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Otome games: the rise of the female gaming market

Every night in bed, Lang Yunan,  22, chats with Sun Ce, a male character in an otome game.  “If you are a tree in the east of the river, I'll be the water of the Yangtze River, wrapped around you.” 

Otome games, or maiden games, are plot-based video games that target women players.

In Lang’s game, there is a mix of adventure puzzle solving and female growth, set in the Eastern Han Dynasty in China, where the player takes on the role of a female disguised as a male leader of a secret agent organization. Girls will interact with various characters, especially with the other five main male characters to complete a variety of game tasks, but also based on the player's choice, so that the male and female main characters have mutual feelings for each other.  It offers women a chance to discuss relationships within the safe confines of a game.

In 2023, sales from the domestic otome game market totaled HK$32.6 billion according to Talkingdata.. ” The global market revenue for  “Ashes of the Kingdom” was about HK$70 million, and  "Light and Night" earned more than HK $37 million in the 2022 iOS system.

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Katy Cheuk, 40, Game Source Entertainment's (GSE) head of sales, said she has seen a significant increase in the number of games sold to women since 2021. "Before, it was almost always boys who bought games, but in the last two years, there have been more women coming to our store to buy the latest Otome games," said Cheuk.

Until Dec. 2023, GSE has released 42 types of otome games and sold tens of thousands of units in Hong Kong.

Ding Boyao, 20, a student from Hong Kong, said the otome game provides her with a kind of emotional "alternative satisfaction" that is difficult to realize in real life.

“I've tried a lot of otome games, and they all have different stories and characters, but in general, they've filled in some of the gaps in my relationship in real life and made me feel like I'm in love,” said Ding.

“My favorite male character in Light and Night Love is not only responsible but also attentive and often makes my heart flutter,” said Ding


In 2020, the sales revenue of China's female game market will reach 57.784 billion, an increase of 47.15%

“ Most female gamers play these games as a form of mental compensation for real-life relationships,” Xu Xingya, a professor at the Department of Psychology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said.

“Even though I know that these male characters I come in contact with when I play otome games are virtual, I still enjoy the emotional fulfillment I get during the game, and it makes up for the fact that I don't have a mate to interact with in real life,” said Lang.

To better meet the needs of players, game design companies continue to develop technology, through the use of dynamic light and shadow effects, weather time period changes, and other technical means, so that the environment in the game can change with the development of the plot, to create a rich atmosphere and a sense of immersion

" In the context of 2D art presentation technology, the game's art team needs to maintain a unified visual style in presenting diverse scenes and characters, while also focusing on smooth transitions between systems, levels, and scene transitions in the game to ensure that the player's immersive experience is smooth and not out of place," said Li Pengfei, a professor at the School of Digital Arts at Jinan University.

"The beautiful graphics always make for an immersive gaming experience for me. While playing Ashes of the Kingdom, there was a storyline where I was betrayed by one of the male protagonists and at the time, in reality, I was pissed off. It was like it was happening in real life,” said Ding.

Wu Yuxun, 21, a student who has played the otome game for two years, said otome games echo the personal growth and emotional needs of female players.

“It can be empowering for all female players because the male protagonists in the game are working together with me to complete the mission. They are always here for me and encourage me, which provides me with positive emotions,” said Wu.

Wu said that her favourite role is Xiao Yi in “Light and Night”, attracting her first handsome appearance after the plot of his tragic life made her full of love for Xiao Yi

Otome games have gradually moved from online to offline through cosplay. Actors dress as otome characters and accompany players to experience real-life offline love mode to earn money, but also to meet the players' emotional needs.

This trend of the offline industry has enriched the otome game industry and started to gradually form a kind of popular culture.

For those who are prejudiced against the game, Ding said that everyone should respect other people's preferences.

“It shouldn't be simply labeled or misunderstood, and women also have the right to pursue their emotional needs,” said Ding.


《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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