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Video games become part of the furniture in Japan as suppliers read the room



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Companies seeking their fortunes in the $188bn global games market, an industry of cutting-edge hardware, software and creativity, are betting on a low-tech way in: furniture.

Efforts to become gamers’ favourite provider of sofas, chairs and interior decor now occupy a central spot at the Tokyo Game Show, traditionally the turf of Sony, Konami and Sega, but increasingly a showcase for upholsterers, soundproofers and living room co-ordinators. 

The more complex and absorbing gaming becomes, the more the world’s hundreds of millions of gamers will organise their homes around it, said exhibitors who ranged from Japan’s largest furniture chain, Nitori, to tiny start-ups producing chairs specifically crafted for mobile game players.

Nitori’s gamer-focused offerings, now a full-fledged section of its stores, included multiple suggestions on how to fit out a gamer den. Some are co-ordinated for those who want to “create a space where they can concentrate on the game”, while others push the would-be buyer towards materials that are “cute and easy to use” in the shape of soft cushions, beanbags and fuzzy coverings. For ¥187,390 ($1,266) the discerning gamer might opt for the “vintage” look, described by Nitori as a “mature co-ordination” for a calmer gaming atmosphere. 

Exhibitors in the expansive “lifestyle” section of the game show, Asia’s largest and held at full scale for the first time since the pandemic, included a Japanese property developer, Livlan, which specialises in the sale of “gamer mansions”, apartment blocks where the units are fitted out to the demands and tastes of the dedicated gamer.

As well as being fully soundproofed and supplied with the highest-speed internet available in Japan, the flats are designed to be seen. In many cases, said Rina Suzuki, a director at Livlan, the apartments will be let to streamers and influencers and the rooms will form the backdrop to broadcasts potentially watched by millions around the world.

For some gamers, particularly those with families, the option of dedicating an entire living room to gaming may be limited. For them, said representatives of three companies exhibiting at the show, there is always the option of an in-room soundproof box. In each case, producers of the bespoke compartments were originally packaging and plastics companies looking for a way into the gaming market. 

Tsuba Setoyama, a customer relationship manager at One Zoo, selling a $2,364 soundproof box at the show for the first time, admitted that his company was primarily a maker of bubble wrap but had decided to break into the noise-dampening business. 

Behind One Zoo, a plastics company called Risu was displaying its own gaming boxes, from black cubes that just about fit a desk, to roomier options akin to office cubicles, having launched its range of products just 10 days ahead of the show. 

Runa Kitamura, the founder of crowdfunded Ais, was displaying her colourful $280 ergonomic chairs with high armrests and curved backs, designed to prevent mostly female customers addicted to their phones from developing chronic pain.

“The reality of people’s lives nowadays is that everyone plays games or looks at their phones. Furniture should be designed around that reality and people should think about it when they are buying,” said Kitamura.


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