- Note: This article is mainly about video gaming in Japan. Please see Japan for the country itself.
Japan is a country in Asia. It has had a profound impact on video gaming history. Its capital is Tokyo, and the country itself is home to a number of companies and corporations related to gaming and video gaming, such as Sony Corporation, Konami, and Nintendo.
Prior to producing video games, Japanese companies like SEGA, Taito, Namco and Nintendo were producers of electro-mechanical arcade games. Soon after the video game industry began in the early 1970s, many of these companies turned their attention to producing arcade video games. Japan eventually became a major exporter of video games during the golden age of arcade video games, an era that began with the release of Taito's Space Invaders in 1978 and ended around the mid-1980s.
Japan's involvement in video games dates back to as early as 1971. According to video game historian Martin Picard:
|“||In 1971, Nintendo had -- even before the marketing of the first home console in the United States -- an alliance with the American pioneer Magnavox to develop and produce optoelectronic guns for the Odyssey (released in 1972), since it was similar to what Nintendo was able to offer in the Japanese toy market in 1970s.||„|
|~ Martin Picard|
The first Japanese arcade video games were released in 1973, Pong clones produced by Taito and SEGA, soon followed by original titles, such as Speed Race (1974) and Gun Fight (1975) from Taito's Tomohiro Nishikado; these games were localized by Midway for the North American market. Japan's first home video game console was Epoch's TV Tennis Electrotennis, a wireless home console version of Pong released in September 1975, several months before Atari's own Home Pong. It was followed by the first successful console, Nintendo's Color TV Game, in 1977. Japan's first personal computers for gaming soon appeared, the Sord M200 in 1977 and the Sharp MZ-80K in 1978. Eventually, the 1978 arcade release of Space Invaders would mark the first major mainstream breakthrough for video games, both in Japan and North America.
Following the North American video game crash of 1983, Japan went on become the most dominant country within the global video game industry, since the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System and the third-generation of consoles. Japan's dominance within the industry would continue for the next two decades, up until Microsoft's Xbox consoles began challenging Sony and Nintendo in the 2000s.
In the early 2000s, mobile games had gained mainstream popularity in Japan, years before the United States and Europe. By 2003, a wide variety of mobile games were available on Japanese phones, ranging from puzzle games and virtual pet titles that utilize camera phone technology to 3D games with PlayStation-quality graphics. Older arcade-style games became particularly popular on mobile phones, which was an ideal platform for arcade-style games designed for shorter play sessions. By 2003, Japan had 8.3 million mobile gamers. That same year, 77.8% of Japan’s general public (and 69.2% of women) owned a games machine in their home. 
Late 2000's–early 2010's
Although Japanese video games often sell well in Western markets, the reverse is not so in Japan. Foreign games often sell more poorly in Japanese markets due to differences in escapism. However, as detailed below, Japanese games have been becoming much less successful in recent years even in their own country.
In 2002, the Japanese video game industry made up about 50% of the global retail game market; that share has since shrunk to around 10% by 2010. The shrinkage in retail game market share has been attributed to a growing difference of taste between Japanese and Western audiences, and the country's economic recession. Despite declining home console game sales, the overall Japanese gaming industry, as of 2009, is still valued at $20 billion, the largest sector of which are arcade games, which generated more revenue than console games and mobile games combined. The Japanese arcade industry has also been steadily declining, however. The domestic arcade market's decline has also been attributed to the country's economic recession.
In recent years, Japanese companies have been criticized for long development times and slow release dates on home video game consoles, their relative lack of third-party game engines, and for being relatively insular to appeal to a global market. Yoichi Wada stated in the Financial Times on April 27, 2009 the Japanese gaming industry of having become a "closed environment" and "almost xenophobic." He also stated: "The lag with the US is very clear. The US games industry was not good in the past but it has now attracted people from the computer [industry] and from Hollywood, which has led to strong growth."
Today, the Japanese game market is largely dominated by mobile games. Japan has had the world's largest mobile game market for the past decade, with mobile games now making up the largest share of the domestic Japanese market, followed by arcade games, then handheld console games, and then home console games.
The following are some examples of Japanese contributions to video games.
Action role-playing video game (action RPG)
- Japanese developers created the action RPG subgenre in the early 1980s, combining RPG elements with arcade-style action and action-adventure elements. In 1983, Nihon Falcom released Panorama Toh, coming close to the action RPG formula that they later became known for. The trend of combining RPG elements with arcade-style action mechanics was popularized by The Tower of Druaga, an arcade game released by Namco in 1984. Its success inspired the development of three early action RPGs, combining Druaga's real-time hack-and-slash gameplay with stronger RPG mechanics, all released in late 1984: Dragon Slayer, Courageous Perseus, and Hydlide.
- Hiroyuki Ito introduced the "Active Time Battle" system in Final Fantasy IV (1991), where the time-keeping system does not stop. Square Co., Ltd. filed a United States patent application for the ATB system on March 16, 1992, under the title "Video game apparatus, method and device for controlling same" and was awarded the patent on February 21, 1995. On the battle screen, each character has an ATB meter that gradually fills, and the player is allowed to issue a command to that character once the meter is full. The fact that enemies can attack or be attacked at any time is credited with injecting urgency and excitement into the combat system.
- The first game to feature fist fighting was SEGA's boxing game Heavyweight Champ (1976), but it was Data East's fighting game Karate Champ (1984) which popularized martial arts themed games. The same year, Hong Kong cinema-inspired Kung-Fu Master laid the foundations for scrolling beat 'em ups with its simple gameplay and multiple enemies. Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun, released in 1986 in Japan, deviated from the martial arts themes of earlier games and introduced street brawling to the genre. Renegade (released the same year) added an underworld revenge plot that proved more popular with gamers than the principled combat sport of other games. Renegade set the standard for future beat 'em up games as it introduced the ability to move both horizontally and vertically.
- The bullet hell or danmaku genre began to emerge in the early 1990s as 2D developers needed to find a way to compete with 3D games which were becoming increasingly popular at the time. Toaplan's Batsugun (1993) is considered to be the ancestor of the modern bullet hell genre. The Touhou Project series is one of the most popular bullet hell franchises.
Colour video game
- The first colour video game was the 1973 arcade game Playtron, developed by Japanese company Kasco, which only manufactured two cabinets of the game.
- SEGA's black and white boxing game Heavyweight Champ was released in 1976 as the first video game to feature fist fighting. However, Data East's Karate Champ from 1984 is credited with establishing and popularizing the one-on-one fighting game genre, and went on to influence Konami's Yie Ar Kung-Fu from 1985. Yie Ar Kung Fu expanded on Karate Champ by pitting the player against a variety of opponents, each with a unique appearance and fighting style. Capcom's Street Fighter (1987) introduced the use of special moves that could only be discovered by experimenting with the game controls. Street Fighter II (1991) established the conventions of the fighting game genre and, whereas previous games allowed players to combat computer-controlled fighters, Street Fighter II allowed players to play against each other.
- The first video game to represent player characters as human sprite images was Taito's Basketball, which was licensed in February 1974 to Midway, releasing it as TV Basketball in North America.
- Gunpei Yokoi was the creator of the Game Boy and Virtual Boy and worked on the Family Computer, the Metroid series, the Game Boy Pocket, and did extensive work on the system we know today as the Nintendo Entertainment System.
- The action role-playing game Hydlide (1984) was an early open world game, rewarding exploration in an open world environment. Hylide influenced The Legend of Zelda (1986), an influential open world game. Zelda had an expansive, coherent open world design, inspiring many games to adopt a similar open world design.
- The 1983 first-person adventure game, Portopia Serial Murder Case, featured a non-linear open world, which is considered ahead of its time.
- The Sony PlayStation was invented by Ken Kutaragi. Research and development for the PlayStation began in 1990, headed by Kutaragi, a Sony engineer.
- Space Panic, a 1980 arcade release, is sometimes credited as the first platform game. It was clearly an influence on the genre, with gameplay centered on climbing ladders between different floors, a common element in many early platform games. Donkey Kong, an arcade game created by Nintendo, released in July 1981, was the first game that allowed players to jump over obstacles and across gaps, making it the first true platformer.
- Silent Hill (1999) was praised for moving away survival horror games from B movie horror elements to the psychological style seen in art house or Japanese horror films, due to the game's emphasis on a disturbing atmosphere rather than visceral horror. The original Silent Hill is considered one of the scariest games of all time, and the strong narrative from Silent Hill 2 in 2001 has made the series one of the most influential in the genre. Fatal Frame from 2001 was a unique entry into the genre, as the player explores a mansion and takes photographs of ghosts in order to defeat them.
- Dance Aerobics was released in 1987, and allowed players to create music by stepping on Nintendo's Power Pad peripheral. It has been called the first rhythm-action game in retrospect, although the 1996 title PaRappa the Rapper has also been deemed the first rhythm game, whose basic template forms the core of subsequent games in the genre. In 1997, Konami's Beatmania sparked an emergent market for rhythm games in Japan. The company's music division, Bemani, released a number of music games over the next several years.
- The first platform game to use scrolling graphics was Jump Bug (1981), a simple platform-shooter developed by Alpha Denshi. In August 1982, Taito released Jungle King, which featured scrolling jump and run sequences that had players hopping over obstacles. Namco took the scrolling platformer a step further with the 1984 release Pac-Land. Pac-Land came after the genre had a few years to develop, and was an evolution of earlier platform games, aspiring to be more than a simple game of hurdle jumping, like some of its predecessors. It closely resembled later scrolling platformers like Wonder Boy and Super Mario Bros and was probably a direct influence on them. It also had multi-layered parallax scrolling.
- Bokosuka Wars (1983) is considered to be an early prototype real-time strategy game. Technosoft's Herzog (1988) is regarded as a precursor to the real-time strategy genre, being the predecessor to Herzog Zwei and somewhat similar in nature. Herzog Zwei, released for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis home console in 1989, is the earliest example of a game with a feature set that falls under the contemporary definition of modern real-time strategy.
- Tomohiro Nishikado's 1974 arcade racing game Speed Race introduced scrolling graphics, where the sprites moved along a vertical scrolling overhead track.
- Space Invaders is frequently cited as the "first" or "original" in the genre. Space Invaders pitted the player against multiple enemies descending from the top of the screen at a constantly increasing rate of speed. As with subsequent shoot 'em ups of the time, the game was set in space as the available technology only permitted a black background. The game also introduced the idea of giving the player a number of "lives". Space Invaders was a massive commercial success, causing a coin shortage in Japan. The following year, Namco's Galaxian took the genre further with more complex enemy patterns and richer graphics.
- The first stealth-based video games were Hiroshi Suzuki's Manbiki Shounen (1979), Taito's Lupin III (1980), and SEGA's 005 (1981). The first commercially successful stealth game was Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear (1987), the first in the Metal Gear series. It was followed by Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990) which significantly expanded the genre, and then Metal Gear Solid (1998).
- The survival horror video game genre began with Capcom's Resident Evil (1996), which coined the term "survival horror" and defined the genre. The game was inspired by Capcom's earlier horror game Sweet Home (1989). The earliest game to retroactively be described as survival horror is Nostromo, a sci-fi survival horror game developed by Tokyo University student Akira Takiguchi for the PET 2001, with a PC-6001 port published in 1981.
Tactical role-playing game (tactical RPG)
- One of the earliest Japanese RPGs, Koei's The Dragon and Princess (1982), featured a tactical turn-based combat system. Koji Sumii's Bokosuka Wars (1983) is credited for laying the foundations for the tactical RPG genre, or "simulation RPG" genre as it is known in Japan, with its blend of basic RPG and strategy game elements. The genre became with the game that set the template for tactical RPGs, Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi (1990).
- The visual novel genre is a type of interactive fiction developed in Japan in the early 1990s. As the name suggests, visual novels typically have limited interactivity, as most player interaction is restricted to clicking text and graphics.
- In 1982, Nintendo's Gunpei Yokoi elaborated on the idea of a circular pad, shrinking it and altering the points into the familiar modern "cross" design for control of on-screen characters in their Donkey Kong handheld game. It came to be known as the "D-pad". The design proved to be popular for subsequent Game & Watch titles. This particular design was patented. In 1984, the Japanese company Epoch created a handheld game system called the Epoch Game Pocket Computer. It featured a D-pad, but it was not popular for its time and soon faded. Initially intended to be a compact controller for the Game & Watch handheld games alongside the prior non-connected style pad, Nintendo realized that Gunpei's design would also be appropriate for regular consoles, and Nintendo made the D-pad the standard directional control for the hugely successful Nintendo Entertainment System under the name "+Control Pad".
- Invented by Nintendo for the Wii, the Wii Remote (often termed the Wiimote) is the first controller with motion-sensing capability. It was a candidate for Time's Best Invention of 2006.
Japan has also made many contributions to various technologies related to gaming, including computing, graphics, audio, memory/storage, and related electronics. See above articles for further information.
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