Margin Makers: Guide to Japanese games merchandise

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They might not be as big as Call of Duty or FIFA, but cult Japanese franchises boast a highly passionate audience with a fondness for merchandise. MCV heads East to check out the biggest imports

Japan is the land where video games matured. Now, three decades after the release of the NES, the country continues to entice Western players with some of the most inventive and engrossing titles on the market.

But while Mario, Final Fantasy and Pokmon may be as recognisable in the UK as Call of Duty, FIFA and Assassin's Creed, you're less likely to have heard of other Japanese franchises such as Danganronpa, Persona or Naruto.

That's not to say these niche titles aren't as valuable to retailers. They might not shift the same number of units as their big-brand rivals, but players invested in their worlds and characters are often highly passionate, seeking out tie-in merchandise that allows them to show off their favourite brand.

The audience is growing, too – Capcom's Monster Hunter series is bigger than it's ever been in the UK, with Monster Hunter Ultimate 4 shipping one million units in the West.

Monster Hunter is a phenomenon in Japan,” says Chandra Nair, marketing manager for Nintendo UK.

There are dedicated theme parks and you'd be hard-pushed to find anyone who didn't recognise the brand in some way. We're some way from that in the UK, but the community we have is constantly growing and every bit as dedicated.”

Bandai Namco publishes several titles based on Japanese properties, including hit manga and anime franchises Naruto and One Piece. Product manager Karla Pett suggests that UK retail would be short-sighted to ignore the opportunity on offer.

Sometimes the manga and anime community suffers from a lack of mainstream visibility,” she observes.

But these fandoms are there and they're very strong. Now, with the increasing acceptance of ‘geek' pastimes in mainstream culture, the market is only growing stronger.”

Hello Kitty Controller Kitty T-Shirt

An international icon for more than 30 years, Hello Kitty's success continues to reign thanks to its combination of two winning factors: cats and cuteness. Here the favoured feline's unmistakable bow and whiskers are combined with the nostalgic design of a retro console controller, meaning that fans of cats, consoles and fashion alike will be able to express their fondness for the Japanese star.

SRP: 22

Manufacturer: Insert Coin

Distributor: Insert Coin

Contact: 01702 521 850

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair T-Shirt

This top stars the cast of the second entry in Spike Chunsoft's cult visual novel series Danganronpa, which has now sold more than 200,000 units in the West. Like its predecessor, Goodbye Despair sees gifted students take on the maniacal killing game organised by an anthropomorphic bear, Monokuma. They must work together to figure out the culprit of a brutal murder – before they become the next victim.

SRP: $24.99 (16)

Manufacturer: NIS America

Distributor: Creative Distribution

Contact: 0208 664 3456

Naruto Shippuden - Nine-Inch Deidara Plush

An ideal counterpart to the Shippuden series of video games, this squishy toy portrays powerful ninja Deidara.

SRP: 10.99

Manufacturer: GE Entertainment

Distributor: GE Entertainment

Contact: geanimation@geanimation.com

Monster Hunter Lanyard

This lanyard features a selection of the cat-like Felyne helpers in a variety of armours from new entry Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.

SRP: $5 (3)

Manufacturer: Capcom

Distributor: Capcom

Contact: 020 8600 6100

Dragon Quest Figure Set

The iconic enemy and Dragon Quest franchise mascot, Slime, makes an appearance in this kit, which also features a Brickman Golem.

SRP: €24.98 (18)

Manufacturer: Square Enix

Distributor: CentreSoft

Contact: 0121 625 3388

One Piece - Chopper NewWorld Hat

Based on the popular manga and anime character, this hat (and its wearer) also make an appearance in One Piece's many games.

SRP: 17.99

Manufacturer: GE Entertainment

Distributor: GE Entertainment

Contact: geanimation@geanimation.com

Ace Attorney 3DS XL Case

Star lawyer Phoenix Wright inspires this suit-like 3DS XL case – the ideal way to play his many outings in the Ace Attorney series.

SRP: $19.95 (13)

Manufacturer: Capcom

Distributor: Capcom

Contact: 020 8600 6100

Persona 4 Mug

Persona sees players juggle maintaining friendships with battling evil. For when it's a bit much, fans can have a cuppa with this mug.

SRP: 9.99

Manufacturer: GE Entertainment

Distributor: GE Entertainment

Contact: geanimation@geanimation.com

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