Love Live! School Idol Festival is a mobile rhythm and “gacha” game released in 2013 (2014 worldwide) by Japanese game companies KLab and Bushiroad for the iPhone and Android. However, this game was not the starting point for the popularity of the Love Live! franchise. Love Live! School Idol Project was first a marketing “multimedia project” created by Japanese multimedia company Dengeki (specifically Dengeki G’s Magazine) in 2010 that premiered in the form of magazine special issues that introduced the fictional, all-female idol group “μ's” (read: Muse). Once they gained enough attention Dengeki began to release μ's digital music singles through the magazine’s online portal. The overall success of the fictional idol group’s music led to live concert events in 2012 that featured the voice actresses of the characters. As the popularity of Love Live! increased in Japan, Dengeki announced an official anime series in collaboration with Sunrise Studios for 2013. Only one month after the release of the anime series, a mobile rhythm gacha game was also announced and officially launched in 2013: Love Live! School Idol Festival. Beginning in 2016, after the overwhelming success of μ's content, Dengeki continued to release new virtual idol groups in the same fashion under the same marketing premise as the original.
Among these major developments in the Love Live! universe there were also manga adaptations, novellas, and commercial character goods. The Love Live! franchise is an advancement of the postwar media mix marketing strategy theorized by scholar Mark Steinberg (2012) that has come to include the figure of the fictional idol which is deployed to build a character-based and character-driven “worlds.” The Love Live! idol groups occupy the different “worlds” and, like anime and manga characters of the media mix, can exist independently from their narratives. By design, each part of the Love Live! franchise is independent and does not rely on transmedia storytelling, although it does not prevent transmedia engagement. The entire project was designed to become a domestic media mix from the start, with a successive engagement of networked media outreach that became an international sensation. The release in 2014 of the worldwide versions of the game and the EN (English Language) server an entire year after initial publication was in direct response to the growing popularity of the JPN (Japanese language) server of Love Live! outside Japan. Whether they understood Japanese or not, many fans flocked to the game in 2013 in order to interact with their favourite characters, which had already been made popular through a media mix accessible through distribution online in which the characters were products first and the video game second. The game now has the weight of real-world monetary value as high-spending and high ranked accounts (mostly pay-to-win style players) known as “whales” regularly boast their vast number of “ultra-rare” character cards and in-game skills via fan sites and discussion forums like Reddit and School Idol Tomodachi. These high ranked, “ultra-rare” card holding accounts in the English-speaking community are also regularly bought and sold for thousands of dollars online.
The concept of Love Live! has reached transnational audiences through domestic strategy of the media mix, first with the popularity of the 2013 phone game and now extended through four anime series, four different idol groups, three video games with a fan base of 52 million players, and a plethora of character goods. The Love Live! franchise is now more popular worldwide than it is in Japan. Through the successful marketing of the Love Live! world as a character-based, ever-expanding multimedia project. This franchise, entirely independent of narrative plot, that was once a domestic-focused marketing strategy has found traction in transnational markets to build fandoms around the world.
“Love Live! Franchise.” Love Live! Wiki, https://love-live.fandom.com/wiki/Love_Live!
ラブライブ！Official Website (rabu raibu! Official Website), Square Enix Co., LTD, https://www.lovelive-anime.jp/.
Love Live! Official Worldwide Website. KLabGames and Bushiroad, https://www.lovelive-anime.jp/worldwide/.
Steinberg, Marc. Anime's Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2012.
“School Idol Tomodachi.” School Idol Tomodachi - The Ultimate Resource For LoveLive! School Idol Festival Players, Rainbow Cookies, https://schoolido.lu/.