SBC Summit Barcelona – Japan will not accept “half-done” brands


One of the Japanese market’s biggest upsides is its overall due diligence, but this also raises the bar for operators much higher than what it is in the EU. 

This became clear at the SBC Summit Barcelona panel discussion that focused on Japanese market entry strategies. 

Moderated by 4H Agency’s Ilya Machavariani, guests that have managed or are still trying to build presence in the region shared their thoughts on how the market differs from what we’ve been accustomed to seeing in Europe. 

Andrea Bellezza, who is the VP of EU and Asia Pacific at Kafe Rocks, said that the biggest obstacle for his company has been adjusting to the cultural shift. 

Finding the right partnerships can suffer as a result, bringing unnecessary delays in market penetration. 

“Facing this difference has been the most challenging thing. We struggled in finding partners that wanted to work with us. It was a really slow process to start,” Bellezza said. 

Once the wheels are in motion however, operators are guaranteed to enjoy healthy business relationships across the board. Nadir Ounissi, CEO and Co-Founder of CasinoSecret, praised the Japanese work ethic with the following:

“Before Japan, I’ve never had such a loyal group of employees. There are a lot of Japanese people that are working with us, giving us a lot of valuable input. The ethics of Japanese employees and business partners is definitely an upside.”

As it seems, patience sits on top of a successful market entry strategy for Japan. This is mainly because a local working model will have to be predominantly trust-based, not only in regards to business partners but to players as well.

In fact, this affects both operators and affiliates alike. Johan Styren, CEO of Dilanti Media, warned that any “half-done” brand launch in Japan is doomed to failure due to how “nuts” the market is compared to Europe.

He said: “From an affiliate perspective, players will go read all company reviews, read the reviews of their competitors as well, in addition to reading the terms and conditions on websites. Full-fledged due diligence. 

“You can’t launch a half-done brand in Japan. You have to make sure that you’re being honest, have a product that works well and that your payments go out properly.”

Bellezza then chipped in to support Styren’s observations, saying that the region’s average time spent on Kafe Rocks’ review page is “almost double” than that in Europe.

“The players hold us accountable”, Styren continued. “I always see the complete opposite in the UK market, where players just go to affiliate sites and they’re looking for the highest bonus. Japanese players care about everything, and you better be right about what you’re writing about the operators.”

For Nicolas Lund, Consultant at UmiiUmii Casino, it all pays out at the end as you will reap double of what you sowed in terms of player value and player loyalty, especially when the market is still underdeveloped.

However, Lund also noted that a rudimentary change is needed in one’s business model to successfully adapt and thrive in the environment. 

“Whereas maybe we’re used to a different format of localisation in other markets, Japan needs some fundamental changes. You could be used to a quick hockey stick growth model in Europe. In Japan you have to have more patience. The integration, the UI, the localisation are all different.

“Japan is a unique market that requires unique elements”, Lund concluded.