Culture Smash: Why Is PC Gaming in Japan So Niche?

By Brian Ashcraft on

Cold rain drizzles outside. Inside, everything is pink, round, and frilly. The first floor of this otaku (geek) retailer is plastered with release info for new PC games—adult PC games. A young clerk in glasses near the 18-and-up section taps away on a computer, probably checking inventory. I approach, excusing myself for asking a sudden, if not seemingly random question: "Why is PC gaming in Japan so niche?"

The shop is located in Den-Den Town, Osaka's geek and gaming district, on a street known as "Ota Road", short for "otaku road". It's easy to stumble into shops like this and find an array of dating games, some of which are erotic. The vast majority of these games are not exactly mainstream in Japan, but their presence is palpable in a geek neighborhood like this. But what Western gamers think of PC games—the games from developers like Valve and Blizzard—aren't. It's not that those Western PC games don't exist; they just don't smack you in the face.

When many Japanese gamers think of the country's PC gaming industry, the kneejerk reaction is to think of either dating or Western games. "The image of PC gaming with many Japanese gamers is first-person shooters," the clerk replies, agreeing that it is niche in Japan. "That," he continues, "and they think PC gaming is expensive."

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