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Kids Flock to Play Insect Card Game (May 13, 2005)

The Mushiking arcade game (SEGA, 2003)
An arcade game called Mushiking, in which players battle for supremacy using cards featuring pictures of fierce-looking beetles from around the world, has captured the imagination of elementary-school boys across Japan. More than 160 million of the game cards have already been sold, and the game has spawned some 240 varieties of merchandise, from toys to notebooks. It has even been turned into a TV anime (cartoon) series. Mushiking products are already on sale in Singapore and Taiwan, and the game is set to arrive in North America by the end of the year. Some observers are predicting that Mushiking could eventually rival the Pokemon franchise, which has sold some 140 million video games worldwide, and whose films have drawn 30 million cinemagoers in Japan alone.

The Next Pokemon?
Collecting stag beetles has long been a favorite summer pastime among Japanese children. Tapping into widespread interest in these creatures, the Mushiking (mushi means beetle or insect) arcade game, which is manufactured by Sega, first appeared in January 2001. When a player inserts a ¥100 (95¢ at ¥105 to the dollar) coin into the machine, a card comes out featuring a picture of a type of beetle, such as a giraffe stag-beetle or a Hercules beetle. The player then passes the card through a reader on the machine, and the machine uses the data recorded on the card to display a computer-graphics representation of the beetle on the screen.

By combining the beetle card with skill cards like "Banging Smash" and "Running Cutter," the player "fights" against the various other beetles that appear in the game. The gameplay has a similar format to rock, paper, scissors. On weekends, boys - often accompanied by their fathers - can be seen lining up to play Mushiking at amusement arcades and shopping centers, where many of the machines are located.

A Mushiking card (SEGA, 2003)

Arcade-game manufacturers usually introduce new games about every six to twelve months in order to ensure that customers keep coming back for something new. It is very unusual for a game to continue drawing crowds of players for four years, as Mushiking is doing. This success reflects a great deal of hard work on the part of the manufacturer, Sega, which has encouraged the formation of numerous teams of players and has organized about 20,000 official Mushiking competitions nationwide in an effort to cement the game's fan base. Articles on Mushiking in children's study magazines and the sale of Mushiking merchandise, such as card stands, beetle magnets, key holders, and notebooks, have also boosted the game's popularity.

An animated TV series based on the game, called Kochu Oja Mushiking: Mori no Tami no Densetsu (Mushiking, King of Beetles: Legend of the Forest People), began airing at the start of April on the TV Tokyo network. This cartoon adventure tells the story of a boy called Popo, who enlists the help of the Mushiking to fight off various beetle enemies. The series is likely to further increase Mushiking's popularity.

Mushiking Sparks Game Industry Upturn
After the feverish excitement surrounding the launch of Sony's Playstation 2 game console in 2000 died down, the game industry experienced a slump from which it has yet to fully recover. Thanks to the Mushiking boom, however, the game market is now expanding for the first time in several years. Statistics show that in fiscal 2002 (April 2002 to March 2003) the market expanded for the first time in six years, and in fiscal 2003 it grew by some 7%.

Explaining the marketing strategy for Mushiking, a spokesperson for Sega says, "We do not have many Mushiking games in amusement arcades. Instead, we put most of them in suburban shopping malls, department stores, and other places that children tend to visit with their parents." The success of Mushiking reflects synergy between the game manufacturer, which was keen to find a market among families out shopping, and the operators of large retail outlets, whose strategy is to fulfill consumers' every demand.

As summer approaches, both children and adults are looking forward to another season of insect watching and collecting. Momentum continues to build behind Mushiking, which has struck a chord among Japanese children with an interest in insects, especially boys.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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