Uma Musume Pretty Derby creates a storm in Japan’s mobile games market; revives country made project’s market share

A trend setter

Japanese mobile gaming market for the past few years has been dominated by overseas-made titles mainly from China due to their highly polished and immersive gaming experience. An uncorrelated event that transpired in a racing derby held in Kyoto changed the scenario when an aging horse named Makahiki won his first race after 5 years. The victory was set ablaze on social media thanks to the gamers who were racing enthusiasts. Fans of the popular manga and anime series Uma Musume: Pretty Derby was responsible for setting social media ablaze and marking the return of an indigenous video game to the top of the trending charts following its success in the Japanese games market.

Uma Musume literally translates to Horse Girls and the plot of the series revolves around legendary racehorses being reincarnated as women pop icons (known as idols) in a parallel universe.

Reason for Uma Musume: Pretty Derby’s success

Released in February 2021, the game has been a smash hit and has overtaken well-established popular titles like Genshin Impact, Monster Strike, and Pokemon GO in the first two months of release and still remains top 10 world grosser in November 2021 despite being a game exclusive to Japan.

 Uma Musume : Pretty Derby Popular anime based game creates storm in Japan
Image via Sensor Tower

The game rides on the success of the loyal fanbase of the manga released in 2016 and was initially slated to release with the first season of the anime in 2018 but due to several delays, it was launched later in 2021.

The gameplay of Uma Musume: Pretty Derby

The game starts with players picking one of the racers and building a team around them by choosing six support cards and six support characters. The picks determine the synergy and having better synergy leads to better results during training. During the training, players will target increasing the core attributes of their Uma Musume by participating in events, taking them to an outing, etc.

Uma Musume : Pretty Derby Popular anime based game creates storm in Japan mobile gaming market
Image via Cygames

On completing the training stages players can partake in the story mode, the PvE challenges, and PvP races.

Serkan Toto, CEO of Kantan Game Consultancy attributed the success of the game to the close ties of Cygames, developer of Uma Musume to the gaming industry. He said, “A lot of leaders in mobile game companies have no connection to the game industry, It’s different with Cygames; this company is led by gamers.”

High Spending: Gacha mechanics 

Uma Musume: Pretty Debry brings a unique concept from the story point of view and ties it with a refined gaming experience to make it a highly polished title which obviously fueled the growth in the Japanese mobile games market. Another selling point of the game is its well-executed cutscenes that integrate the story with the core gameplay.

Gacha, a common monetization technique used extensively in Japan-based games is used to drive the revenue of Uma Musume. The free-to-play title use real-world money to make progress through the game faster and lets players buy support characters and cards for better synergy.

The game also has an energy meter that is used to engage in PvP races that are also consumed during training loops and to replenish it, players need to use the in-game premium currency carrot jewels which can only be bought from money. There are other opportunities for players to use the money to advance further and this simple yet effective model is the reason for the success of Uma Musume.

As reported by Reuters, High-spending users say they remain committed. Some of the players of the game have said the following things about player spending.

Yohei Tatsumi a thirty-six-year-old labor and social security attorney spends between 10,000 yen to 20,000 (90-180 US$) monthly on the title and has no plans to stop. 

Daiki Minakawa, a software engineer ditched his plan to buy a car and used his savings to spend on the game and has spent over 2 million yen(18,000 US$) in-game. He said, “I was planning to buy a car but figured I don’t really need one and, since I have savings, why not put all my effort into ‘Uma Musume’?”.

What are your thoughts on the success of Uma Musume Pretty Derby in the Japanese mobile games market? don’t forget to drop your opinions in the comments!

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