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Japanese cat-collecting game is apps’ meow

by

Staff Writer

The smartphone game “Neko Atsume” (Cat Collecting) is gaining a worldwide following for its nonsense and adorableness.

The Japanese app has already logged more than 5.5 million downloads since it was launched in October. Although not available in English, 30 to 40 percent of the downloads have recently taken place overseas, mainly in China and North America, said Yutaka Takazaki of Hit-Point Co., developer of the game.

“When we developed this app in the beginning, we were focusing on a niche market of Japanese cat lovers,” Takazaki said. He attributed the game’s surprising success to its very simple structure and adorable graphics.

Indeed, it is so simple to play “Neko Atsume” you don’t even feel the language barrier. Upon starting the app, the only thing you have to do is choose cat food and toys, which can be obtained by using a dried sardine that serves as money, to attract stray cats.

You then place the items in your backyard and wait for stray cats to drop by and play.

The goal, as its name suggests, is to collect all 45 kinds of cats on the list. Offering better food and toys improves one’s chances of attracting them.

Players must check the app occasionally to ensure food doesn’t run out, though the cats won’t die of starvation.

“Because it has no competitive or compelling elements, players can enjoy the game at their own pace when they have time,” Takazaki said. He said the developers are working to add other kinds of cats.

But some of them reflect Japanese culture so strongly it might mystify foreign players. For example, Tatejima-san, a rare two-legged cat with a megaphone, cap and striped baseball uniform, represents a fan of the Hanshin Tigers, the Osaka-based team known for its rabid fan base.

The game is building a dedicated following and many players are sharing screen shots on Twitter under the hashtag #nekoatsume.

Neko Atsume is free to download for iOS and Android.