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Japanese Translator Explains Why Otome Games Fail in U.S.

posted on by Jennifer Sherman

Otome games, video games targeted at women and typically featuring a female player character who falls in love with one of several attractive male characters, have created a popular niche market in Japan. However, the genre hasn't really taken off in the United States. What gives? Japanese manga creator, writer, and translator Gene explained the main reasons to her Twitter followers last week.

She explained in Japanese that a company she used to work for had been looking to break into the American market with otome games. However, the project brought to light the differences between Japanese and American culture, making localizing difficult. Gene said that "it's necessary to completely change the heroines" of otome games because American players do not like the usually weak and dependent characters.

Gene lives in the United States and sometimes works in translating boys-love comics and novels, as well as other works. Her unique perspective gives her an opportunity to highlight the challenges in bridging the gap between the Japanese and American game markets.

Continuing, Gene said the American market demands "strong heroines." She noted that the male characters in otome games are often unkind, cold, and selfish, and American players think of such characters as "jerks." The problematic characterization of both women and men are not what the American market desires in romance games.

As an example, Gene said that Japanese scenarios sometimes feature wives who are ordered around the house by their husbands and then discover their spouses' extramarital affairs. To get revenge and combat loneliness, the wives start their own affairs with attractive men. Although such game stories may be popular in Japan, they do not sell well in America.

Gene reiterated that American players may find fault with such a woman for staying with that kind of husband. According to Gene, the expected reaction in America to finding out one's spouse is cheating is seeking divorce. Gene provided this year's Wonder Woman film as an example of a work that features the type of female lead and romance that American audiences desire.

[Via Nijimen]

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