Nico Nico Douga Hits 28 Million Users, Generates US$46 Million In Sales Last Quarter

Nico Nico Douga, Japan’s answer to YouTube, is still growing nicely, five years after launch.

Dwango, the Tokyo-based company behind the popular service, released its financial report [PDF] for the last nine months (ending in June 2012).

And according to the report, Nico Nico (the company’s most important asset) reached 28.08 million users in June. In other words, nearly a third of Japan’s online population has an account, which is pretty amazing.

Another interesting tidbit of information is that Nico Nico has 1.69 million premium members who pay 525 Yen (US$6.70) per month for advanced features, for example better video quality:

Here are more details about who is actually using Nico Nico. Observe Dwango’s claim that 90% of Japan’s population in their 20s is a user:

Nico Nico is profitable and generated 3.6 billion yen (US$46 million) in sales from April to June this year:

Nico Nico’s English version can be visited here.

Six Japanese Social Game Platformer Announced To End Complete Gacha

A communication council of 6 major Japanese social gaming platforms – Gree, DeNA(Mobage), Cyber Agent, Mixi, NHN Japan and Dwango – just released that they would not release new games having Kompu Gacha any more. Kompu Gatcha in current games will be also terminated by the end of this month.

From this morning, Klab (major third party provider), DeNA, Cyber Agent and Gree respectively expressed their plan to stop or shrink Kompu Gacha features on their games.

The First Top-Pro-vs-Computer Shogi(Japanese Chess) Match Was Won By Computer

(photo credit Japan Shogi Association)

The first top professional player vs computer Shogi(Wikipedia) match Dennousen (Battle of Cyber-King) was held at Shogi Kaikan (Japan Shogi Association building), Tokyo January 14, 2012.

Kunio Yonenaga, an ex grand-master (in 1993) and a chairman of Japan Shogi Association, who retired in 2003, played against a computer program “Bonkura-s”. Although he is a retired pro, it is the first time computer defeats top-pro.

In 2010, an women player belongs to the female-only pro-league lost a game against other computer program Akara 2010. The second Dennousen is being planned this year with 5 active pro players.

Japanese chess has the same origin as Chinese and Western chess, Chaturanga from India, and same as in computer chess in West, it has been popular research issue to make a strong computer program. In Western chess case, IBM Deep Blue first beat the world champion in 1996. However, Shogi having the rule of reusing captured pieces makes much more complexity on computing and so far the strength of the top computer-shogi programs were thought as top amateur level.

Japanese Shogi Association holds over 100 pro players. Most major newspaper have and sponsor their own leagues, and has Shogi news every day. The Top player is said to earn about 1.3 million dollars in a year.

Appropriate to the computer match, one of the sponsors of this Dennousen title is Dwango, who runs Japan’s YouTube rival Nico Nico Douga. Nico Nico Live broadcast [J] the whole game for 10 hours. According to Kunio Yonenaga’s Twitter, over a million Nico Nico Douga users watched the game, and 341,000 of them were paid subscribers.

See Also:

If you are interested in play Shogi and have an Android handset, Android Shogi (you need the data app as well) is free and quite good. If that does not compete you, PC apps having the same Bonanza engine are stronger.

After the match interview on Kunio Yonenaga [J]

Nico Nico News [J]

asahi [J]

Sankei Sports [J]

5 Trends In Japan’s Web And Mobile Worlds In 2011

2011 is over – reason enough to take a look at some of the key trends that shaped Japan’s web, mobile, and gaming industries last year.

I could think, in no particular order, of five major developments that made a significant impact last year:

March 11 Triple Disaster
The triple disaster that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, highlighted the power and importance of social media and the web at large when it comes to communicating and sharing information with others – especially as the phone networks went bust immediately after the earthquake and made voice communication impossible.

Challenges remain, such as the digital divide (young vs. old people, users who are web-savvy vs. those who aren’t, etc.) or the danger of mass-distributing false information through social media, but the web’s “reputation” has clearly risen in Japan.

The list of Japanese web, mobile, and gaming companies that started expanding across borders (or bolstered their efforts) in 2011 is long: Rakuten, DeNA, GREE, Dwango’s Nico Nico Douga, and CyberAgent are just the most prominent examples.

Quite a few startups are now creating services that are multi-lingual from the get-go (i.e. Sumally, Beatrobo, Crowsnest, etc., etc.).

The tech industry is maturing, Japan’s population is greying, and entrepreneurs need to deal with saturated markets: expect internationalization to only pick up speed in the next years.

Android Revolution
The smartphone revolution started earlier than 2011 (mainly driven by the smash success of the iPhone), but it was during the last year that Android really started gaining a foothold in Japan. Just one example: SoftBank’s winter 2011 cell phone line-up includes just one feature phone – but nine Android handsets.

Feature phones are still king in Japan, but market research companies like Tokyo-based MM Research are expecting smartphone shipments to outnumber those of traditional handsets next year.

2011 is the year that Facebook started to become popular in Japan even though it will take at least another year to determine how sustainable the growth really is – not too few people think it has the potential to eventually throw market leader Mixi off the throne. Twitter has seen another massive boost in popularity after March 11 (see above).

In mobile, Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are set to dominate the market in the next years – local mobile platforms have no chance in the foreseeable future.

Cool Japan
I saw Techwave editor-in-chief Tsuruaki Yukawa highlighting this trend in a recent presentation, and he’s right in saying that quite a few Japanese startups in 2011 started riding on the “Cool Japan” wave: Snapeee and Decopic are probably the most successful examples, next to Nico Nico’s new English version, Japan portal FindJPN, or e-commerce brand satisfaction guaranteed on Facebook.

Incubator Boom
I still hold there is a clear disconnect between the number of incubators in Japan and the number of startups and entrepreneurs they can “absorb”, but that didn’t stop venture capital (and other) companies in Japan from launching one incubator after the other in 2011.
The boom started with Open Network Lab in 2010, and now this country has well over ten full-scale startup incubation programs.

Other trends
Other interesting developments observed in 2011 include:

Bijin Tenki: Girls Keep You Updated With Weather Forecast On The iPhone

Bijin Tokei, a company known for having developed a hot girl clock gadget, has recently developed the weather girl iPhone app called Bijin Tenki[J] in partnership with mobile app provider Dwango.

On the app, cute girls (no idea on how many girls are involved) will keep you updated with weather forecast for the next seven days, for your current location by utilizing the iPhone’s GPS function or pre-configured settings on the app.    You can check the profile of anyone you are interested in, such as name, date of birth and blood type.   You are also allowed to tweet a link to a weather girl you like.

Noteworthily, it has some patterns of error images in which the girls show us messages, which will be appeared on screen when a technical fault occurs.

See Also: