An otome game is a video game targeted towards the female demographic, and is mostly developed and released in Japan. In order to be considered an otome game, the game must feature a female protagonist and several male characters to pursue and develop romantic relationships with. Because of this, the genre tends to include mostly visual novels and dating sims. Some otome games may have elements of boys' love; however, the genres are usually kept separate. Strong sexual content is scarce as well, as most otome games are targeted towards the teenage demographic. There are, however, a few exceptions out there, such as Dessert Love and the Under the Moon series. The genre is also referred to as GxB (Girl x Boy) by some Western fans.
The genre was largely pioneered by Kairi Yura, when she created the Angelique series in 1994.
With the coming of Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side in 2002—which brought forth many new fans of the genre—popularity has been steadily increasing. In 2006, Famitsu's Top 20 list of romance games included a total of 7 otome games. However, these stats only apply to Japan (which has the world's largest market of female gamers), and otome game popularity has not come close to this in Western countries, where visual novels and dating sims are a niche to begin with. While most of otome game fandom in the West exists in the online fan translation scene, the US has seen some commercial releases such as Harvest Moon for girls farm sim series, the Yo-Jin-Bo: The Bodyguards visual novel, and the more recent Princess Debut rhythm game dating sim.
As of 2011, the otome game market in Japan was worth ¥6 billion ($79 million). It is estimated to reach ¥20 billion ($261 million) by 2015.
In recent years, otome game elements have appeared in some of the more mainstream RPG's. Examples include Persona 3 Portable, Avalon Code, and the Mass Effect series.
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