Japan’s Mobile Web Market Now Worth $17 billion. Virtual Items: $500 million.

Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications published an interesting report [PDF] about the country’s market for mobile content and services this week. According to the ministry, that market grew by 12% to hit 1.52 trillion yen ($17.3 billion) last year, including mobile advertising.
The $17.3 billion breaks down into mobile commerce, which was worth $11 billion and mobile content (games, ring tones, e-books etc.), which amounted to a $6.3 billion market (see graphic below – click to enlarge).

If you keep asking yourself why mobile gaming firms such as GREE ($222 million profit last year) or Mobage-town are currently printing money in this country, the report has an answer for that, too: the ministry says that the market for virtual items in mobile games and social networks grew by a whopping 185% to $508 million year-on-year. In 2007, virtual items accounted for just $68 million of the mobile content business.

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