iPhone Apps in China and Japan – Emerging Markets in Asia

Asia’s App Market on the Rise

In the world of business you have to expect that there are certain markets you cannot take advantage of forever, not with things like technology, consumer preference and business patterns ever evolving.

So would you believe me if I told you that Japan—the land of electronics, robotics and automotives—may soon become the center of apps development not only in Asia, but the global apps market as well.

Based on the recent statistics by App Annie, Japan is emerging in app monetization, sweeping top ranks in both Apple and Google Play markets. Talk about starting the year right, in January alone, Japanese publisher GungHo Online Entertainment, with 14 games in iOS and Android, was the Top Publisher by Monthly Revenue.

GungHo Online’s ‘Puzzles and Dragons’ is the major contributor to GungHo's US$3.3 billion market cap.

During the first month of 2013, GungHo Online earned US$92 million from gaming sales—mostly sales from Apple and Android game apps and the rest from PC and console games.  The January revenue represents 30 percent of its overall 2012 revenues.

If this continues, it might expect more than a 200 percent increase in revenues by the end of this year. After all, it has just beaten developers from the United States and other parts of the world in the January iOS market evaluation.  Other Asian developers like South Korea and another Japanese developer, GREE, are also catching up.

GungHo online also topped Google Play’s list of 10 publishers with the highest revenue in January 2013.  In fact, nine of the 10 publishers in Google Play's Top Publishers by Monthly Revenue are all Asian developers.

They are, in descending order, GungHo, NHN (the makers of LINE the most downloaded social networking app in Japan), DeNA, GREE, CJ E&M, Com2uS, COLOPL, Actoz Soft and SUNDAYTOZ.  The only US developer that made it to the list, particularly on the ninth rank, was Kabam.

Japan has already surpassed US over Google Play revenue.

GungHo’s Puzzles and Dragons and NHN Japan’s Line

Concepts of Puzzles and Dragons are perpetual.  They can still be found in movies, television shows and comics.  They are now in mobile game apps.  Its “ancient appeal” still clicks among iOS and Android users because GungHo's ‘Puzzles and Dragons' is iOS' and Android's top monetizing game across the globe.

Puzzles and Dragon’s developer describes it as extremely popular and super addictive freemium game recording an overwhelming 9,000,000 downloads in Japan alone. Apparently, puzzle games, dungeons, monsters and treasures never get old.

Not very long ago, the company released Puzzles and Dragons Version 5.0 with additional monsters, additional characters and additional skills increasing the number of current users to more than 100 million is just a short span of time.

Another Asian hit, the social app LINE created by NHN Japan is the top social networking app for iOS, based on January 2013 revenue.  It has now over 100 million registered users in Japan or (more than half of the population), Taiwan and Thailand.

In a not-so-far future, LINE might be expanded to support games, coupons and virtual currency.  The popularity of this free app may be a good opportunity for monetization.

Korea's KakaoTalk, also a messaging app, was third best earning app in Android.

The Growing Japan and Asian Markets

Perhaps the fact that Japanese smartphone users make up 23 percent of the global iOS and Android populace best explains why monetization in Japan or Asia in entirety continues to shape up.  More Japanese are already switching to smartphones.

The increase in app downloads in Asia may be related to the growing popularity of Asian mobile brands such as Samsung and HTC.  In general, there are more Android users in Asia than in Apple-dominated US, which also explains why most of Google Play's top publishers are from Asia.  Business experts linked the smartphone growth in Japan and Asia to the region's record-breaking success in games and social apps.

It has been observed that Asian app users, like Japanese, now spend for app downloads as much as US citizens do, according to App Annie.  The potential of monetization in Asia is undeniably speaking loudly now.  Reports said more developers are considering switching primary target market from US to Asia.

Top Categories

Apple's top categories by monthly revenue remains topped by game apps.  These are followed by productivity and social networking.  With LINE, Japan increased revenues in social networking apps during the first month of 2013.  But the top downloader of social networking apps in iOS is China.

In terms of revenues, LINE was the top social networking app.  In terms of downloads though, leading apps remain Facebook, Apple’s Find My Friends, Twitter, Skype and WeChat.  The same social apps dominate Google Play.

T Store vs. Google Play

It looks like Google Play’s data do not well represent the whole monetization situation in Asia.  Korea, with over 32 million smartphone subscribers, has not much use for Google Play because it has its own T Store run by a local telecommunications company.

It has over 19 million registered users and over 10 billion downloads already since it started. With these numbers, the industry can stand on its own and in fact, many developers have attempted to join in.

Some of its apps, like the KakaoTalk has rolled out globally and have climbed its way up. KakaoTalk happens to be not only a messaging app, but also features a social gaming platform that is now facing off against Apple’s Game Center, DeNa’s Mobage and GREE.

Some analysts say that Korea’s market in terms of game apps download, and social networking apps, has more potential than Japan since Korea has a younger population.  Japan, however, has more than double the population of Korea, having a population of 127 million compared to Korea's 50 million.

Japan has more than 48 million smartphone users compared to Korea’s 32 million.  However, a study conducted by Metaps, an Android app monetization platform, shows that Korea is catching up in terms of smartphone users.

If combined, Japan and Korea’s apps markets may soon become bigger than that in the US.  Whether or not this is a bad thing remains to be seen.

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