Japanese women have resorted to making virtual boyfriends in romance gaming apps to cope with the heartbreak of failed relationships.
Virtual relationships through such mobile games have reportedly helped millions of women to fill the void of an absent lover. Presented in a variety of genres, players are provided with numerous options including simulated sex encounters usually found in the later parts of the games. Ladies are also given a host of men with different looks and personalities to choose from.
Single ladies, like Tokyo-resident Ayumi Saito, have found comfort in having a boyfriend controlled by an in-game Artificial Intelligence.
The 31-year-old, who broke up with her boyfriend eight years ago, told CNN that fictional “boyfriends” in games like “Metro PD: Close To You” can do many things a real man can’t.
“I felt lonely,” Ito said. “Japanese men are shy and not good at flattering women. But girls want to hear ‘I love you’.”
“When I was tired at the end of the day, before going to sleep, I was so relieved to hear his sweet and gentle words,” she added.
Dating simulation games, which began as early as the ’80s, have evolved over the decades from previously focusing on male players to focusing more on a female user base.
As Japan continues to be among the global leaders in mobile gaming, generating $6.5 billion in sales in 2016, many local developers seek to tap on a huge population with a growing preference for simulated intimacy.
In the country, where nearly half of single millennials (between the ages of 18 and 34) are still virgins, the virtual love industry has found a niche and is currently booming. Figures from 2014 estimate that the business was worth at least $130 million.
Female-focused game developers such as Voltage have been fulfilling women’s affection needs since 2006.
“Almost all women are under stress,” Voltage co-founder Nanako Higashi told CNN. “We wanted to provide something for them.”
With a catalog of over 80 romance games, reportedly played by 50 million global users, the company has undoubtedly found success in providing virtual love.
In the year leading up to June 2016, the company has made ¥11.2 billion ($102 million), following an international release, with distribution in the United States and Europe.