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How Deathsmiles 2X Became Xbox Live's First Unlocalized Game

Cave's absurdly crazy shooter completely in Japanese is the beginning of something, but what?

Gone are the days where legions of Japanese video games never leave the region. Between specialty publishers like XSEED and Atlus, most of the good stuff makes it over. That's not always the case, with some genres having such a niche audience it's tough to justify localization costs.

There may be another option, though.

Why spend money localizing the game at all? Sony started allowing companies to release games without a trace of English on the PlayStation Store, and Microsoft has followed suit, with the release of Cave's Deathsmiles 2X via Games on Demand earlier this week.

The off-the-wall bullet hell shooter, whose insanity is best understood through Jeff and Vinny's Quick Look, was priced at $29.99 and features barely any English, even on the menu screen. And while I have zero interest in Deathsmiles 2X, the concept of strange, niche games arriving onto download services without the hurdle of localization sounds like a pretty terrific idea.

After talking to both Microsoft and Cave, it's unclear whether we're about to see an avalanche of Japanese (or otherwise) games on the service, but it's possible we'll see more in that direction.

Microsoft contacted Cave back in February about the possibility of a native language release. Microsoft wasn't very forthcoming about the details of the relationship ("we don't discuss the details about the terms of our partnerships"), but Cave was willing to talk a little more openly.

== TEASER ==

"We’re going to have to see how this release goes," said producer Makoto Asada over email. "Not just Cave, but many other Japanese developers could use this format to release their games, and in turn expand the market. In that sense I want it to be a success."

Asada said Cave picked Deathsmiles 2X because the original had been released here on a disc.

When you purchase the game, there's a note in the description that it's only in Japanese. Just because it's not in English, however, doesn't mean the game can avoid obtaining an ESRB rating.

"Games submitted to ESRB that feature dialogue in a language other than in English are required to provide a supplemental translation and/or description of any language that could be deemed pertinent, including profanity," explained an ESRB spokesperson. "In many cases this document is provided to the raters to consider along with the rest of the submission, so that they can deliberate and decide on the most appropriate rating and/or content descriptors to assign. Besides this requirement, the rating process for these games is the same as that for all others."

Microsoft would not confirm there would be additional native language games coming ("we’re always looking at ways to expand the catalog of titles available to the community"), but Microsoft did make pretty clear we shouldn't expect this to extend to Xbox Live Arcade.

"We're thrilled to deliver a diverse catalog of quality downloadable games on Xbox Live Arcade," said a company spokesperson. "but don’t have any current plans to release non-localized titles."

Even though other Games on Demand releases are well above Xbox Live Arcade territory--Call of Duty: Black Ops is available for download at its standard retail price of $59.99, for example--$29.99 is up there. We're accustomed to seeing these made available as cheaper downloadables.

"Since this is the first case of a Japanese game being made available in another territory," said Asada, "we took into account the price range of other games already released on Games on Demand to choose the price point. [...] Since this is a test case for us and Microsoft, we don’t have a measure for sales expectations. We’re just hoping that the numbers are solid enough to make this format available for both us and other developers."

Outside of price, Cave fans have complained about the lack of a box. Many still want something physical, which is obviously impossible to deliver through a digital purchase. While Deathsmiles 2X didn't get that treatment, Cave pointed out this did not rule out the release of other Cave games on a disc in the future. Deathsmiles 2X and Games on Demand was an experiment.

More games, especially crazy ones? Not a bad thing at all.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
45 Comments
Posted by patrickklepek

Gone are the days where legions of Japanese video games never leave the region. Between specialty publishers like XSEED and Atlus, most of the good stuff makes it over. That's not always the case, with some genres having such a niche audience it's tough to justify localization costs.

There may be another option, though.

Why spend money localizing the game at all? Sony started allowing companies to release games without a trace of English on the PlayStation Store, and Microsoft has followed suit, with the release of Cave's Deathsmiles 2X via Games on Demand earlier this week.

The off-the-wall bullet hell shooter, whose insanity is best understood through Jeff and Vinny's Quick Look, was priced at $29.99 and features barely any English, even on the menu screen. And while I have zero interest in Deathsmiles 2X, the concept of strange, niche games arriving onto download services without the hurdle of localization sounds like a pretty terrific idea.

After talking to both Microsoft and Cave, it's unclear whether we're about to see an avalanche of Japanese (or otherwise) games on the service, but it's possible we'll see more in that direction.

Microsoft contacted Cave back in February about the possibility of a native language release. Microsoft wasn't very forthcoming about the details of the relationship ("we don't discuss the details about the terms of our partnerships"), but Cave was willing to talk a little more openly.

== TEASER ==

"We’re going to have to see how this release goes," said producer Makoto Asada over email. "Not just Cave, but many other Japanese developers could use this format to release their games, and in turn expand the market. In that sense I want it to be a success."

Asada said Cave picked Deathsmiles 2X because the original had been released here on a disc.

When you purchase the game, there's a note in the description that it's only in Japanese. Just because it's not in English, however, doesn't mean the game can avoid obtaining an ESRB rating.

"Games submitted to ESRB that feature dialogue in a language other than in English are required to provide a supplemental translation and/or description of any language that could be deemed pertinent, including profanity," explained an ESRB spokesperson. "In many cases this document is provided to the raters to consider along with the rest of the submission, so that they can deliberate and decide on the most appropriate rating and/or content descriptors to assign. Besides this requirement, the rating process for these games is the same as that for all others."

Microsoft would not confirm there would be additional native language games coming ("we’re always looking at ways to expand the catalog of titles available to the community"), but Microsoft did make pretty clear we shouldn't expect this to extend to Xbox Live Arcade.

"We're thrilled to deliver a diverse catalog of quality downloadable games on Xbox Live Arcade," said a company spokesperson. "but don’t have any current plans to release non-localized titles."

Even though other Games on Demand releases are well above Xbox Live Arcade territory--Call of Duty: Black Ops is available for download at its standard retail price of $59.99, for example--$29.99 is up there. We're accustomed to seeing these made available as cheaper downloadables.

"Since this is the first case of a Japanese game being made available in another territory," said Asada, "we took into account the price range of other games already released on Games on Demand to choose the price point. [...] Since this is a test case for us and Microsoft, we don’t have a measure for sales expectations. We’re just hoping that the numbers are solid enough to make this format available for both us and other developers."

Outside of price, Cave fans have complained about the lack of a box. Many still want something physical, which is obviously impossible to deliver through a digital purchase. While Deathsmiles 2X didn't get that treatment, Cave pointed out this did not rule out the release of other Cave games on a disc in the future. Deathsmiles 2X and Games on Demand was an experiment.

More games, especially crazy ones? Not a bad thing at all.

Staff
Edited by Bollard

EDIT: I'm a cruel person. (Already got quest.)
 
Also I totally didn't realise that this game was barely translated. Might watch the QL now...

Posted by Zealousadonis

Weird game tho

Posted by Landon

All's fair in child love and war.... your honor.

Edited by Kyle

Too bad it's a boring game, totally overprice : /

Posted by phish09

I would have probably titled this article; "How Deathsmiles 2X Became XBOX Live's Most Expensive Arcade Game EVER...and how it's not even worth the price of a regular arcade game...Written by Phish09, the most attractive gamer in the world...oh, and btw, it's not even localized!" 
 
But then, I guess that's why I don't get any input on this site.
Posted by Jason_E_Sigler

Really hope they don't base the decision of whether or not to continue this initiative on the sales of this game, because the QL makes it look pretty terrible.

Posted by 617_jbug

I honestly want more games like this to come out. Love to see the Japanese shmups and the Japanese fighters  come out in the US via Games on Demand.

Posted by clumsyninja1

Could this be the future of JRPGs?

Posted by drew327

I like having a box but I like saving 50 dollars more.  Guess my cheapness wins!

Posted by megalowho

Could Microsoft sound any more corporate with those responses? What's the point in having a Major Nelson type figure if they aren't interested in bringing a more human element to PR? At least Cave and the ESRB had some things to say about the release. Interesting article, another Klepek must read.

Posted by Simes

Maybe now we'll get iDOLM@STER.
Also, "wasn't very less forthcoming"? Presumably that's either "wasn't very forthcoming" or "was less than forthcoming"?

Posted by Devil240Z

They should just have a google translate option in there. 

Posted by Leafhopper
@clumsyninja1 said:
Could this be the future of JRPGs?
Considering how much dialog is in a JRPG I doubt they will start releasing unlocalized JRPGs out of the blue. Its not like playing an unlocalized fighting game which is fairly easy.
Posted by SuperWristBands

If I was interested in DeathSmiles (the artwork is not appealing to me) I would think that $30 is a steal, but I am indeed one of those people that import these games (the region free ones) at ~$80-$100.

Edited by onan

I'd buy idolmaster. Last time I was in Tokyo though I was kind of shocked to see just how little there was on shelves there that wasn't made outside of Japan or wasn't already localized and released in the States (at least for 360, but it was pretty bad for PS3 too). The days of the SNES, PS1, and PS2 are over. Most of the stuff that doesn't make it honestly isn't really worth it unless you really REALLY like visual novels. Pretty sure that won't fly untranslated. 
 
$30 is far, far too high for this though. Wasn't Deathsmiles 1 like $40 with a LE faceplate? They shouldn't charge more than $20. 
 
Strike that, what they NEED to do is release untranslated Xbox Originals. Give us Metal Wolf Chaos! I'll pay $30 for that! Let's do it! 
 
Edit: Also Magatama, that's another major Xbox 1 release that never made it outside of Japan for some reason.
Posted by karobit

"We're thrilled to deliver a diverse catalog of quality downloadable games on Xbox Live Arcade," said a company spokesperson. "but don’t have any current plans to release non-localized titles." 

Are there even any XBLA releases that have only come out in non-US regions? I've seen game demos in Japan (obviously) and the UK (Grey Matter) but I haven't run across any XBLA releases not available in America. 
 
I don't have a problem with the $30 price tag and I would hope anyone that does also has a problem with the much higher prices for similar disc-only JP Cave releases. The QL showed off more modes than have been included in their XBLA releases, so I don't think it's a case of paying more for the same amount of content.  Wish I was interested in the game, though!
Posted by buft
@drew327 said:
I like having a box but I like saving 50 dollars more.  Guess my cheapness wins!
lol honesty at its finest
Posted by Sanj

This particular game doesn't interest me, but I support the idea of more crazy games from Japan making their way to the west. 

Online
Posted by Sergio

There have been a few non-localized, independent games as well on the Xbox Marketplace.

Posted by LonelySpacePanda

Hell yeah!  I'm a big fan of Cave, especially Deathsmiles I and II. 
 
Thanks for this scoop, Patrick. I only wish they would unveil what titles they would consider posting next and when.

Posted by Pepsiman

I know it's probably a bit of an impossibility now that Microsoft has more or less stopped uploading new original Xbox games onto XBLM, but, you know, I wouldn't exactly complain if we finally got a little Metal Wolf Chaos up in there, especially since the voice acting, the really, really relevant part of the game, is already in English.
 
Oh, how I can dream!
 
  

Posted by Pandakall

Good article, Patrick. Loving your work at Giant Bomb.

Posted by Oy

I like getting these "behind the scenes" insights. Thanks.

Posted by craig588

Enjoyed this article, thanks.

Posted by NeoAthanasius

I know many people think that shooters are not worth more than $15. But anyone who is actually a fan of these type of games will disagree. Mastering shooters takes a lot of effort and practice. It easily makes the $30 price tag worthwhile to me. Although as someone who payed $80 to import Espgaluda 2 from Japan, maybe I'm not the best judge of a game's value. Most of Cave's releases contain  many modes that alter the game in drastic ways. Espgaluda 2 had 5 different modes that together gave the package five different shooters (they just happened to use the same art assests.) One ever altered the game to play like Ikaruga. Overall I guess I'm just an old man who doesn't get kids and their gaming habits. haha

Posted by NeoAthanasius

Great job Patrick! It was a very interesting article.

Posted by ShapeOfDespair
@LonelySpacePanda
Hell yeah!  I'm a big fan of Cave, especially Deathsmiles I and II. 
 
Thanks for this scoop, Patrick. I only wish they would unveil what titles they would consider posting next and when.
Glad to hear I'm not the only one who was interested in this. I enjoy a good bullet hell game and there's not a ton on current gen systems in America. I picked this up first day it was up.
Posted by shodan2020

I'm totally going to pick up Deathsmiles 2. I love the idea of seeing more unlocalized japanese content on these shores, and I'm putting my money where my mouth is. :)

Posted by PXAbstraction

The more shmups that come out here (localised or no), the better. I will buy them all. There's a whole library of awesome Cave shmups that either got released in NTSC-J and won't play on North American 360s or which require a $90+ import. Between those and other titles from niche devs like Triangle Service, there's a ton of great options in that genre. Put them on up Games On Demand and you've got at least one sale for each right here. :)

Posted by mutha3
@Pepsiman: thank you for teaching me of this game's existance.
 
Now excuse me, I have to track down all the cutscenes and watch them
Posted by Pepsiman
@mutha3: I figure it's a public service of mine to spread the word about the greatest piece of foreign-made American propaganda ever conceived. You know you have something special when a game has lines such as "I'll smash it faster than a Florida recount!"
Posted by MideonNViscera

If it's just some wacky Japanese arcade game, then sure, why do we really need English? I wouldn't care if fighting games had no English either. I do still need English for my JRPGs though haha

Posted by MormonWarrior

I'd be all for natively Spanish games, although many games like Borderlands and Gears of War are 100% translated, from the voice acting to the text, and it's usually pretty good.
 
It's usually Spain Spanish, though...and I like South American best. Whatever.

Posted by Beforet

I wonder how much they would need to make for this release to be profitable. They didn't spend anything on localization, so would they only have to make up the cost to use Microsoft's servers? Oh man, I just realized that I know nothing about publishing games in other regions. Or about publishing games.

Posted by Xpgamer7

Not a fan of Deathsmiles 2X but it's good to see more stuff coming over.

Posted by JJOR64

It would be great if there were more games released like this.

Posted by rolvtd

Bought it first day.....though that shouldn;t be a surprise considering I bought Arcana Heart 3 on PS3 day one before PSN went down.

Posted by Ockman

I'll take Gal*Gun next please, lol

Posted by shrinerr

You know what genre doesn't need alot of localization? Wrasslin' games.

Posted by McBonJon

Considering that I now use my 360 for shumps, this is a good step. I hope that this also brings some other great Japanese games over, not just shumps.  
 
*Crosses fingers for DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu ver 1.5*

Posted by AngelN7
@MormonWarrior: completly agree with you the  Spanish translation of Halo 3 completly ruined the game for me , I much rather play the game in english than read Spanish (spain) subs or dubs , Alan Wake and Gears 2 Though were pretty good games with Latin translation
Posted by Maotou
@617_jbug said:
I honestly want more games like this to come out. Love to see the Japanese shmups and the Japanese fighters  come out in the US via Games on Demand.
 Same here, although I would just love to see more of them pop on all systems...and maybe give some love to the PC side of things (because you can never have enough fighting games and SHMUPS). 
Posted by SatelliteOfLove

Gone are the days where legions of Japanese video games never leave the region.


 
Then they returned recently... :(
Posted by type2red

you guys are so lost this partership brings a great oppurtunity long wanted by gamers who import like myself, i guess most of you rather over pay for the same call of duty spinoffs.