaps P.K. Sanjun was right in saying that the game was going to make a comeback, because people are loving it enough to spend 25.1 billion yen on Pokéballs, item slots, Pokémon box expansions, and other items needed for the game.
7. Granblue Fantasy
This single player role-playing game pleases fans with its gorgeous art and beautiful music, which is provided by some of the creators of Final Fantasy. Thanks to extremely low chances of getting super, super rare (SSR) characters with special abilities and high power levels, players are probably spending their money on lots and lots of loot boxes. It’s maintained its rank at number seven from last year, but with a whopping 5.5 billion yen more in-app purchases, totalling at 26.4 billion yen in sales for the year.
6. Line: Disney Tsum Tsum
This delightful puzzle game features Disney characters, in the shape of cute little spheres, that have special powers that help you beat stages and clear quests. It has maintained its title as the most popular LINE game (as in, games played through your LINE messaging app account) for years. Sadly, though, its grip on players’ hearts seems to be weakening, as its in-app purchase totals have dropped from 30.3 billion yen to 27 billion yen, also bringing it down two rankings from 2017.
5. Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle
This part-card game, part-puzzle game experience, based on the world-famous Dragon Ball franchise, allows players to traverse a board-game style world in which Dragon Ball characters are used to fight and progress a story. Like most of the games on this list, Dokkan Battle includes loot boxes that may drop characters of different rarities, which players were willing to drop 34 billion yen on last year, almost 7 billion more than last year. That increase helps it keep its number five ranking for a second year in a row.
4. Knives Out
This no-holds-barred, survive-or-die battle royale game is a new addition to the list of top mobile game spending in Japan, bumping out White Cat Project from last year. Players explore a map, find weapons, and kill each other off until they’re the last one standing in this free-for-all game, which is similar to other popular battle royale games like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnight. Perhaps its collaboration with popular anime Attack on Titan last year brought it to the forefront of Japanese mobile games, as it managed to bring in a pretty serious 40.4 billion yen in in-app purchases in 2018.
3. Puzzle & Dragons
The ever-present, eternally popular Puzzle & Dragons, a puzzle game with strategy and RPG elements, maintains its third ranking from last year. Being able to buy booster items and short-cuts through the game to make it easier and faster to progress through the levels has often caused bitter players to criticize Puzzle & Dragons as a pay-to-win game, which might be why in-app purchases are down slightly from 2017. Yet fans still love it, which is probably why they were willing to spend 48.7 billion yen on it last year.
2. Fate/Grand Order
Coming in at the number two spot yet again this year, the highly popular Fate/Grand Order online RPG yet again wipes the table with its competition, earning almost twice as much as Puzzle & Dragons in in-app purchases, with a total of 88.5 billion yen. With players buying so many loot boxes to collect rare familiars that they get tired of tapping the screen, it’s no surprise that Fate/Grand Order made it almost to the top of this list.
1. Monster Strike
The hunting RPG Monster Strike maintains its reign as the number one mobile game for in-app purchases for the second year in a row. In this game, players catapult creatures across the screen to defeat and collect enemy monsters and clear stages. Like most of the games represented in this list, Monster Strike has a loot box system which gives players the opportunity to win rare and extra powerful monsters to help them with their quests, which is likely why players were willing to spend as much as 93.3 billion yen ($850,056,300) on the game.
Surprisingly, however, the in-app purchases of the top three games, Monster Strike included, all decreased from last year, while several of the bottom seven, including Granblue Fantasy and Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle, saw increased spending. Could that be a sign of potential changes in the Japanese mobile game industry? Possibly, but they’d have to be drastic changes, since, even with decreased sales, Monster Strike and Fate/Grand Order still earned more than four times more in in-app purchases than even the fanatically popular Cinderella Girls: Starlight Stage.
What’s even more interesting is comparing these rankings to the list of last year’s most played mobile games. Some of the most lucrative mobile games don’t even make the list, which begs the question: are players actually playing these games for the fun of them, or are they simply addicted to loot boxes?