Are horse racing games an untapped market?
For those of you who don't know the G1 Jockey, Gallop Racer and Winning Post series are all games created and made by Japanese gaming companies. Two of these franchises – Gallop Racer and G1 Jockey – recently merged to create a new game called Champion Jockey.
But should we have more of these games? It does seem to be a popular franchise. A quick search for horse racing games on the internet will very quickly show you how popular these games are, particular when money is involved. But can these games stand on their own, and should they?
Let's look at the jockey focused games: G1 Jockey and Gallop Racer. Both of these games put you in the saddle as a fresh jockey. You build up your reputation, getting better and better rides until you can breed and name your own horse.
In both games the end goal is to be the best of the best, and both games have a pretty large fan base. It has some really cheesy dialogue, but it has a certain charm to it that makes you pick up the controller to push for that tripple crown win, or beat that amazing horse on your own bred one.
It pulls you into a really interesting world, and the game-play is pretty fun – albeit focused mainly on text and lists. What makes it so unique is how different each horse plays, how each race can go good or bad depending on how you ride. Keeping exactly to horse's strength isn't always a good thing, you need use your own judgement - it can get tense as you rush down the wire still buried in the pack
People tend to start shouting.
But both games have spawned at least five sequels, and people still want more – so there is definitely interest in these games, and yet despite the interest they're not as big or as grand as they could be.
Winning Post puts you in the shoes of breeder and trainer. You are trying to breed a horse that can win the Horse of the Year award - and the tripple crown. There is a lot variables to consider; the jockey's style, the horses personality, the preferred position of horse and jockey, the track, the length of the race – and it just keeps going. Like the jockey games Winning Post offers players a very interesting and fun experience, there is just something about breeding your own horse, training it and watching it win it's first race that has a certain appeal.
You go nuts.
It really pulls you into that cutthroat world – and creates this illusion of something grand being at stake. The downside though is Winning Post has never been translated to English. All games are in Japanese, you can find forums that supported the English releases - and even tried to translate the games - but unfortunately nothing ever came of it.
The reason why these games will probably never get anywhere is the ingrained presumptions we have on the racing world.
It is associated with gambling, animal abuse, corruption and a hundreds of other problems. This isn't exactly fair to the sport, as one bad apple spoils the bunch, but it is a stigma that prevents horse racing games from really taking off in the Western world. We so love being self-righteous, especially when it concern animals - and games are different.
Essentially companies won't attempt it, they are aware of the risks in gambling with a horse racing game. The chances people will go up in arms to stop the games release is very much possible. Especially in the hyper-sensitive era we live in now.
But stigma or no, horse racing will always have a certain appeal, something unique to it that we don't see in other games. There is magic to breeding and training a winner, to watch it get better and better until it finally stands on the podium as the best of the best. The Japanese charm and anime style only makes the experience that bit more charming.
It's just a pity the whole world can't enjoy these games to the full.