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Neko Atsume: A new Japanese game where you collect… cats

In the good old days of gaming, you’d collect canisters or gold coins to win the game. These days, games are getting quirkier, as shown by the new smartphone app Neko Atsume.

Launched in October, this game has already been downloaded 5.5 million times, and although it’s only been released in Japanese, 30 to 40 percent of the downloads have recently taken place in China and North America.

The goal of the game is to collect 45 different cats. Stray cats, actually. Using sardines (money) to purchase cat food and toys, you attract the strays into your backyard. Just as in real life, the tastier the cat food and more thrilling the toys, the faster you’ll grow your cat collection.

The game works much the same as a Tamagotchi or Hatchi work, with low-stress playing and big rewards (if herding cats is a reward in your books).

“When we developed this app in the beginning, we were focusing on a niche market of Japanese cat lovers,” developer Yutaka Takazaki told The Japan Times. “Because it has no competitive or compelling elements, players can enjoy the game at their own pace when they have time.”

Neko Atsume Japanese game screenshot of kittens playing in a backyard

Screenshot of Neko Atsume

The game has become a bit of a cult phenomenon. If that’s hard to believe, check out #NekoAtsume on Twitter. You’ll find hundreds – if not thousands – of fans posting screenshots of their own game playing.

The game is currently available for free download on iOS and Android.

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