80% of customers are inbound visitors! Why are foreigners so enthusiastic about Japanese retro games? | FRIDAY DIGITAL

80% of customers are inbound visitors! Why are foreigners so enthusiastic about Japanese retro games?

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE
Sasha, a Croatian system engineer who grew up in Germany, whom we met at 8bitecafe

Nostalgic games are also known as “retro games” or “reggae.

In Reiwa, more than 20 years have passed since Japanese people started playing computer games, and now high school students are enjoying a Nintendo 3DS game released in 2011 as a retro game. And this reggae culture is not unique to Japan. A visit to a retro game store in Akihabara is a clear indication of this. It is no exaggeration to say that 80% or even 90% of the customers are foreigners.

Two fashionable black guys, who looked like they could play hip-hop, were chatting happily in the video game store, and I listened to their conversation. They had come to the store from England and the U.S., respectively, and hit it off in the store.

Many of them were looking for retro games from the Showa and early Heisei periods, such as Nintendo’s Family Computer (called “NES” overseas), the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (called “SNES”), the Mega Drive (called “Genesis”), and SNK’s NEOGEO. They are looking for retro games from the Showa to the early Heisei period.

Surprisingly, keychain games popular in the ’90s such as “Tamagotchi,” “Pocket Pikachu,” and “Tetris” are also being sold for thousands or tens of thousands of yen.

We asked Nawo, who has been running a cafe and bar called “8bitcafe” in Shinjuku 3-chome for 18 years, based on the concept of recreating retro games and ’80s & ’90s pop culture, about the reggae fever among inbound customers.

Inside 8bitecafe, there is a collection of games and other culture that is nostalgic for the Showa generation and exciting for the new generation.

About half of our customers are from overseas. About half of our customers are from abroad. I hear that Asian people also like SNK’s competitive games such as the “King of Fighters” series and the “Samurai Spirits” series. The games that are popular at our house are those from the ’80s and ’90s.

–You are playing games from more than 30 to 40 years ago now?

Yes, we play games from the ’80s and ’90s. Whether it’s NINTENDO Switch, PlayStation 4 or 5, PC or smartphone, retro games can be easily purchased through download sales and other means. And NESs, called compatible consoles, are sold inexpensively at Don Quijote and other stores. “I want what I had back then! For those who say, “I want what I had back then!”, there are converters that can convert the connection to the HDMI format so that it can be used with today’s TVs, and manufacturers are also reprinting and remaking retro games and related works in various forms, so many of the past masterpieces can still be played today.”

Under such circumstances, what exactly are they thinking about and what are they looking for in Japanese retro games? I asked Sasha, a 36-year-old Croatian man who happens to be a cameraman for a YouTube channel called “Nihon Hack” and who is a Japanese retro game fanatic, and he answered in fluent Japanese He answered in fluent Japanese.

I was in Germany when I was a kid, and I got hooked on reggae games when I played “Super Mario Bros. 3. I will never forget the shock I felt when I was in the game’s world 4, “Big Island,” and a small fry character, who had been smaller than me until then, became many times bigger than me and came at me. After that, I started playing “Mario Bros.” and other Mario games, and I got more and more hooked. I also play American and European games, but almost exclusively Japanese games. I really love Japanese games (laughs).

The “Super Nintendo Entertainment System Box” for commercial use was once popular at hot spring resorts. This is said to still enthrall people from all over the world today.

How did they find their way to this store? Mr. Nawo says.

They usually go to Osaka, Kyoto, Hakata, and Akihabara, and when they come to Shinjuku, this is where they go. I guess they are on the tourist route (laughs). When it comes to shopping, it seems that most of the purchases are Japanese retro video games. The current depreciation of the yen makes it easy to buy, and some people are buying a lot.

Many of them are in their 20s to 40s. Nowadays, it is easy to play retro games on the Nintendo DS, so I think this is a gateway to the market. There are also many people who see game packages and posters from those days as art and find them attractive in a pop culture sense. They also like manga and anime, and “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” has become a representative of subculture manga, and JoJo’s stories are understood by all inbound customers (laughs).

(Laughs.) The concept of this store is “the room where I used to hang out with my friends when I was in junior high and high school. Some foreigners show me pictures of their rooms, which are filled with more old video games and old video game consoles than ours. I wanted to recreate my own “back in the day,” and it’s a strange feeling to see people from all over the world, from different eras and cultures, doing the same thing and being able to relate to each other.

When “XEVIOUS” first appeared in video game arcades in 1983, it had a huge impact on the industry. The ported version is known to have triggered the explosion in popularity of the NES

–What games are particularly popular among these people?

What games are particularly popular among them? We have a console that used to be used for professional use where you can play “Super Mario Kart” for the Super Famicom (SNES), and you can play against other players. (Laughs.) After all, Nintendo’s “Virtual Boy” and “Superscope Some people are nostalgic for games that were popular overseas but not so popular in Japan, such as Nintendo’s “Virtual Boy” and “Superscope. We have “XEVIOUS” in the store, which costs 50 yen per play, and because it is a classic, it is popular among people of all ages.

People from many different countries gather here, but in what languages do the inbound gamers communicate with each other?

I myself can only speak a little English, but it’s no problem at all. I start with a conversation like, “Where are you from? If we play a game, language doesn’t matter. It is precious that we share the same interests.

–Why are foreign gamers attracted to Japanese reggae games in the first place?

Why is that? (laughs).’ I think it’s because the designs of the ’80s and ’90s shine through, and because the world is full of a sense of stagnation right now, so I wonder if the energetic times, the memories of youth that exist there, transcend time and grab people’s hearts.

How about searching for games from those days on your smartphone and finding something important and warm in the back of your mind?

Nawo, the representative of 8bitecafe, is also active as a musician. He is attracting attention from overseas as an evangelist of Japanese pop culture.
  • In cooperation with 8bitcafe

    Right in front of Shinjuku 3-chome Subway Station, exit C5. Open from 19:00 to 24:00 (closed on Tuesdays)
    Shinjuku Q Building 5F, 3-8-9 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
    3-8-9 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Photo Gallery5 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles