Date
14 November 2018
Travel Frog, a mobile game developed by a Japanese firm, was the most downloaded free app on Apple's App Store in China recently. Photo: whatsonweibo.com
Travel Frog, a mobile game developed by a Japanese firm, was the most downloaded free app on Apple's App Store in China recently. Photo: whatsonweibo.com

Why a simple Japanese smartphone game became a big hit in China

It may come as a surprise to many, but a Japanese hit mobile game “Travel Frog” was the most downloaded free app on Apple’s App Store in China recently. The game is about a frog which regularly goes on vacation.

Unlike other intense online games, players are required to do very little. They only have to grow and collect clover in a virtual courtyard as currency saved for the trips, and help the frog pack for its next journey.

Players only need to prepare one meal for the frog each day. And the frog goes on trips around Japan and sends back postcards, and sometimes bring home local delicacies. The frog would spend time alone at home, sleeping, drinking tea and packing for the next trip. That means the frog would basically take care of itself.

The game was released by a small Japanese gaming company Hit-Point in December last year. But it did not become an instant hit in Japan.

Interestingly, Hit-Point, founded in 1997, now has only 12 employees. Travel Frog has no Chinese language version. It’s really a big surprise that the game has become so popular without much marketing on the mainland China market.

Travel Frog requires little time and effort from players, unlike the case with many other mobile games where people may need to spend a lot of time and money. However, players can prepare special meals or travel accessories for the frog, which might influence their destinations or run into different friends. That would make the journey even more joyful.

Players actually play a very limited role in this game, largely nothing apart from preparing food and patiently waiting for their frog to start a journey or return home.

Players of Travel Frog can just leave the game and log back in periodically to check whether the frog is at home or out for a trip.

Perhaps precisely because players can just sit back and relax, this game has caught on with those who seek a sense of tranquility to balance the fast-paced lives.

Some see the game as a way of relieving loneliness, in particular those who live on their own.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 26

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

RC

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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