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You don’t know much about yourself, except that you’re an attractive young career woman living in San Francisco.
It’s up to you to choose between the muscle-bound Leo De Ville, raven-haired Blake Graystone, professorial Raphael Moreau, fresh-faced Kieran Van der Belt, or his ruthless older brother, Xavier.You choose Xavier because of his intriguing, two-dimensional blue eyes, and eagerly click through to read the rest of the story. Voltage, the Tokyo-based publisher that dominates the romance sim market, has struck gold with the formula.Other romance sims charge players to purchase virtual goods, but Voltage hooks the player with potboiler story lines, stopping at cliffhangers and requiring a payment to go on."You won’t purchase clothes or coins or whatnot," says Shino Imao, spokesperson for Voltage."It’s more like you sit down and immerse yourself in a love story." A love story that often ends up with cartoon men taking their shirts off, that is.Voltage titles are pretty tame, but the erotic, escapist themes parallel those found in romance novels.
Voltage’s romance sims are similar to "dating sims" in which you can create a virtual girlfriend or boyfriend and then interact with it as if you’re dating (or have it talk so dirty to you that it gets banned from the App Store).
But unlike dating sims, romance sims are exclusively marketed to women.
Romance sims are uniquely addictive, however, and they’ve monetized extremely well in Japan.
Voltage just became the sixth-highest-grossing app maker on the Google Play store, according to analytics from App Annie, placing it just behind comics publisher comi Xology. Others players post lists of the choices they made — "hint about your feelings," "brush the hair away from his face" — with each character.
(That ranking excludes games, which are in another category.) GREE, another Japanese app that serves as a platform for romance sims, placed third on that list. Voltage released three highly anticipated characters last month, which is possibly why the company’s revenues were so high. Voltage has six US titles, with two more coming out by November (each game takes about six months to make).
Voltage actually does even more sales on i OS than Android, the company says, but has not cracked the top ranks there. Indeed, it’s easy to find hardcore Voltage fans gathering on Tumblr, Twitter, and in forums to giggle over their favorite characters and talk about upcoming story lines. In "To Love & Protect," you play the president’s daughter, attended by a sexy bodyguard.