Qureate’s ecchi rhythm game Massage Freaks has been delayed after being accused of referencing members of an idol group, with the developers issuing refunds for pre-orders.
Massage Freaks was an upcoming rhythm game recently announced by qureate. Players would take the role of Atsushi Yubihara, who’s inherited his grandfather indebted massage parlor. Granted supernatural powers by a talking cat, the protagonist would help female guests relax their body and mind. While given regular massages, the girls would open up about their personal troubles, seeking advice from Atsushi. As their relationships developed, they’d even go on dates with the protagonist outside the parlor. The game would feature story and rhythm gameplay segments. During massage sessions, players would be tasked with pressing buttons to the rhythm of the music, with ecchi massage animations playing out in the background.
While the idea might seem tame, it has been met with controversy soon after its unveiling. Some Japanese social media users claimed that the game is in bad taste, as it brings to mind cases of molestation taking place in massage parlors. Later, fans noticed that heroines present in the game share their first names with members of the Japanese idol group Hinatazaka46. Some users also claimed that the game’s developers is a fan of the group themselves, and follows many of the idol’s profiles, suggesting that the references were intentional.
In their initial response to the backlash, qureate has asked fans to direct all suggestions for changes to the game directly to them using their website. The company promised to examine and consider possible adjustments to the wording used in the game and names of the characters.
In a following tweet the company also apologized for carelessly parodying names of real people for its characters, announcing that they will be changed, and promising that such issues won’t happen again in the future.
Later, after a meeting with shareholders, qureate decided to delay the game’s release. The company issued refunds for all pre-orders and closed the game’s website, as well as its Nintendo eShop store page. At the same time, qureate issued a warning that it will take legal action against the spread of false rumors that obstruct its business, as well as social media posts it considers malicious.
A new release date for Massage Freaks isn’t known at this time.
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