The “games for women” discussion is one that is debated rather frequently within the industry. While, within the western game development community there isn’t much of an emphasis on creating games that cater to a female audience, game developers in Japan have been producing otome games for years now.
Capcom’s historically-based Sengoku Basara, then, is a bit of an oddball franchise. While the games are in no way fine-tuned specifically to cater to female tastes, producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi reveals that the series’ most passionate audience in Japan comprises primarily of women.
“Easy to Get into Play”
In an internally-conducted corporate interview, Kobayashi, involved with some of Capcom’s biggest brands including Devil May Cry and Resident Evil, discusses Sengoku’s female audience and what draws them to it. Part of it, he says, is that the game is easy to pick up and learn.
“Although it is said that not many women play action games, Sengoku Basara is easy to get into play so that helped to attract a lot of female users,” he states. But ease of playing isn’t the only contributing factor. Building brand awareness is important, too.
“More specifically, in addition to lowering the difficulty, we produced a range of related merchandise and animated features in order to create a series people of all ages can enjoy,” he elaborated. “The result exceeded our own expectations, and through this series we were able to gain a wider user base.”
90% of Visitors are Women
Another aspect of strengthening Capcom brands, Kobayashi says, are the public events the publisher conducts for fans of its series. Putting on a grand show at these events in order to ensure fans have a good time is a top-priority. One example of this is the theatrical road tour, conducted last year. The most surprising revelation, though, is that 90% of the fans that attend Sengoku Basara events are women.
“Forty percent of the game users and more than ninety percent of visitors to our events are women,” Kobayashi shares. He goes on: “Most of male users generally play the game only. The hard core fans that visit our events are mainly women. The most prominent age group is women in their late teens and early twenties. The number of fans that are in high school and junior-high school is also increasing.”
The Psychological Hook
To sum up, the game is easy to learn, and the company behind it treats it and its fans with the utmost respect. But what captured the attention of Sengoku Basara’s female audience in the first place? The answer to that question may lie in observing Japanese society.
In the past, Kobayashi has opined that the female fascination with Sengoku Basara also results from a lack of suitably masculine male partners in real life, in light of the rise of “herbivore men” in Japan. A large number of these individuals consider themselves “gender-neutral” and have no trouble playing the role of housewife while the lady goes out to work and support the family financially. They dress fashionably, go to great lengths to maintain their sometimes feminine looks, and care more for spiritual satisfaction than a sense of accomplishment.
They’re described as not being homosexual, but at the same time, they aren’t entirely heterosexual either. This phenomenon, it would appear, combined with the ease of play and brand promotion on Capcom’s part are all a crucial part of Sengoku Basara’s popularity amongst women.
This year, Capcom plan to re-launch the Sengoku Basara franchise in overseas markets. While the series has previously been localized as a heavily-modified reincarnation named “Devil Kings,” Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes is being released as-is for the Wii and PlayStation 3 in Fall 2010.
A huge thanks to Chris Taran for pointing us in the direction of the “herbivore men” phenomenon!