i-Mode was launched February 22, 1999 in Tokyo – birth of mobile internet

i-mode menu NTT docomo

The mobile internet was born 16 years ago in Japan

Galapagos-Syndrome: NTT Docomo failed to capture global value

On February 22, 1999, the mobile internet was born when Mari Matsunaga, Takeshi Natsuno and Keiichi Enoki launched Docomo’s i-Mode to a handful of people who had made the effort to the Press Conference introducing Docomo’s new i-Mode service. KDDI soon followed with EZweb, and J-Phone with Jsky (J-Phone was acquired by Vodafone, which was unable to manage J-Phone, Vodafone then sold the company to SoftBank).

i-Mode’s popularity soon exceeded any expectation: Docomo for some periods had to limit new subscriptions.

With Steve Jobs’ love for Japan, and Apple’s intense supplier relationships with Japan, its not farfetched to see connections between i-Mode and iPhone, in particular the i-Mode ecosystem and Java-based i-Appli’s are forerunners of today’s apps and apps-ecosystems.

At that time there was no Wikipedia, and Docomo had no English-language website at all, so our company Eurotechnology Japan KK’s information was more or less the only English language information openly available about i-Mode. We were bombarded by requests from many major semiconductor firms, telecom operators, investment banks, students and world-famous business schools for our i-Mode report and related business development and strategic work.

Learn about Japan’s telecom markets: read the 65th edition of our report.

Today 5 of the global top-10 top-grossing Apps are Japanese

While Docomo never managed to capture global value from inventing and first introducing the mobile internet, the No. 1 top-grossing company globally, and five of the top-10 globally top-grossing Apps for iOS and Google-Play combined are Japanese (source: App-Annie).

Japan’s app market is the world’s largest in terms of cash revenues

Its also no coincidence that in terms of cash value, Japan’s is the world’s largest app-market for iOS and Google-Play combined, bigger than the US market and the Chinese market in terms of cash value. (source: App-Annie).

App-Annie’s data to our knowledge only cover the iOS and Google-Play app-stores, not the i-Mode and other mobile internet businesses, so Japan’s actual mobile app economy is even larger than App-Annie data show.

Which are the top-grossing apps in Japan?

i-Mode is still alive and kicking – and a big business for Docomo

i-Mode is still today the mobile internet system for Docomo’s traditional flip-phones which are still an important part of the market, and recently made headlines since sales for traditional flip-phones were rising, while smartphone sales were (temporarly?) dropping.

i-Mode (and EZweb for KDDI, and Yahoo-mobile for SoftBank) will still be important business for some time to come in Japan.

Copyright (c) 2015 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Google Play Japan – top grossing Android Apps ranking

Japan smartphone game business



Android smart phone apps ranking in Japan by gross revenues (Feb. 18, 2015)

Japan game market report (398 pages, pdf-file):
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AppAnnie showed that in terms of combined iOS AppStore + Google Play revenues, Japan is No. 1 globally, spending more than the USA. Therefore Japan is naturally the No. 1 target globally for many mobile game companies!

Android Google Play – Japan “Top Grossing” apps ranking of February 18, 2015:

Note that the Android/Google Play ranking shown here is very similar to the iOS top grossing ranking.

  • No. 1 Puzzle & Dragons by GungHo
  • No. 2 Monster strike (by Mixi)
  • No. 3 白猫プロジェクト (= white cat project) (by Colopl Inc.)
  • No. 4 クイズRPG 魔法使いと黒猫のウィズ (= Quiz RPG (role playing game) The World of Mystic Wiz, the which and the black cat wiz) (by Colopl Inc.)
  • No. 5 LINE Disney tsumu tsumu (by LINE Corporation) (ツムツム = Tsum Tsum)
  • No. 6 LINE PokoPoko (by LINE Corporation)
  • No. 7 Dragon Quest Monsters Superlight (by Square Enix)
  • No. 8 LINE (by LINE Corporation)
  • No. 9 Final Fantasy Record Keeper (by DeNA Ltd)
  • No. 10 LINE Rangers (by LINE Corporation)
  • No. 11 Love life! School Idol Festival (by KLab Inc.)
  • No. 12 Logres of Swords and Sorcery – popular online RPG (by Marvelous Inc.)
  • No. 13 Runaway lives motorcycle Tiger (by Donuts Co Ltd)
  • No. 14 Clash of Clans (by Supercell)
  • No. 15 Chain chronicle – real scenario RPG (ChainChro = チェンクロ) (by SEGA Corporation)
  • No. 16 Actual powerful pro-baseball (実況パワフルプロ野球) (by KONAMI)
  • No. 17 Schoolgirl strikers (by Square Enix)
  • No. 18 Puyo puyo!! Quest (by Sega Corporation)
  • No. 19 LINE POP2 (by LINE Corporation)
  • No. 20 Granblue Fantasy (by Cygames Inc)
  • No. 21 Drift Spirits (by Bandai Namco Games Inc)
  • No. 22 Pro baseball Pride 2014 (by Colopl Inc.)
  • No. 23 Sengoku Enbu – KIZNA – (by Sumzap Inc)
  • No. 24 Dragon poker (by Asobism Co Ltd)
  • No. 25 Gandam Conquest (by Bandai Namco Games Inc)

Japan’s iconic game companies created many game categories – this tradition carries over to mobile gaming now.

Japan game market report (398 pages, pdf-file):
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Japan smartphone app rankings by cash revenue (iOS)

Japan smartphone game business



Top grossing app ranking (Feb. 10, 2015)

AppAnnie showed that in terms of combined iOS AppStore + Google Play revenues, Japan is No. 1 globally, spending more than the USA. Therefore Japan is naturally the No. 1 target globally for many mobile game companies, and quite a few of the top grossing apps in Japan are of foreign origin – can you guess which?!

Japan game market report (398 pages, pdf-file):
[buy] [subscribe] [information]

iOS AppStore-Japan “Top Grossing” ranking of February 10, 2015:

Note that the iOS ranking shown here is very similar to the Android / Google Play top grossing ranking.

  • No. 1 Monster strike (by Mixi) from rank 2 on July 13, 2014
  • No. 2 Puzzle & Dragons by GungHo (from rank 1 on July 13, 2014)
  • No. 3 白猫プロジェクト (= white cat project) (by Colopl Inc.)
  • No. 4 Dragon Quest Monsters Superlight (by Square Enix) (from Rank 12 on July 13, 2014)
  • No. 5 LINE Disney tsumu tsumu (by LINE Corporation) (ツムツム = Tsum Tsum) (from Rank 3 on July 13, 2014)
  • No. 6 Final Fantasy Record Keeper (by DeNA Ltd)
  • No. 7 LINE (by LINE Corporation)
  • No. 8 Love life! School Idol Festival (by KLab Inc.) (was rank 9 on July 13, 2014)
  • No. 9 LINE PokoPoko (by LINE Corporation)
  • No. 10 Logres of Swords and Sorcery – popular online RPG (by Marvelous Inc.) (was rank 14 on July 13, 2014)
  • No. 11 Clash of Clans (by Supercell) (was rank 5 on July 13, 2014)
  • No. 12 Runaway lives motorcycle Tiger (by Donuts Co Ltd)
  • No. 13 Drift Spirits (by Bandai Namco Games Inc)
  • No. 14 Actual powerful pro-baseball (実況パワフルプロ野球) (by KONAMI)
  • No. 15 Sengoku Enbu – KIZNA – (by Sumzap Inc) (was rank 8 on July 13, 2014)
  • No. 16 Sword Art Online Code Resister (by Bandai Namco Games Inc)
  • No. 17 Chain chronicle – real scenario RPG (ChainChro = チェンクロ) (by SEGA Corporation)
  • No. 18 Schoolgirl strikers (by Square Enix)
  • No. 19 Summons Board (by GungHo Online Entertainment)
  • No. 20 Puyo puyo!! Quest (by Sega Corporation) (was rank 11 on July 13, 2014)
  • No. 21 Granblue Fantasy (by Cygames Inc)
  • No. 22 LINE Manga – daily reload of popular manga free of charge (by LINE Corporation)
  • No. 23 Brave frontier (by Alim Co Ltd) (was rank 4 on July 13, 2014)
  • No. 24 Dragon poker (by Asobism Co Ltd) (was rank 6 on July 13, 2014)
  • No. 25 LINE POP2 (by LINE Corporation)

Japan game market report (398 pages, pdf-file):
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Register and receive an email with a link to a free trial version of our report on “Japan’s game makers and markets”.

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Copyright·©2015 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·