If Only Xbox Japan Was As Popular As This Girl

If Only Xbox Japan Was As Popular As This Girl

Rena Matsui isn’t the one per cent. She’s the less than one per cent. As far as idols go, she’s quickly shot to the top of the group she belongs to, SKE48. No wonder Microsoft roped her into promote Kinect in Japan.

Shame that didn’t exactly work out.

SKE48 is a Nagoya-based spin-off of AKB48, Japan’s most popular idol group. You cannot turn on television these days without seeing them on variety shows, dramas, or music programs, or in commercials selling everything from vegetable juice to video games.

Last year, when Microsoft launched Kinect, it seemed to believe that the controller-free platform would finally be the breakthrough moment in Japan. It would do what even the man who created Final Fantasy could not: boast a mainstream success. It didn’t happen.

During the Kinect ad campaign, Rena Matsui, dressed as a schoolgirl, appeared with fellow SKE48 member Jurina Matsui (no relation) in commercials and even at the country’s Kinect launch event.

That launch event drew about 100 people, and even Kinect shirts signed by both Matsui girls fetched high prices online.

Yet, the Kinect floundered in Japan. Though, I do think if anything would ever break through here, it would be Kinect, or some iteration of Kinect.

Twenty-year-old Rena Matsui, however, continues to get more and more popular — Xbox Japan in reverse. At a recent handshaking event at Chiba’s Makuhari Messe, home of the Tokyo Game Show, she drew massive lines that dwarfed the lines for her fellow SKE48 members. Over 10,000 people showed up, with the majority seeming to make a beeline for the long Matsui line.

In the photo, you can see the long line for Rena Matsui. Next to her is the line for Jurina Matsui, which is considerably shorter.

Handshaking events are not only a way that SKE48 and its sister-groups interact with fans, but a way in which each idol’s popularity can be measured. When the lines are long, obviously a certain idol is popular, for whatever reason.

If the lines are short or even non-existant, sometimes fans end up feeling sorry for those less popular idols and might even become their fans, if anything because those idols seems far more approachable.

Idols can often seem interchangeable. And they often are. There’s no denying the starpower that the top ones have, much in the same way famous actors or actresses do. The lining up to shake their hands part has always been lost on me. If I were going to line up, it would be for AKB48 producer, song writer, and horror book writer Yasushi Akimoto, because that guy’s a genius. That, or Kinect. Yes, I would actually line up for Kinect. Not a long line, mind you, but still, a line.

Culture Smash is a daily dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome — game related and beyond.
(Top photo: Office48)
You can contact Brian Ashcraft, the author of this post, at [email protected]. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.



  • It’s crazy. Loyalty to Asian brands is so strong that even using the “loli schoolgirl” fantasy that makes anything instantly popular in Japan doesn’t work for Microsoft. That is one helluva tough market.

  • This article kind of tries to imply that she’s a famous face so it should’ve sold well, but she’s not. SKE48 is barely known by Japan compared to their big sisters AKB48, who are currently one of the most successful Japanese acts EVER (they’re selling 1 million CDs in a day when most articles sell 10,000). Maybe if Microsoft had coughed up the cash to get one of the household names from AKB48 like Maeda Atsuko, things would’ve been different. It’s like going “Oh! Tiger Woods is popular! Let’s get the guy he plays with on the weekends sometimes to be our spokesman!” instead of going for Tiger himself…

  • Maeda Atsuko is ludicrously popular. It’s insane.

    I’ve heard 13 year old girls obsessing over her in ways that sound creepily sexual and stalkerish… not a few of them either. It’s like Beiber, except if pubescent dudes wanted to give their virginity to him as well.

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