Today is Valentine's Day in Japan. The day is slightly different from its American counterpart—2012, more so. Early this morning, gamers lined up so they could spend the day with someone special: their virtual girlfriends.
Love Plus is a dating simulator. New Love Plus, released today for the 3DS, is the latest in the series.
What separates Love Plus isn't just the amount of data developer Konami packed into it, but the fanfare the games have; Konami caters explicitly to its hardcore players. The Tokyo-based game company once even launched a campaign in which fans could go on vacation with their virtual Love Plus girlfriends.
For New Love Plus, Konami is launching a paid email service for the game. Players can get regular emails from their virtual girlfriends for a mere ¥315 (US$4) a month.
Valentine's Day in Japan differs because girls are supposed to give guys chocolate. A month later, there's White Day. On March 14, men give chocolate or presents to the ladies who gave them gifts or sweets on Valentine's Day.
Hoping to capitalize on a new holiday, Marshmallow companies apparently created the holiday decades ago. The marshmallow tradition didn't last, but the name "White Day" stuck.
If it seems like Valentine's puts women in the uncomfortable position of making the first move (it really does), the day can be rough for dateless guys, too. Like anywhere, young men do judge their popularity by how many Valentines they get. Since Valentine's Day and White Day are separated, it's not something one can get over in a single swoop and be done with. Everything is dragged out.
And many women, especially in the workplace, feel compelled to give "giri choco" ("obligatory chocolate") to male coworkers. This isn't true at every company, but it is widespread.
The Japanese tradition seems to avoid any chocolate giving awkwardness on the men's part. That fear of rejection does not exist for men on Valentine's Day. Instead, there's the fear of not getting any chocolate—whether that be obligatory or from the heart.
Which is why Konami's decision to launch New Love Plus on Valentine's Day was especially brilliant. The game isn't only going on sale today, but offering free content at 7-11, meaning that players—and they're mostly males—can get actually get digital Valentine's Day chocolate from one of the Love Plus girls. Hopefully, these players will be able to return the favor next month on White Day.