Analyzing Japanese 3DS Game Prices: 2012 to 2015

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Analyzing Japanese 3DS Game Prices: 2012 to 2015

Living in Japan has brought me invaluable experience and fond memories. I was exposed to a plethora of wonderfully strange and wildly unique things — from the country’s deep-rooted culture to its friendly people to its insanely popular video game scene. However, during my stint there from 2011-2014, Japanese Nintendo 3DS video games were most expensive between 2011 and 2012. Hell, everything was expensive during that time, but not for the reasons you may think.

Comparatively, displayed prices for merchandise — Japanese Nintendo 3DS games for this specific article — have remained fairly constant over the past five years; I’m unsure how they differed prior to my time there. What “makes” something — anything — expensive or inexpensive in Japan is the strength of the country’s currency: yen. An elevated yen rate equates to a “strong” yen, while a lower yen rate is considered “weak.” Essentially, the stronger the yen, the less bang you get for your buck, and vice versa. For example, today I can exchange $1 for about 121 yen. However, in April 2012, my dollar only managed to net between 75 and 85 yen.

To prove just how expensive Japanese Nintendo 3DS games were for someone like me, an American using U.S. currency, I made a trip to my local TSUTAYA on April 17, 2012. TSUTAYA is a popular Japanese media chain that sells video games, manga, music, and books; some locations rent out movies and anime as well. I took pictures of six different games on display, documenting the price for each, in yen, along with the equivalent U.S. price based on the April 17, 2012 yen rate. In addition, I have included the equivalent U.S. prices based on today’s yen rate as well as the difference.

The following images are displayed from least expensive to most expensive.

analyzing_japanese_3ds_game_prices_2012_2015_3

Mario Kart 7

Price in yen: ¥4480
Equiv. U.S. price: $55.65

Today’s equiv. U.S. price: $37.12
Difference: $18.53


analyzing_japanese_3ds_game_prices_2012_2015_5

Super Mario 3D Land

Price in yen: ¥4480
Equiv. U.S. price: $55.65

Today’s equiv. U.S. price: $37.12
Difference: $18.53


analyzing_japanese_3ds_game_prices_2012_2015_1

Fire Emblem Awakening

Price in yen: ¥4800
Equiv. U.S. price: $59.63

Today’s equiv. U.S. price: $39.78
Difference: $19.85


analyzing_japanese_3ds_game_prices_2012_2015_2

Kid Icarus: Uprising

Price in yen: ¥5380
Equiv. U.S. price: $66.83

Today’s equiv. U.S. price: $44.58
Difference: $22.25


analyzing_japanese_3ds_game_prices_2012_2015_4

Resident Evil: Revelations

Price in yen: ¥5480
Equiv. U.S. price: $68.07

Today’s equiv. U.S. price: $45.41
Difference: $22.66


analyzing_japanese_3ds_game_prices_2012_2015_6

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy

Price in yen: ¥5980
Equiv. U.S. price: $74.29

Today’s equiv. U.S. price: $49.55
Difference: $24.74


Currently, the majority of first-party Nintendo 3DS games in the United States go for approximately $39.99. Japan’s constantly changing yen rate makes purchasing Nintendo 3DS games from abroad a constant battle of hit and miss — and now is about as good as it gets. The Japanese yen is the weakest it has been in eight years, and it’s times like this I wish I was back in Japan to take advantage of that luxury.

For reference, the chart below (courtesy: XE.com) shows how the yen per U.S. dollar has fluctuated over a ten-year period.

analyzing_japanese_3ds_game_prices_2012_2015_7

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Kevin's a snobby (but classy) tea extraordinaire, seasoned sushi connoisseur, and cold weather lover. He also likes Pokémon, exploring Japan, and has perfected the art of making the perfect matcha.

1 COMMENT

  1. Very insightful article, it’s very interesting to see some of the economics behind buying a game in the U.S. vs Japan with similar currency!

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