Game Over for the West

How Japan dominates gaming innovation

Gaming is often at the forefront of innovation, with companies embracing new technology to satisfy their customers’ demand for novelty.

The industry was an early proponent of augmented reality, voice control and facial recognition to gain a competitive advantage in captivating users’ attention.

This continual adoption of new technology makes it the perfect industry to examine with Cipher’s Universal Technology Taxonomy (UTT).

Our UTT divides inventions into predefined technology categories, creating a landscape that reveals global trends. This presents a quick and efficient way to understand both long and short-term developments in gaming.

Our definition of ‘gaming’

For clarification, the UTT defines gaming inventions as:

“Games played on computers and laptops, handheld devices, game consoles, phones and tablets. Also included are: gaming controllers, card, board, gambling games and all toys”.

This is the definition we apply throughout our analysis.

In this report, we focus on two key areas:

  • Top Invention Owners
  • Top Innovators

Through examining these key areas, we discovered four unexpected trends:

Geographical imbalance
Japan dominates the list of top inventors and innovators. In both the short and long term, they are responsible for a large percentage of technological development. Western companies trail far behind Japan.

Gambling rather than computers drive innovation
Gambling companies lead the way in a number of inventions, particularly slot machine manufacturers. Video game companies are responsible for far less innovation.

Pachinko drives the most innovation
Manufacturers of the Japanese game ‘pachinko’ are the leading inventors. It is a game mostly unknown outside of Japan, but it dominates the global technology landscape.

Long-term and short-term trends are similar
The trends in short-term and long-term innovators vary little, suggesting that the gaming space is stable and unchanging.

Key takeaway

Overall, this report argues that gaming technology relies on Japanese companies, with the Western world contributing little. While some may find Japan’s prominence in gaming unsurprising, their level of domination is unexpected.

Download the report on gaming innovation

Game over for the west

The full report has sections on:

  • Types of inventions owned
  • Which type of companies own these inventions
  • Which game exploits a loophole in the ban on gambling in Japan

The Endgame of Innovation Report

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