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25 Feb 2018 15:09
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  •   Home > News > Technology

    Travel Frog: The mobile game that has millions of young people in China hooked

    A mobile phone game about a wandering cartoon frog becomes a surprise hit in China, clocking up millions of downloads since its release late last year.

    A mobile phone game about a wandering cartoon frog has become a surprise hit in China, clocking up millions of downloads since its release late last year.

    The Japanese game Tabikaeru, which translates as Travel Frog but can also mean to travel and return home, has the player watch over a little green frog that spends much of its time gallivanting around Japan.

    These adventures happen off-screen and out of the player's sight — you basically just pack the creature's bag with lunch and supplies, and then it disappears for hours at a time.

    Sometimes your frog can be gone for days.

    The souvenirs and photos players receive after its trips appear to be the game's main hook, and have been shared widely on Chinese social media.

    Travel Frog has become a "super topic" on the popular Weibo social network, with users searching for posts about the game almost 2 billion times.

    This is despite the game being released in Japanese only, with no Chinese version available.

    "Why hasn't my froggie come back yet," one player said in a post on Weibo.

    "He has been out for four days! I am so worried!"

    Travel Frog has also apparently sparked interest in real-life travel, with China's largest online travel agency Ctrip reporting a boost in bookings to various Japanese cities over the past couple of months.

    China is the world's biggest mobile gaming market, with a total value of about $33 billion, according to the state-owned Xinhua news agency.

    'Buddhist game' meme

    Hit-Point, the company that developed Travel Frog, has said the game was downloaded 10 million times from Apple's AppStore, with 95 per cent of those downloads coming from China.

    Henry Fong, the chief executive officer of Beijing-based mobile games publisher Yodo1, said the Travel Frog phenomenon appears to have tapped into a recent trend in the Chinese market.

    "There's a meme on the internet here, roughly translated it's a trend that industry folk here call Buddhist games," Mr Fong said.

    "They're very relaxing, very simple to play, but as you progress in the game there's always something interesting, something new to discover.

    "Travel Frog hit the market at the right time, when the Buddhist game phenomenon was at its peak, and it was just a perfect match of zenful gameplay."

    Not everyone was a fan though. Some players have been left wondering if the game was just an elaborate joke.

    "So boring. Have I downloaded a fake game?" one Weibo user wrote.

    Mr Fong said social media reactions to the game have helped boost downloads.

    "I think that everyone including the developer of the game was taken by surprise by the rapid ascent," he said.

    'Frog sons' told to go home

    Travel Frog is by no means the most popular mobile game in China.

    Kings of Glory, an online multiplayer game developed by Chinese tech giant Tencent, reportedly has about 200 million monthly active players — but it has drawn the ire of authorities.

    Chinese media last year labelled the addictive game a "poison" for young people, and the Government subsequently made Tencent place limits on how long minors could spend online.

    Media outlets have been less critical of Travel Frog, despite warning players not to obsessively check their phones to see if the creature has come home.

    The People's Daily newspaper even drew on the game's popularity to encourage young people to visit their parents more often.

    "How does the frog mum feel waiting for the return of her frog son," the newspaper wrote in a social media post.

    "All the wandering frogs, don't forget to go home."


    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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