Aug 20, 2012

Do Westerners Play Dating Sims? or Spot the Difference, Hunky Edition

I came across an article on Kotaku this morning regarding a dating sim game for iOS by the name of Be My Princess. It seems to have been the centre of a mild brouhaha over a recent change in art style in the western version of the game.

So, what's the fuss about? Well, seems that following lack lustre sales in the west, publisher VOLTAGE inc. opted to revamp the once dreamy 'anime' style characters into hunky 'westernised' versions of their former boyish selves, resulting in this:

Now, only time will tell if this gamble will pay off for them in the end, but fans don't seem too pleased if the current comments in the App Store are to be trusted.

So, why am I even posting about this? Well, I think it's a miss guided move for a couple of interesting reasons that I wanted to share. First of all, the appeal of iconic representation versus realism and secondly, the appeal of the genre itself.

I don't think the more realistic style is the right way to go if they are trying to broaden their audience. It comes down to iconic versus realistic representation. The more iconic a representation is, the more universal it becomes. On the other hand, the more realistic a representation, the more scrutable it becomes, and the more the viewer can start to, essentially, disagree with it. I think that these more realistic characters are easier to find ugly than the cartoony ones from the original Japanese version. Perhaps if the change had been to 'westernise' the look of the characters without attempting realism? Tough to tell, in fact, it could all end up being for nothing anyway if I'm right about my second point.

Dating sims of this kind are, as far as I know, a pretty Japanese style of game. If most of the western audience for this game is going to be composed of proto-culture nuts who are into manga, anime and all things Japanese, then veering away from a very Japanese, boyish, look will only adversely affect the game's sales. I suspect that such a niche genre of game will appeal mostly to an equally niche audience that is simply into the very 'Japaneseness' of the whole thing. If so, then VOLTAGE should only see sales of the game drop even further following this change.

So, what's going to come of Be My Princess? Only time will tell! And, honestly, I'm a little curious to know now. I hope VOLTAGE ends up sharing the results of  this little experiment. You know the funny thing about this whole thing? What they saw as a problem of art style could simply be that not many westerners play dating sims at all.

If you want to see some more great comparison shots, head over to the aforementioned article on Kotaku.

Images from Apple App Store and

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