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Break into a New Career with a Job in Japan’s Video Game Industry

Opportunities in the video game industry are available more than ever. However, the roles may be different from what most gamers would imagine. 

By 6 min read

Japan is practically synonymous with video games. Almost all the big franchises and names started here. Gaming is also a billion-dollar business enjoyed globally by people of all ages and backgrounds. 

It’s only natural that professionals worldwide are attracted to join the industry in Japan. It can be a challenging one to break into, especially if there are language barriers, but it’s not impossible given the opportunities available on GaijinPot Jobs.

Due to Japan’s shrinking population, companies in all industries are seeking foreign workers…

Companies big and small have hired foreign programmers, designers and producers through GaijinPot for years. There are opportunities in translation, quality assurance, journalism, customer support, marketing and even freelance and other outsourced work. 

While speaking Japanese will open many doors, there are plenty of jobs that require no Japanese. Here’s a look at some of the best jobs for foreigners to break into Japan’s video game industry.

Translation and localization

Translation will open doors in all types of industries.

Speakers of English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai are often welcome for language quality assurance (QA) jobs. 

These jobs often involve playtesting games to check for things like language appropriateness or if the speech and communication will make sense to gamers from other cultures. Translators will manage spreadsheets and confidential information to preserve the context and nuance of a game’s story and presentation. 

You can prepare for this type of role by learning computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools—such as Trados or MemoQ—and list them on your application, resume or CV as relevant skills. This can help you get noticed by a hiring team.

However, remember that these are entry-level roles and typically have entry-level disadvantages, such as lower salaries, especially in the beginning. 

Starting salary expectation

  • No experience: ¥192,000 plus per month
  • With other translation experience: ¥224,000 plus per month
  • Part-time: ¥1,200 an hour

Customer support

Gamer support roles will present better advancement opportunities.

Due to Japan’s shrinking population, companies in all industries are seeking foreign workers for customer service roles. A few companies in the video game industry also support languages other than Japanese. 

Customer support might see you helping users work through problems encountered while playing a game, using their account, making purchases, refunds or various user experience (UX) bugs. 

As Japan is a very service-oriented society, the use of the Japanese honorific language is a prerequisite. These roles also require excellent organization, troubleshooting and record-keeping skills. The ability to analyze common issues and share them with team members to strengthen future workflow is what these companies want to see on your CV. 

You should be tech-savvy and customer-facing (where the money comes from). Gamer support roles often have slightly better perks and advancement opportunities in the industry.

Starting salary expectation

  • Full time: ¥230,000 to ¥270,000 per month
  • Part-time: ¥1,200 an hour

Journalism and editorial

Writers, editors and content creators will often need to work together.

Several websites over the years have used GaijinPot for gaming journalism and editorial roles. 

If you like writing about gaming news, guides, secret endings or the hottest games trends, this could be the job for you—especially if you know how to write SEO-friendly copy to get clicks and reach a wide audience.

Although rare, these jobs require sacrifice and passion. GaijinPot has seen a steady increase in hiring for editorial roles related to gaming, Japanese culture and news in general. 

Starting salary expectation

  • No experience: ¥200,000 plus per month 
  • Experience: ¥300,000 per month

Marketing

Do you have the skills to sell a game?

Marketing is a lot like sales and it is not for the faint of heart. On the company side, it’s full of corporate-speak and specialized language, but efficient marketers must also be able to translate that jargon to their target audience’s language.

Often, design and marketing departments will work together as a team, so having a sense of both skills is something employers seek. 

There will be many postmortems and key performance indicators (KPI) reporting to big bosses regarding campaigns, but these positions are also an exciting mix of creativity and accountability. 

These roles are somewhat rarely advertised but will often linger for months when they’re up because companies will struggle to find just the right person. It’s also one of the few listed here where knowing Japanese is a requirement. 

Starting salary expectation

  • No experience: ¥240,000 plus per month 
  • Experience: ¥400,000 plus per month

Software engineer

Use your knowledge of tools such as Unity, Unreal and Git to build worlds.

Programming roles are the backbone of the video game industry and qualified talent is highly sought after by every company. Even entry-level salaries for outsourced dispatch workers may be relatively high in the industry. 

Suppose you’ve got experience and qualifications in computer science, especially with programming languages like  C++, C#, Go, Java, Javascript, Unity, Unreal and Git. In that case, a little legwork will help you find many options in Japan, even at the entry-level. Other niche languages can also open doors, like Cocos2D-X. 

Game development studios pay top-dollar to recruitment agencies to net them the best talent.

A typical day for a software engineer might start with an hour of looking over code with a senior engineer, then trying to optimize it for the game or consulting with producers and artists to complete feature integration. 

Game development studios pay top dollar to recruitment agencies to net them the best talent. They may favor a “less is more” mentality towards creating tightly interwoven teams to build the tools designers and producers will use to create video game products.

Starting salary expectation

  • Software engineer: ¥400,000 plus per month 
  • Senior software engineer: ¥600,000 plus per month

Producer

What specific skills can you bring to a company or studio?

Video game producers often fill many roles. They are the connective tissue that pulls a game together—sometimes acting as the humble messenger between departments or stakeholders to lead the creative process.

Producers are responsible for organizing, facilitating and supporting team members across various divisions and departments—both internally and externally. These departments include: 

  • Art
  • Engineering
  • Live operations
  • Localization
  • Marketing

Be sure to check GaijinPot Jobs periodically for the jobs online that are hiring international workers for the video game industry.

People with a creative yet analytical mind and the ability to think on their feet to solve problems quickly depending on a game’s development stage will excel in a producer’s role.

Some companies may truly need total Japanese and English mastery from you to effectively communicate with its diverse team of clients, partners, professionals and vendors in Japan and overseas. Still, plenty of Japanese gaming companies are “English-first” internally. 

Becoming a producer is an excellent way to join the video game industry because many of their skills are not so highly specialized. If you’re good at planning, scheduling, spreadsheets or thinking outside the box, this may be the career for you. 

 Starting salary expectation

  • No experience: ¥300,000 plus per month 
  • Experience: ¥500,000 plus per month

Be sure to check GaijinPot Jobs periodically for the jobs online that are hiring international workers for the video game industry, and also check our new non-teaching positions tab.

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