When officials in Japanese resort Atami realised the town was no longer attracting as many honeymooners as before, the answer was simple – pull in virtual lovebirds instead.
The town has teamed up with Konami, maker of the popular dating simulation game LovePlus+, to allow men and their virtual girlfriends to enjoy a romantic holiday by the sea, complete with souvenir photographs.
Players of the game choose one of three virtual girlfriends – Manaka, Rinko or Nene – and have to try and maintain a relationship with her. Treating her right earns the player a virtual trip to Atami, where the couple sees the sights and spends the night in a romantic hotel.
But now these virtual trips have become real. Players are turning up at the resort with their DS, and checking into the real hotel as a couple. And when they go home, they have with them photos of themselves and their virtual girlfriends at local landmarks as a reminder of the weekend.
At a dozen romantic locations in and around the town are three-dimensional barcodes which can be read by an iPhone. The barcode allows the love-struck visitors to have a computer generated photograph taken with their beloved through augmented reality technology. In the hotel, some beds have barcodes, so that photographing it reveals the virtual girlfriend lying there seductively.
Apparently, the deal with Konami has been a welcome boost for the town. The company says that it’s had over 2,000 Love Plus visitors this summer alone.
Love Plus players are well-known for blurring the line between the real and the virtual. One, Sal9000, famously married his virtual girlfriend Nene last year.