Cygames’ mega-hit Umamusume captivates horse racing fans and anime fans


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Online mobile gaming Umamusume: nice derby is growing at an unstoppable speed. Inspired by real racehorses that are virtually resurrected via the game, the player guide umamusume (pronounced OO-ma MOO-soo-meh), or “horse girls”, towards the top spot in major horse races.

Released in February of this year, UmamusumeThe game’s app has racked up over 11 million downloads as of the end of October 2021. Further propelled by its cartoons and comics that were released before the game, the franchise has captivated many celebrities and has even aroused donations to real ones. retired horses from around the world.

And the game’s growing popularity shows no signs of slowing down! Recently, we decided to explore the allure of the blockbuster franchise which has caught the interest of horse racing enthusiasts and anime fans alike.

In-game scene (© Cygames, Inc.)

Even Ma-Kun caught the bug

In scenes from Umamusume, riders with iconic cheerful ears and wagging tails – characteristics that set them apart from ordinary humans in their world – run across the turf in unique and vibrant outfits.

In the game, players train their racehorse characters using various techniques to win G1 races, such as the Japanese Derby and the Arima Kinen. Characters include famous racehorses, such as Special Week (1995-2018), which brought jockey Yutaka Take his first Japanese Derby victory, as well as the legendary Silence Suzuka (1994-1998).

The franchise, developed by Cygames, based in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, released the first and second seasons of its anime in April 2018 and January 2021 respectively. The mobile game was released shortly thereafter, at the end of February 2021. Due to the extremely positive reception of the game, at the end of October 2021, Umamusume had already reached over 11 million downloads. In addition to its anime, comics, and gameplay, the franchise has even hosted musical events and other functions.

Among its many players, countless celebrities have also helped put the game in the spotlight. To give examples, former Major League Baseball star Masahiro Tanaka (Ma-Kun), who now casts for the Rakuten Eagles, and TV personality Shoko Nakagawa are two of the notable personalities who have shared their Umamusume progress on social networks.

In-game racing scene (© Cygames, Inc.)
In-game racing scene (© Cygames, Inc.)

Interlacing Reality and alternative outcomes

A representative from Cygames said: “It was difficult trying to figure out how to pay tribute to the sport, while at the same time conveying the allure of horse racing – and horse racing games – to as many people as possible.”

Looking at the resulting popularity for the franchise, their efforts have certainly paid off. What has really helped increase its fandom is that, while the anime faithfully recreates episodes of historic racing, the game adds “what if” stories – storylines that answer the question, “What if this?” famous horse had achieved this goal? These assumptions stimulate the imagination of players and capture their hearts by reproducing famous races in fictional situations.

On the reality side, the second season of the anime faithfully adapts the miraculous story of protagonist Tokai Teio (1988-2013), recreating the historic triumph of the racehorse in the race Arima Kinen immediately upon his return from a hiatus. one year.

This attention to detail isn’t limited to race results, either. The franchise even went one step further to replicate the famous joke between Yukio Okabe, former Tokai Teio jockey, and Yutaka Take, the jockey of Mejiro McQueen (1987-2006), who was a renowned stayer (a horse known for his performance on long-distance tracks) which has won three G1 races spanning 3,000 meters. This level of detail is one of the reasons the anime has become a favorite among horse racing enthusiasts.

In the realm of alternate “what could have been” outcomes, the anime’s first season rewrites the tragic conclusion to Silence Suzuka’s career. While the story records the horse’s premature euthanasia after an injury during the Tenno Sho (fall) race was deemed incurable, the anime imagines a fictional plot in which Silence Suzuka, with support from Special Week and other riders, made a comeback and trained to race in the United States.

According to Mitsunobu Uwatoko, editor-in-chief of Famitsu Hakusho 2021 mobile game, a white paper that investigates and researches games, “The more people are interested in horse racing, the more they enjoy Umamusume. “

He went on to speculate, “The care and attention to detail that went into creating the game may be the reason it went viral.”

In-game training scene (© Cygames, Inc.)
In-game training scene (© Cygames, Inc.)

An increase in donations for retired horses

Besides the gameplay, the popularity of the franchise has also manifested itself in unexpected ways. Umamusume features a popular supporting character, Nice Nature (1988 ~), who has placed third in the Arima Kinen three years in a row. Since 2017, and before the release of the franchise, the Japanese nonprofit Retired Horse Association has organized crowdfunding every year on Nice Nature’s anniversary to support retired racehorses. In an average year, the association normally receives about 1 million yen (about $ 8,800) through its crowdfunding; this year, however, the association reportedly raised an incredible 36 million yen ($ 317,000)!

Comments on the crowdfunding page include messages such as “I discovered the association through Umamusume, “and,” I recently became a fan, although I didn’t know racehorses when they were still actively racing. “

Kyoko Numata, President of the Retired Horse Association, said with joy: [donations] this year have been of phenomenal magnitude, far greater than what we have seen before. I’m so glad people are talking about retired horses. This gives impetus to a massive interest in racehorses.

According to gameage R&I, a research firm specializing in video games, the Umamusume The franchise is most loved by gamers for the “training” mechanic featured in the game.

Training a competitive character means carefully balancing five key attributes: speed, endurance, power, courage, and intelligence. Failure of this task means facing defeat not only in races against other players, but maybe even in single player story races. However, the game is also peppered with “encounters” which can offer lucky players additional support, giving each game a touch of addicting chance.

Interestingly, gameage R&I also found that around forty percent of Umamusume gamers are men in their twenties and the average playing time is over two hours, which is unusually high for a mobile game, a genre in which people tend to only play sporadically during periods of time. inactivity.

R&I gameage Aki Yahashi has high expectations for Umamusume.

“I never imagined it would be this popular. The game has a lot of elements that are perfect for self-imposed challenges, giving it a different appeal than any other mobile game. With its high level of perfection, I wouldn’t be surprised if it became a national pastime.

(Read it Sankei Shimbun report in japanese on this link.)

Author: Koichi Ozaki


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