South Korean tech companies are shaking up the Japanese manga industry

Printed in black and white on inexpensive paper, the paper manga is still affordable and disposable in Japan. (Reuters photo)

TOKYO: Two South Korean tech companies are borrowing from mobile games for a change And dominate The storied Japanese manga industry, a plot twist that has expanded the fan base of comics to a new generation of readers.

Backed by tech giants Kakao Corp and Naver Corp, Piccoma and Line Manga have become Japan’s highest-earning mobile apps outside of gaming. Online manga platforms have seen an increase in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Piccoma transaction volumes in the third quarter more than tripled year-over-year to 11.6 billion yen, extending the wave of online manga sales that already saw digital overtaking in the $ 5 billion Japanese manga industry.

Line Manga, now operated by SoftBank’s online subsidiary Z Holdings, saw its transaction volume rise by a third to 8.2 billion yen in the same period. Naver declined an interview request.

Piccoma surpassed Line Manga to become the highest-grossing manga app of the past year on both Apple’s IoS and Android. Its high can be traced back to 2016, when I provided a revenue model that I called “0 Yen If You Wait.”

Manga tales app From love stories in the chapter to supernatural horror Concatenated. Users should wait temporarily to open the next installment, or pay to read it in advance.

Inspired by smartphone games where it’s free to play but bonus content is not, this approach marks a drastic departure from the typical up-front selling of full manga volume at prices ranging from $ 4 to $ 6.

“We believed that if we could capture 5% or 10% of the larger gaming market, it would lead to further growth,” said Yukiko Sugiyama, chief manager of business strategy at Cocoa Japan.

Readers, excited to see what happens next, often end up paying. The business model became standard as dozens of booksellers, technology companies, and publishers scrambled to offer their own applications.

Paper roller

Megumi, a 34-year-old Western Japan office employee, said she read 20 pages or so of manga on her phone during her lunch break, and switched to the two apps when she was stuck at home taking care of children during last year’s pandemic emergency.

She became “addicted” to and paid for the hit series Line Manga, “True Beauty”, as it revolves around a young woman whose makeup skills make her popular with men.

The tape originated in Korea, as the rise of the internet led to the collapse of paper sales, and was replaced by comics optimized for smartphones.

Manga apps offer an extensive back catalog of exclusive titles and ribbons.

“You can only read manga with your smartphone “It’s easy to use,” said Kana Misaki, a 36-year-old care worker who lives near Tokyo and reads manga “overwhelmingly” via apps.

In Japan, online manga format in general is still like writers, and traditional publishers are a strong force, with editors closely involved in every stage of production.

Printed in black and white on inexpensive paper, the paper manga is still affordable and disposable. The industry is protected by Japanese law from selling books for less than its cover price, even online.

“For the new titles, paper sales are much higher,” said Shu Hashimoto, editor of Weekly Shonen Magazine for publisher Kodansha.

Even the most enthusiastic app users say they will purchase paper versions of their favorite addresses.

Misaki said, “I don’t know when the titles will disappear from the apps, so when I want them on hand I buy them.”

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