Harlequin must really be expanding their product line: In addition to Polecat’s relatively recent discovery of the romance novel manga, I just found out about a Harlequin dating sim, Harlequin Presents: Hidden Object of Desire, while researching otome games for a previous post. The game was released some time last year.
Here’s the blurb from Big Fish Game’s website, the distributor of the game:
“Allie's on a quest to find some breaking news in the Kingdom of Adamas, but must now choose between her friend's well-being and true love! The bachelor Prince of Aristo is the most enchanting man she has ever met, but she must fend off his charming advances long enough to figure out what is going on.”
In addition to the game, I think you're given a digital copy of a romance novel based in the same romance novel universe as the game. More details can be found at this review on the Dear Author blog, including screenshots.
I’m not sure how exciting the whole thing sounds, since it appears that you don’t even have any choice in your love interest. It really is a visual novel, maybe even more linear than most VNs, but maybe that makes sense for a company that makes its money being a factory for trashy books.
Regardless, creating games like these could be a good opportunity to introduce (or I guess reintroduce) the American market to otome-like games. The majority of the very few available in the US are localized titles from Japan, which haven't done so well in the past. The reasons vary, from perhaps poor marketing, a perceived lack of an American audience, a different gaming culture in the US, among other things. So maybe a new approach could be to hook female gamers with games developed in America, catering to and directed at that particular audience.
I'm not trying to say that localization doesn't work; the manga and gaming industries started as translated works imported to the US. At the same time, otome games haven't had success with localization. I do wonder if some of it has to do with how much of a niche market it is; I don't know anyone who is interested in this type of game without already being a fan of manga, specifically shoujo manga. Add to the fact that girls do not usually game as often as boys, and you have a pretty specific demographic you have to hook to fund your entire US industry.
So maybe the solution is, in fact, otome games developed in the US. I'm really not a fan of Americanization (Akira movie, amirite?), but if the issue is, in fact, partly cultural, perhaps it would be best to see more games such as Harlequin's, which already build upon the established romance novel industry that caters to American female audiences. You have to start somewhere, after all, and American-produced otome games could be what it takes to popularize this sort of game, and eventually open up the market for localized works from Japan.
But this is all my making a bunch of guesses and assumptions. Does anyone have a better understanding of all of this, or perhaps played Hidden Object of Desire? What are your thoughts on bringing otome games to America?