Mobile gaming giant DeNA is hoping a streaming platform that serves up plenty of female idol singers beloved by "otaku," or obsessive geeks, can be a hit with users outside Japan.
Showroom is a live-streaming service that allows artists to perform for and chat with fans, who are represented in the form of customizable, cartoon avatars in front of a virtual stage.
Unlike streaming sites like Ustream and Livestream, the emphasis on Showroom is on interaction. After a performance, fans can watch as artists respond to on-screen messages and receive paid virtual gifts from their virtual audience. There are even VIP seats by the virtual stage.
Until recently, the service has only been available in Japanese. It now has English support for performers on computers, and the option to live-stream from smartphones will be added, according to DeNA.
"We see significant global potential for real-time, interactive live streaming for both artists and consumers," a DeNA spokesman wrote in an email. "Since users can watch their performance for free, Showroom can be a good marketing channel for performing artists."
While audience members can watch for free, the site generates revenue from the paid virtual gifts. The earnings are shared with performers based on the number of points they accumulate for audience size, the number of comments and other factors.
The service first launched in November 2013, later adding iOS and Android support, and has aired over 1,000 live streams.
Showroom's current roster is dominated by Japanese girl bands, often dressed in high school uniforms, that cater to otaku tastes. But DeNA plans to add channels with popular musicians, comedians and athletes such as players from the company's professional baseball team, the Yokohama DeNA Baystars.
The service is another attempt at diversification for DeNA, which quickly grew over the past decade on the strength of its mobile auction and browser-based gaming services.
The rise of smartphones and apps in recent years has lured users away from browser-based games, a trend that has hit DeNA and rival Gree. For the April to June quarter, DeNA reported operating profit had dropped nearly 60 percent from a year earlier.