South Korean tech firms shake up Japan’s storied manga industry

Korean firms borrowed from mobile gaming to dominate Japan’s manga industry, expanding the comics’ fanbase to a new generation of readers.

Backed by tech giants Kakao and Naver, Piccoma and Line Manga are now Japan’s top non-game mobile apps. Online manga platforms have seen a surge in popularity during the pandemic. Piccoma’s transaction volumes more than tripled in a year to 110 million dollars, with digital surpassing print in Japan’s five-billion-dollar manga industry.

Piccoma was last year’s top-grossing manga app. Its rise can be traced back to 2016, when it introduced a revenue model called “zero yen if you wait.”

The app’s manga tales are serialized. Users must wait for a timer to unlock the next installment, or pay to read ahead.

Inspired by games where playing is free but extra content is not, it was a radical departure from the typical model of selling an entire manga volume up front at prices of four to six dollars.

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