Online dating games a hit among Japanese women
TOKYO: Like many Japanese young women, Takako Suzuki says the first thing she does most days is think about who her next boyfriend should be. Her choices: a cute millionaire, a butler or a samurai.
Whether playing the role of a teenager who fantasises about her five rich housemates or flirting with a civil-war warrior, Suzuki says she can’t get enough of ‘otome’ Japanese romance online dating games geared toward women. Suzuki, who says she once played 10 different titles concurrently, buys credit from Gree Inc. to pamper her avatar with virtual clothes or shoes and purchase tickets for additional game chapters.
“When I wake up in the morning, I play these online dating games for a while before I really get up,” said Suzuki, 28, an office worker. “I need to play otome games because I’m so stressed out by my nagging boss at work.” Suzuki and other female gamers are helping reshape the $10.6 billion video-game market in Japan, where the popularity of Gree’s social network is luring developers typically focused on making titles for Sony Corp. and Nintendo Co. Women will help sales of games played on social networks triple in the next five years, according to estimates by BNP Paribas SA in Tokyo.
“Developers must target women to expand their market instead of only focusing on men,” said Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc. in Tokyo. “Dating games became a blockbuster category among women because characters in those games give them what they want from men in the real world.”
‘ MANGA’ OPPORTUNITY
The market for female-oriented online dating games in Japan may reach 20 billion yen ($261 million) in five years from 6 billion yen last year, according to Hiroshi Yamashina, a Tokyo-based analyst at BNP Paribas. Last year’s sales accounted for 6% of the overall Japanese industry.
Opportunities include turning graphic novels, called “manga,” into interactive online dating games because female-oriented comics account for an estimated 70% of Japan’s 65 billion yen e- book market, Yamashina said in a September 16 report. That’s benefited Gree, which runs and develops games for its Facebook-like service in Japan. Shares of the company, which says women account for more than 40% of its users, have doubled in Tokyo trading this year, helping make it the best performer on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index.