Japanese virtual reality (VR) firms are aiming to conquer the metaverse with anime avatars leading the charge.
This was apparent at the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC) show in Japan, with a number of exhibits featuring cutesy wide-eyed avatars typical of the anime style.
Metaverse startups and established companies
Hikky is one of the younger companies venturing into the space with its own virtual market: Vket. It is accessible through the VRChat platform or via a web browser for those who have yet to level up to a virtual headset.
In the Hikky virtual landscape, anime characters can explore completely virtual fantasy landscapes or digital twins of Tokyo, Paris, and Rio.
Hickey bills Vket as the world’s largest VR event and may have some right on its side. Vket holds the Guinness World Record for the most VR booths at one market event. In Hikky’s virtual Paris users can buy anime princes avatars for ¥3,000 (~$20).
Major companies partake
In early 2022 the company raised ¥7 billion ($51 million) in its first major funding round suggesting strong interest. Yamaha and Mitsubishi are among the companies joining the Hikky metaverse. Sony is another major established brand set to participate in the metaverse and partner with Hikky.
The entertainment firm recently announced Mocopi, motion-capture wearables capable of capturing full body motion including the hands, legs, waist, and head.
Mocopi allows users to direct and control virtual anime avatars in real time, making it the perfect partner for the virtual sphere.
Avatars abound in the metaverse
The Japanese market is awash with popular fictional characters including the likes of Doraemon and Hello Kitty. Since avatars are an ever-present feature of the metaverse that cultural alignment may help to smooth the adoption process.
“I think Japan is really uniquely positioned to take advantage of metaverse-style experiences because of its character culture,” Matt Alt told Japan Times last week. He authored “Pure Invention: How Japan’s Pop Culture Conquered the World.”
Trust is another factor that favors anonymity and avatars in Japan. Japanese users are especially cautious about crime and the people they meet online, preferring to remain anonymous. Avatars aptly fulfill that need.
Reality, a free YouTuber metaverse app advertises itself with the slogan, “Make your own avatar and broadcast live! Your identity stays secret!”
The early picture for Japan is one of innovation and success, but it may not remain that way forever.
Anime avatars may win, even in defeat
Professor Yushi Okajima at Chuo University in Tokyo believes that good conditions can only last so long for Japanese firms.
“Japan has an advantage in the metaverse and platform content. Anime-like worldviews and characters are some of the most valuable assets of the Japanese anime and game industries,” Okajima said before going on to add;
“Since this is also a field where China, Taiwan and Vietnam are rapidly playing catch-up, I don’t think Japan can maintain its advantage for long.”
Serkan Toto, the CEO of the gaming consultancy Kantan Games believes that the real success story will come from Japanese cultural icons rather than from the metaverses Japanese companies create.
“Hikky and other Japanese startups are working on metaverses with a domestic audience in mind, but my fear is they will see the same fate as the homegrown social networks,” Toto says. “I believe that in the end, just like Facebook eventually beat Mixi on its home turf back in the day, international metaverses will use their scale and clout to dominate Japan as well.”