An aging racehorse became an unlikely hero among Japan’s gaming enthusiasts. When Makahiki, an aging horse won his first race in five years – a racing derby in Kyoto, the victory was celebrated on social media by the same bunch of gamers who have fuelled the success of Japan’s first big gaming success in a decade. Uma Musume translates to Horse Girls, Uma Musume: Pretty Derby combines subcultures of horse racing and women pop stars popularly known as idols. This has been a welcome boost for Japan’s game developers who have been under constant pressure from Chinese titles.

Uma Musume: Pretty Derby

An instant success:

Uma Musume: Pretty Derby zoomed to the number 1 position on the Japanese iOS gaming charts within two days of its launch in February 2021. It also overtook iconic titles like Genshin Impact, Monster Strike and Pokemon GO within two months of its release generating millions of dollars for its creator Cygames and the developer’s parent, online ad agency – CyberAgent. Reuters recently reported how the game has developed a cult base among individuals like Daiki Minakawa, a 25-year old software engineer has spent $18,000 on in-game purchases. It meant that he couldn’t buy the car he was saving for but he has no regrets, choosing instead to root for the horse girls.

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The plot involves legendary racehorses being reincarnated as women pop icons (known as idols) in a parallel universe. Players train and race female characters kitted in school and military-inspired costumes that also include horse ears and tails. The race winners then perform a pop concert. Players choose any one of the racers and build a team around them by picking six support cards and six support characters. These choices determine the synergy that ensures better results during training. You can increase the core attributes of your Uma Musume by participating in events.

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Driven by Gacha:

Uma Musume is a free game but many users spend big on gacha – akin to loot boxes, to collect characters and advance. Gacha is a monetisation technique that’s used extensively in Japan. Players can buy support characters and cards for better synergy. Real world money is used to win special items and power up characters.

According to the latest rankings (for the month of November 2021) from  Sensor tower, Uma Musume remains a top 10 world grosser on the Overall gaming charts as well as Google Play Revenue despite being a Japan-only phenomenon. This is certainly no one-off, short term gaming phenomenon.

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