Nearly two years ago, I wrote an editorial sharing my reasons why the Girl-Band Boom will never happen. Since then, Bang Dream has grown in popularity, especially with their overseas mobile game release. From this, I thought I was going to eat crow over this. With some thought, I wonder if the statement Kidani Takaaki made was correct. Or maybe, does it represent another trend for gaming in Japan? Here are my thoughts.
So, what is this statement that Takaaki made in 2017 about a Girl Band Boom? He believed that the idol boom will eventually end and it will lead to a Girl-Band Boom. Sure, there are mobile games and anime that had girl bands in them. He thinks the trend will change as people will get tired of idols.
In fact, he is not completely wrong. The fictional idol scene has changed since the first Bang Dream anime aired in 2017. Sure, the established franchises, Aikatsu, Love Live, Idolmaster, PriPara, and Wake Up Girls that are still popular. Since then, only two other notable idol shows I know of, Idol Jihen and Ongaku Shoujo aired since then. However, they did not garner the same amount of popularity as the big five. One can say that the idol boom has subdued in the past few years with the focus primarily on established franchises.
With that in mind, is Takaaki’s statement about the Girl Band Boom happening afterwards is correct? Not really since there haven’t been any franchises besides Bang Dream to prove that his point is correct. I believe the reason Bang Dreamgrown in popularity is because of its similarity to idol anime. Believe it or not, there is one girl band, Pastel*Palettes, which has the idol group vibe. Aside from cover versions of anime songs, the franchise also has original songs too, just like idol franchises. While I haven’t played the actual game yet, there is probably some focus on the characters and their personality as well.
Besides its similarity to idol franchises, another reason Bang Dream is popular is the rise of mobile gaming and fall of home consoles in Japan. First off, living spaces in Japan tends to be smaller. As a result, people there might not have room for a home console like a PlayStation 4. Besides the living situation, most people in Japan spend a lot of time on public transport or on the go. By having a gaming console that is portable, it allows him or her to enjoy video games anywhere.
If you look at the yearly console sales charts for Japan, you may notice that the Nintendo 3DS generally outsell the PlayStation 4. Also, the Vita and even the Nintendo Switch actually come close to outselling the PlayStation 4. However, if you look at the weekly charts, it paints a different picture. The Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s newest hybrid console is actually outselling the PlayStation 4. Compared to the PlayStation 4, the Switch can provide a home and portable console experience.
Moreover, smartphones in general throughout the years increased exponentially in both graphical and processing power. This allows companies to create mobile experiences that is similar or matches the ones found on gaming consoles. Since everyone has a smart phone in their pocket, mobile gaming is very convenient compared to dedicated consoles. It can provide an experience that is suited for small bursts of gameplay without having to invest a lot of time. From this, it’s not too surprising to see why mobile games such as Idolmaster Cinderella Girls and Love Live School Idol Festival are very popular and bring in a lot of money. It caters to the audiences’ wants in Japan by providing an experience that fits their lifestyles while providing a low barrier to entry.
Of course, this trend towards mobile gaming in Japan had led to issues who prefer full experiences. First off, this trend can explain why Sony changed their headquarters for their PlayStation branch to the United States. This caused an uproar among Japanese developers over potential censorship. Sony, unlike Nintendo sees the market of dedicated consoles dying in Japan. With mobile gaming outpacing console games there, I can understand why Sony wants to focus more on the western market.
Does this mean that mobile gaming has killed console gaming in Japan? Not so fast. Despite Nintendo jumping on the mobile gaming train since they realize it can generate a lot of money while potentially attracting people to buy their consoles, they still make their own consoles and games. Furthermore, the Nintendo Switch is actually outselling the Playstation 4 in Japan.
While the Switch isn’t nearly as powerful as a PlayStation 4, it can provide reasonably good graphics while giving a full experience. Also, the Switch can change between a home console to a portable one. Japanese publishers are taking notice and starting to make ports of their games on the Switch. The Nintendo Switch can provide the best of two worlds without sacrificing in gaming experience. While Sony could have done the same with the Vita by adding an HDMI output since it almost had the same amount of power as a PlayStation 3. Sadly, they decided against it and took the failed Playstation Vita TV approach instead.
At the end of the day, Takaaki’s vision of generating a girl band boom will most likely never come into fruition. Still, it’s easy to see why Bang Dream franchise became successful after two years. It’s mostly because of its similarity to idol anime and popularity of mobile gaming in Japan.
However, this does not mean that every franchise that focus heavily on mobile games will become successful since competition is fierce. There are so many mobile games in the Japanese market such as Granblue Fantasy, Azur Lane, and Fate/Grand Order that it’s hard to break through and make a profit. As we seen with Akanesasu Shoujo, their mobile game service ended just a few months after it launch.
While mobile games can provide endless content, besides the cost of microtransactions compared to a full game, longevity is mobile gaming’s biggest weakness. Without people continuously paying for microtransactions to try to get the rarest items or cards, the game and/or even the whole franchise can collapse just like that. In comparison, console or PC games will never face this fate since the full experience is already there. If he or she wants more content, there is always downloadable content.
With that, what are your thoughts on the Girl Band Boom two years later or why Bang Dream is popular? What mobile games do you personally play? Feel free to share your thoughts on that and on mobile games as well in the comments.