The Social Impact Of Dragon Quest IX’s Tag Mode In Japan

By Ishaan . July 9, 2010 . 4:22pm


Dragon Quest series originator, Yuji Horii, believes the reason for the series’ popularity in Japan could be that it serves as a mainstream topic of discussion. That Dragon Quest is more than just a game — it’s, in a sense, a communication tool. If there were any doubts to that theory, Dragon Quest IX shatters them. Specifically, the game’s “Tag Mode”.


The Tag Mode in Dragon Quest IX has had quite the social impact on Japan’s gaming populace, according to Horii, DQIX producer, Ryutaro Ichimura, and Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata. The main reason for this is the game’s treasure map system, which allows you to obtain treasure maps that lead to rare items or bosses in the game, either by finding them in the form of ingame items or by interacting locally with other DSes.


This map can then be shared with other players using the game’s Tag Mode function, where your DS, while closed, will interact with any other systems nearby that are set to Tag Mode as well. If you find a map, you can put your name on it, along with a message, to let people know you found it.


While this feature popularized the Tag Mode concept, where an increasing number of people started to go out with their DSes set in Tag Mode, what really sparked the social phenomenon, was the discovery of a certain rare map.


Eventually, since the treasure maps in Dragon Quest IX are randomly-generated, a certain player came across one with an extremely rare perk. As this map spread to other players, people began announcing map hand-outs on the Internet at specific real life locations, and players would turn up just to be able to gather the valuable map data.


It was this phenomenon that originally gave rise to the Dragon Quest pub in Akihabara.1 In about two weeks, Ichimura reveals, the map was spreading from Tokyo to Hokkaido. One way this may have happened, according to Iwata, is children asking their fathers to take their DSes with them on business trips, and leave them on in Tag Mode.

1. Note that this is different from Luida’s Bar in Roppongi.


At its peak, the Tag Mode was used by over 600 people in Akihabara alone. In some cases, people visiting the district from other parts of Japan would spend a day there, in the hopes of obtaining a good map before returning home.

  • deltazero

    Such an awesome feature, too bad it won’t work that well in the states :/

    • if you watch the interview they’ll mention that Tag Mode works with every copy of Dragon Quest IX, regardless of region. So if someone decides to go to Japan with an NTSC/PAL copy, they will probably get the certain rare map Ishaan mentioned.

      • Pichi

        I can see the problem for the states. The odds of not just having another person with a DS, but have the exact game AND use the feature. If it was an iphone game with that feature, it’ll have a better chance, but still. Have better luck if it was over wi-fi.

        • Well, as you can see me in my new comment, there are people who trying to overcome the problem through social networking. Horii mentions Twitter could work in the same way as the Facebook group, so it’s just a matter of the willpower of the people.

          Of course, on the other hand, while I was floating around the web, I found people that were like, “Why would I want to play my JRPGs with other people?” I literally face-palmed at that. Probably a tiny minority but that’s a pathetic mentality.

      • yeah but it will be hard to get people here… Well if in the US is hard, i cant imagine where i live, the people i know iwith DS are, ummm 5 people, and ppl whi like dragon quest, 1, so i will never know how is a game with 3 other dudesD:

        • Spread word on your website, maybe you’ll find more players close to you. The internet is a powerful tool if used correctly.

          …I just sounded cheesy/corny.

          • lol, well, maybe is powerful in some places, but in my country, there isnt really a page where lot of random people or gamers hang out, is pretty hard to find people *sigh* i might still try though, these social networks like twitter or facebook are pretty famous (almost in a scary way) here

          • No, that’s actually a great point. The Internet is a powerful tool and it can be used to do a lot of good. I mean, that’s what Horii said about Twitter, too, right? :)(saving that discussion for the weekend since we didn’t want to overload people with DQ news)

          • Nice, I look forward to the article even though I know what the meat of the article will be. ;)

        • Joanna

          Yeah, I know what you mean. I live in suburbs and I hardly see anyone with a DS. I don’t know any other DQ fans either. I guess I’ll try my luck with Tag Mode….but I just don’t see it happening.

  • Yea. This was an interesting story to hear. Now if only international interaction with Tag Mode actually became a phenomenon like Ichimura dreams it could…

  • hmmm… I feel I should mention this here since it’s about DQIX and socialization.

    This is an unofficial DQIX facebook group that was formed last week that’s dedicated to forming DQIX multi-player meetups across the NTSC region and eventually the PAL region if demand is big enough. It’s at a meager(?) 93 people now but if word about the group is spread out enough, it should become the phenomenon that Nintendo and Square-Enix want it to be.

    • Joanna

      That’s pretty cool. I wonder how many Canadians will be on that group. Still I doubt that I would be able to meet up if the meeting place was far away. Public transit sucks where I live and gas prices are too high (Ontario now has HST) for me to go for a long drive . But thanks for pointing it out, maybe just maybe, there will be enough people in my city. *crosses fingers*

  • 9inchsamurai

    Well, the US has similar video-game related phenomena like World of Warcraft and Farmville/Facebook games. I think the key difference between those and DQIX though is that the series has ALWAYS been popular in Japan whereas WoW and Facebook didn’t start getting popular until the 2000s.

  • Hraesvelgr

    Yeah, I remember seeing hordes of Japanese people hanging around with their DSes (DSs?), playing DQIX. I didn’t think it was anything particularly noteworthy at the time, especially since it was in the middle of Akiba.

  • Reimine

    I remember that a lot of people was playing dragon quest IX near yodobashi camera in Akihabara

  • tsukasa1288

    There are usually like 50 people or so in front of Yodobashi Akiba on weekends with there DS’s exchanging map data. The first couple times I saw them I had no clue what they were doing.

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