Have you ever wished that you were the star of your favorite rom-com films or romance novels? Voltage Inc. gives you that opportunity with their eclectic line of romance simulation games, with storylines ranging from forged weddings to being taken under the care of mythical creatures.
Essentially, you play the female lead, thrown into a situation where multiple men are vying for your attention, and you ultimately pick only one to pursue a romantic relationship with. Romance simulation games, also known as "otome games," are widely popular in Japan, and now they're slowly making their way to the U.S.
After swinging by their booth at Anime Expo, Asia Pacific Arts chats with the co-chairs Yuzi Tsutani and Nanako Higashi of Voltage Inc. about otome games and their Japanese and American audiences.
Kissed by the Baddest Bidder
Asia Pacific Arts: What compelled you to work on romance simulation games?
Yuzi Tsutani: Actually, we started with male-oriented games like battle games, but it didn't turn out to be a big success. But when we started making romance games for female users, we gradually were able to gain users. Now we have 22 million users in Japan.
APA: What is so appealing about romance simulation games?
Nanako Higashi: The needs of women, to love and be loved, is not just in Japan. It's a ubiquitous feeling, and we believe that our apps can cater to those needs.
APA: What is the general process of creating a romance simulation game?
Yuzi: First, we start off with the concept, what kind of story do we want to tell, so we find writers to tell our story. Then, the characters come along next, and we hire illustrators to illustrate the art. And that's when the production team comes together to turn it all into a functioning application.
APA: I hear you two are actually a married couple. How is it balancing your personal and work life, and does this have any effect on your games?
Yuzi: I started studying film in UCLA, so I typically make the structure of the games. She likes the romance stuff. Actually, I'm not really about that [laughs]. She gets the ideas and takes care of the romantic details, so we work together to make the game that way.
Be My Princess 2
APA: Many of your games are translated from Japanese to English, but you have also begun making games specifically for your American audience. What is the difference between the two audiences?
Yuzi: There's a big difference. In Japan, women don't slap a man's face, but Americans do. [laughs] Women are more aggressive here.
Nanako: Yes, women are tougher here, and American men are more muscular and macho, I think. So we tailor our characters to express these types of personalities in our U.S. games. The views of love in Japan and America are also very different.
APA: How would you describe the reception of the games in Japan vs. the U.S.?
Yuzi: The Japanese mobile app market is pretty good, as it has about a 10-15 year history, but it's relatively new in the U.S., so it's still small and developing. Japan is used to paying money for quality content, but in the U.S., people think everything should be free. [laughs] Japanese users are avid players of our games, but we also see our American user base slowly growing. We were so surprised to see how popular this anime convention is. Being here tells us that there is indeed an audience here we can cater to.
My Forged Wedding
APA: What game would you recommend for starters who are unfamiliar with romance sims?
Nanako: I really love the game My Forged Wedding. It's a good balance of both fantasy and reality.
Yuzi: This game got the #1 ranking in 46 countries, so we think it'll be appealing to a wide audience.
APA: You've also just released a new game titled Enchanted in the Moonlight. Can you tell us more about it?
Yuzi: The game is based on Japanese folklore. You have a special power that evil youkai [demons] want to take from you, and there are multiple mythical creatures like a fox spirit or a crow demon who strive to protect you, but you fall in love along the way. Right now, we have one character available for play, but we'll be adding more characters soon, such as an oni [Japanese ogre].
For more, go to Voltage Inc's Facebook page.