Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the Tokyo Game Show held at Makuhari Messe, a very large exhibition hall on the outskirts of Tokyo. The exhibition showcased a number of anime games aimed at those who are fiercely loyal to the original content, and it encompassed all genres, but one of the most loyal fanbases around had a special place dedicated to their unique needs and tastes.
I’m, of course, referring to otome games. The genre has gained a large following in Japan spawning off loads of merchandise and new anime in hopes of recruiting viewers into becoming loyal customers of the game, which actually works quite splendidly. Seeing as this up-and-coming genre has taken a hold of both anime fans and gamers alike, naturally I decided to delve deeper as a representative of Honey’s Anime writing team. I, Nikki Flores, using the knowledge I have gained shall take you on a journey through the otome genre.
For those unfamiliar with the genre, Otome games are typically aimed towards women (otome means “maiden” in Japanese) and can fall into two different categories: dating simulators and visual novels. In visual novels, the story is mostly fixed with perhaps a few choices in which players are able to change the overall outcome of the story, while dating simulators offer the freedom to choose one particular guy at the beginning of the game and to explore several different outcomes with him depending on the player’s decisions throughout the game.
Both games offer loads of content and hours of replayabilty for those interested in completing all endings and gaining bonus wallpapers and other digital goodies.
Widely agreed upon by fans, Angelique for the Super Famicom was the father (or perhaps mother) of the genre. Published by Koei, the game was the first to be developed by an all-female team wishing to create games that appealed to other women, particularly teenagers. They decided to create an easy-to-play game with simple controls that would revolve around romancing several attractive men. Their idea paid off in the long run and became a phenomenon. Women of all ages began to buy copies in droves and their success led to the birth of a new type of game.
Currently, there are a few publishers dominating the Otome Game market, but few have branched into foreign territory such as Voltage Inc. whose specialty lies in bringing these games into the hands of those not fortunate enough to own a dedicated gaming system. A vast majority of the population DOES own smart phones though and this is where Voltage Inc. flourishes. Their large library of Otome Games has reached millions in the casual game market as it is very easy to carry around a husbando in a pocket and on a device already used daily.
Because of Voltage’s interest in the American and European markets, I reached out to them during my time at the Tokyo Game Show to gain more answers as to how they will continue to grow their offerings in the overseas marketplace. With the help of a translator, their PR Director Yosuke Hoshi was very helpful and forthcoming with his answers.
-- So, I see you have multiple games you are currently advertising at this booth. Are any of these currently in the American or European markets or is there a chance that any of these will someday make their way over?
The only one being featured today that is available in the North American and European markets is one of our most popular titles, Scandal.
At this point in the conversation, their translator was on break, and so, he proceeded to lead me to an iPad in their demo area dedicated to their English audience. This iPad contained the aforementioned Scandal, and I proceeded to demo the game until their translator could be located. I played the opening sequence which laid out the general premise of the game before players would have to pay for their chosen guy’s story.
This game in particular was about a young woman attending a large Boy Band concert with her friend who is a diehard fan. The show is almost over and the final song begins when the main character (the player) recognizes the lyrics as something she had written down in her stolen notebook. Wondering if it’s just a coincidence, she asks her friend who writes the songs for the band and his informed that a mysterious fifth member who has never been revealed composes all of the band’s content. The player’s character shrugs this off and proceeds to an after party with the band and things begin to progress from here. The game’s translations were quite solid and the artwork was well done.
Right as I was being introduced to the band’s members, a young woman came over to me to ask if I had any questions. She was the translator everyone had been searching for, and so, I set the game down to continue my inquiries. She attempted to answer my questions to the best of her knowledge until she eventually pulled her PR boss over and translated for him.
-- So I know you mentioned Scandal earlier…
Ah, yes! That is our number one selling game in the English market! We currently have an event going on around the corner where you can meet and take a picture with one of the characters…
-- Ah! Uh, no thanks! I was just wondering if you currently had any projects on the horizon or are you currently translating any of the games on the Japanese market? If so, do you have any ideas on when they would be released?
That is difficult to answer… I would love to tell you more information, but it’s a secret.
(At this point he placed a finger to his lips and laughed. I pouted and pressed further.)
-- Are you sure?
-- I see. Alright, I know Voltage’s current primary market are mobile games, but do you anticipate branching out to consoles?
While that is quite interesting, we have no plans as of yet to leave the mobile market.
-- I understand, mobile is big business! Now, I know you have a rather large library already in the North American and European app stores…
We currently have over twenty games in the foreign app stores for both IOS and Android and over sixty in Japan.
-- That’s a lot! I’m pretty sure I actually have some of your games on my old phone before I upgraded. They were a lot of fun!
Why, thank you! I am grateful!
-- Now, how exactly do you choose which games to translate for the English audience? There is such a vast library. Do you choose based on what you think foreigners would like or sales?
It is mainly based on sales. If a game soars and becomes quite popular over here it is safe to assume that it will do well overseas as well.
-- I see. Are all of your games translated in text only or do you hire an English voice cast? I noticed on the app I played that the original Japanese seiyuu were still featured and it was mentioned that this game was currently available to play. Is there any chance of adding an English voice track at a later date?
Most of our games are translated by our branch in San Francisco. It is more cost effective to leave the Japanese track in the game and it seems our customers prefer this as well. We have only had one game with an English track where the narrator was the sole character who spoke. I believe it was Star Crossed Myth.
-- I suppose that makes sense and keeps the cost down for consumers. Out of curiosity, would you ever consider partnering with another company in order to bring a game currently unavailable to the English market overseas? I know DMM has the ever popular browser and app game Touken Ranbu, and the only way players can play outside of Japan is by using a VPN and an extensive online wiki. Do you think you could partner with them to bring Touken Ranbu outside of Japan?
Hmmm…that’s a difficult question. We have collaborated with another Japanese developer in the past to bring consumers a new game, but we have never considered doing this to bring games overseas. I don’t see why we would be unable do that in the future. It is a possibility, but we have no plans right now to do so.
-- Awesome! I look forward to seeing what plans Voltage has for the English consumer! Thank you so much for your time!
Thank you as well! Are you sure you don’t want to participate in any of our events?
At this point they are pretty much pushing me to the stage area.
-- Ahhhh. I think I’m ok. It’s a bit embarrassing!
Soon after their teaser, Hoshi was called over to speak to someone else and left me with the amazing translator who led me to some full-sized cut outs of the men available in the three games being featured at their booth. Since Scandal was the only English game, she pointed out the most popular guys in Japan and America and so I took a picture with the number one American guy to avoid embarrassing myself onstage.
The Voltage booth was quite impressive and was the biggest out of the other exhibitioners in the Love Games section as there were three separate areas dedicated to three of their most popular games. The Scandal area featured a small stage set up for a concert and women could choose one of several models dressed as the characters in the game. The women would then step up to the stage as their chosen guy walk would walk out from behind the curtain. Pictures are then taken and it is then the next person’s turn.
The next area featured Hana Yori Dango and was a similar premise, but featured less flashy guys. The line was longest here and had the biggest area out of the entire booth. I avoided this area so that I would not be dragged to the front of the line by any of the staff who saw me interviewing their boss. I discreetly made my way around the other side of the booth only to find something much more entertaining.
The last game featured, Kagami no Naka no Princess, revolves around princes and so two rooms were set up with windows visible to those waiting in line. Each room had a throne and women could choose between the two rooms where a handsome man dressed as a prince was waiting for them. The man on the left was by far the smoothest talker I had ever seen and even though I could not fully understand his Japanese, he was even making me begin to blush.