Japanese fungi fun could spark U.S. tie-ins

07/08/2013 09:49:00 AM
Amelia Freidline

Amelia Freidline, Copy EditorAmelia Freidline, Copy EditorA little mushroom is enjoying huge popularity in Japan right now, and in a different way than you might expect.

The nameko, which the Wall Street Journal describes as “a gelatinous, light-brown, tack-size variety for the ordinary Joe,” was already one of the most widely cultivated varieties in Japan.

Now it’s wildly popular in Japanese pop culture thanks to a smartphone game called Nameko Saibai Kit, or “the kit for cultivating nameko.”

From the YouTube videos I’ve watched, gameplay seems simple: Your nameko grow on a log. When they’re ready, you harvest them. A good harvest allows you to upgrade your cultivation equipment, which in turn helps you cultivate more and rarer nameko varieties.

The Journal reports 32 million people have downloaded the game since it was released two years ago. For comparison, the mobile game Angry Birds has had more than a billion downloads so far.

Still, 32 million players is quite a few — that’s about equal to the combined populations of Texas and Missouri.

Imagine the opportunities for tie-ins.

Los Angeles-based Paramount Farms featured Angry Birds in its Wonderful Pistachios Get Crackin’ 2011 ad campaigns and also partnered for a pistachio-themed version of the game.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Chiquita Brands International did something similar that year when it teamed with Nintendo Wii for the video gaming system’s Donkey Kong Country Returns. The company also partnered with Sega of America Inc. in 2010 for the Wii game Super Monkey Ball Step & Roll, and Chiquita bananas were featured as a component of gameplay.

What if, in American versions of Nameko Saibai Kit, a Forest Nameko mushroom from Sebastopol, Calif.-based Gourmet Mushrooms Inc., were to pop up on a player’s growing log?

I can imagine preparation tips sprinkled throughout the game as gamers harvest the fungi. “Like playing Nameko Saibai? Here’s where you can find them and how you can fix them yourself!”


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Chef Bob    
Sebastopol, CA  |  July, 16, 2013 at 12:47 PM

We are delighted to see the Forest Nameko mushroom getting a boost from an unlikely source - a video game! At Gourmet Mushrooms we've been playing the mushroom farm game for over 35 years. No sound effects, but plenty of excitement. Forest Nameko is just one of eight varieties of specialty mushrooms that we grow. The beautiful amber color of this mushroom brightens any dish. The glossy cap is a natural protein gel which adds silkiness to risotto and a light body to soups. The Forest Nameko are sold primarily to chefs, but are available in some areas of the country in our MYCOPIA retail packs. www.mycopia.com

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