Horse Racing Idols App, Uma Musume Pretty Derby, Launches In Japan

Uma Musume Pretty Derby is the Japanese mobile gaming industry’s first runaway hit in a decade. The game has found a niche by bridging the historically disparate subcultures of horse racing and women pop stars known as “idols.” Players train and race female characters dressed in school and military-inspired costumes, with the addition of horse ears and tails. Race winners go on to perform a pop concert. Since its February release, the game has generated hundreds of millions of dollars for Cygames, and the developer’s parent, CyberAgent, making it one of the world’s top-grossing mobile games, despite its Japan-only release.

“I was planning to buy a car but figured I don’t really need one and, since I have savings, why not put all my effort into Uma Musume?” said Daiki Minakawa, 25, a software engineer who has spent more than $18,000 in-game. “I can’t buy a car anymore but I don’t have any regrets.”

The breakout success of Uma Musume, which translates to “horse girls,” is a shot in the arm for Japanese developers, whose mobile market share has been eroded by an influx of increasingly polished Chinese titles. “Gacha,” a common mechanic in Japanese titles in which real-world money is used to win special items and power-up characters, is what has made the game so lucrative. Although Uma Musume is free, many users spend money on gacha – similar to “loot boxes” – to collect characters and advance in-game.

Cygames’ assault on gamers’ wallets began with the 2018 launch of an Uma Musume animated show, which quickly became a hit. When the game arrived in 2021, industry observers said it was unusually polished for a free-to-play mobile title. “A lot of leaders in mobile game companies have no connection to the game industry,” said Serkan Toto, founder of the Kantan Games consultancy. “It’s different with Cygames; this company is led by gamers.”

(All information was provided by WHTC)

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