What’s the most popular mobile game in China percent days?
Not “Honor of Kings”, of course. Not all kinds of “Battleground”-like mobile games, either. But rather “Tabi Kaeru”( “旅かえる” in Japanese, which literally means “travel frog”). Within just a few days, the game rose to popularity on Sina Weibo, KOL circles, WeChat friends circle, as well as all kinds of online new-gen communities, such as bilibili.com, online forums and PostBars, etc. To a degree, it has grown into another super-popular game in the Chinese internet circle, besides Honor of Kings, Battleground-like games and “virtual boyfriend” games.
At present, Travel Frog has already surpassed Battleground-like mobile games and Honor of Kings, been ranked as the Top 1 free mobile game on AppStore. At the same times, its download times have risen to 1.1 million, and its ratings has kept around 9.9 out of 10. On Bilibili.com’s game Center, more players have tagged Travel Frog, instead NetEase’s Border Travel as “interested”.
However, nobody had expected that a tiny mobile game developed by a less-known Japanese game developer would rise into so much popularity. From every aspect, such as interface and game play, the game is quite simple. There’s simply not many things for game players to do, except for naming the frog, harvesting clovers and waiting. Compared with “Boyfriend Makers”, the “virtual boyfriend” game that just won millions of female game players in China, this game is too simply and minimal. The only difference is that it might be a little cuter in terms of character design and game interface.
How could a game like this share popularity with games such as “National Husband”? As a matter of fact, almost every female Chinese mobile game player has named a frog of their own, been busy harvesting clovers and anxious for travelling postcards sent back by their own frog.
What makes “Tabi Kaeru” so popular?
The game “Tabi Kaeru” was first launched on December 6th on AppStore Japan. Back then, the game ranked around 50th on the TOP 50 free game list and once reached 13th at most on AppStore Japan. However, all of a sudden, the game became the top one game on the free download list. For sure, the overnight popularity of the game owes much to the large number of female mobile game players here in China.
After the game “Boyfriend Maker” went popular, the large group of female mobile game players finally appeared in the public arena. According to Xiaolong Zhang, founder of WeChat, the number of WeChat Game players has reached 310 million, while the ratio of male and female users has also reached 1 to 1. If we classify WeChat Game users and mobile game players, then there will be around 155 million female game users in China. However, there weren’t many mobile games in the past that catered to the mental state of female mobile game players.
In this sense, “Tabi Kaeru” appeared just in time. The Japanese negative-style mobile game basically has two interfaces: frog’s courtyard and frog’s house.
Basically, the main procedures in the game includes: entering the courtyard, collecting clovers, going back to the house, putting away the food and then the frog will go on a journey. However, what game players could do in the entire process is only collect the clovers and put away the food. For game users who are accustomed to acting on many roles in a game, this game is simply meaningless, or even “boring”.
When the frog is at home, the player couldn’t decide what the frog does, and how long it does something. Therefore, some player would say jokingly, “My frog has been reading at home for a day. It must be an ‘otaku’ just like me”. All the player could do is put away more food at home to encourage the frog to go out.
Players cannot do anything with the frogs’ route. Neither can players communicate with their frogs during their trips. Occasionally, frogs will send some photos back, in which some other characters might show up. However, nothing’s settled, and nobody could tell for sure what’s coming next.
Most importantly, players can’t decide how long their frogs travel outside. When frogs are travelling outside, for two or three others, or for three to four days, players could do nothing other than gathering clovers in the courtyard, and wait, just wait.
As players watch their frogs have lunch, go on journeys, they begin to reflect on the very meaning of their own being. Since players almost can’t control their frogs, some players said jokingly that their frogs could live well even without the “control” from the players.
However, this might exactly be the reason why “Tabi Kaeru” rose to popularity. From one aspect, players’ role is undermined in this game; from another aspect, since the game is not at all time and money-consuming, players could enjoy a steady game-playing experience even without paying extra money for added service.
Comparatively speaking, “Boyfriend Makers” is more like a black hole. After players enjoy the section called “call your husband” for a while, they have to pay extra money to win in the battle mode. Next, as they enter different chapters, they have to pay extra money again so as to fuel them up and increase their levels. In addition, the game also includes SSR random cards so that players have to pay extra money again and again to draw the cards they’ve long been looking forward to.
It turns out that such model works quite well in business. Daily revenue of “Boyfriend Maker” from iOS platform within the first week reached RMB 300,000, while the total monthly revenue reached nearly RMB 300 million. Nevertheless, since it takes too much money to “raise” a boyfriend, some female players came up with the phrase that “it’s way better to raise a frog than raising a boyfriend”.
The huge potential of the Chinese female mobile game market
Although the game includes much randomness and looks quite different compared with other female player-centered games, it doesn’t necessarily mean that female users are less likely to conduct extra consumption. On the contrary, the female mobile game market features not only huge business potential, but also the spread of otaku culture.
Before “Tabi Kaeru”, Hit-Point had another similar game called Neko Atsume. Although this game didn’t stir up the market as Tabi Kaeru” did, it was also quite a popular game among certain groups of players.
“Neko Atsume” also targets female mobile game players and put the “cat economics” to the extreme. While the kitty looks so cute in the game, the courtyard seems like a paradise kingdom for cats. Every cat is like a king, though every one of them has their specific disposition and gestures. To a degree, the game is a perfect platform where female mobile game players could “take care of” cats on the cloud. Within a short time, the game has won 19 million users worldwide. In April 2017, the live-action film adaptation of the game, called “The House of Neko Atsume”, hit the theatre.
As a matter of fact, insiders in the mobile game industry has already reached a consensus: the era of games mainly targeting female players has come. Compared to ordinary male players, female users don’t like fights or strategy play. However, they are willing to pay extra money for games and enjoy entertaining themselves through games. It is in this background that mobile games such as “Neko Atsume” and “Tabi Kaeru” could attract millions of female mobile players and became popular almost overnight.
Featuring cute, fairytale-style character design and last-minute postcards sent from well-known tourist attractions in Japan, the game “Tabi Kaeru” might be able to tap into their loneliness, give female players a sense of relief, and even arouse their maternal love inside.
In fact, many female players might call their frogs “cute babies” and play as if they were their “mothers”. When their “babies” sent them postcards, they would post updates on their social media, saying something like “I’ll need to work hard, earn enough money to buy tents for you”, or “why are you still travelling around and not coming back even after so long a while”. Such remarks are actually very typical of female players of the game.
Gradually, some players began to combine the game with otaku culture and intertwine the frog with characters in the game “Boyfriend Makers”. As a result, it’s not only soothing to play the game, but also familiar and fun.
To wrap up, the overnight popularity of “Boyfriend Makers” and “Tabi Kaeru” has fully demonstrated the huge potential of the female mobile game market to the Chinese mobile game industry.
Statistics from Jiguang.cn suggests that as of Jan 7th, download times of “Boyfriend Makers” has reached around 7.1 million and its DAU has reached over 4 million. Among them, 94.2 per cent are female players, 73.7 per cent are players under the age of 24.
Jiguang.cn’s statistics also suggests that as of May 2017, the number of female players of Honor of Kings had reached 108 million, surpassing male players and accounting for 54 per cent among all users. Indeed, the popularity of “Tabi Kaeru” has opened up the opportunity to win the game market by winning over female players.
The article is published with authorization from the author Entertainment Unicorn, translated by Levin Feng working for TMTpost.