A report from Japanese games and magazine publisher Enterbrain, as translated by consumer site GameSpot, has cast an interesting light on the overall state of the Japanese video games market since the earliest NES days.
The earliest figures available, from 1987, show that the Japanese games industry was worth ¥300 billion ($2.68bn) in that year, while current figures for 2004 are up by 31 percent to ¥436.1 billion ($3.90bn). However, the industry’s peak in Japan was in 1997, when sales rose to a high of ¥660.3 billion ($5.90bn), which shows a 34 percent decrease in the last seven years.
Although these figures are rarely so well spelled out, the Japanese games industry has long been known to be in financial decline. However, opinion has varied considerably as to whether the primary contributing factor to this is the generally weak Japanese economy, or problems more specific to the games industry in Japan and the output of local developers.
Despite some still disappointing results in previous months, this year has so far shown some promising signs of recovery, in large part due to the release of the PSP, and particularly the Nintendo DS. The newest part of the Enterbrain report has revealed that sales for the first six months of 2005 in Japan were ¥207.1 billion ($1.85bn), up 3.6 percent on the same period last year. Software sales were up by as much as 50.7 percent to ¥134.1 billion ($1.20bn), with hardware sales down 11.5 percent to ¥73 billion ($652.3m).
The decrease in hardware sales differs little from the rest of the world, as the current console hardware generation comes to an end. This gives hope that with the commencement of the next generation of hardware, at the end of this year, the Japanese market might be given the chance for sustained growth back towards previous levels.