In an attempt to boost tourism, the Japanese resort town of Atami, located 60 miles southeast of Tokyo, has begun catering to a new clientele — men with virtual girlfriends. This curious getaway concept revolves around the virtual dating game Love Plus, in which players must maintain a relationship with an in-game sweetheart. What does a vacation based around a computer-generated partner entail? (Watch a trailer for Love Plus.) A quick guide:
Why do Love Plus players go to Atami?
The city has teamed up with Love Plus creators Konami Digital Entertainment, who have placed unique barcodes at 13 locations around town. A player scans a barcode with his smartphone to display an image of one of the game's girls on his phone's screen — then stands "next" to his virtual date, while someone takes a picture of "them."
What other accommodations has the town made for players?
Some vendors have begun selling Love Plus-themed products, including cakes that feature the game's characters. And Hotel Ohnoya, which has installed the bar-codes in some of its rooms, has trained its staff to check in Love Plus players as couples. "We try not to ask too many questions," Ohnoya managing director Atsurou Ohno tells The Wall Street Journal, "because we want them to be able to remain immersed in that game world."
How popular is Love Plus?
It's become the most popular dating game in Japan, with nearly 430,000 copies sold to date. According to Discovery News, "well more" than 2,000 players have flocked to Atami to take advantage of the Love Plus campaign.
What do commentators think?
A grown man having a 13-year-old virtual girlfriend is "sick enough," says Eric Doyle in TechEye.net, "but taking her away for a clandestine weekend calls for a larger sized bucket." It's "certainly one of the more unusual digital marketing campaigns we’ve seen," says Jolie O'Dell in Mashable. That said, "I have to hand it to Atami and Konami for creative thinking and really giving Love Plus fans what they wanted."