Japan's gaming future in the western market

I'm not sure when developers from Japan began losing their grip on the whole gaming industry, but developers from Japan used to be very dominant in the western market, something that I feel was brought alongside thanks to the NES. I'm not going to go into the specifics of gaming history and whatnot, but most of us get an impression that Japanese developers are a generation behind the western market; where new gaming philosophies, concepts or mechanics are introduced and standardised as the norm. These developers has had limited luck in penetrating into the western market in the 7th generation of console gaming, especially in JRPGs where things feel ancient and that they clung onto for dear life. 
 
As you may or may not know, Japan has trouble either adapting to the new market or just stubborn to change their ways. I feel that the most prominent example would be any JRPGs, where there's a number of common themes and quirks (spiky hairdo, saving the world as the plot theme, extreme linearity, bad/mediocre dubbed voice acting, etc). The market has changed where these themes aren't picked up positively by the western market or aren't getting big enough sales. I feel that it is starting to feel like a common trend that developers and publishers are starting to feel discouraged and may stop or slow down localising games over, because whatever localisation they're doing and the lack of sales aren't warranting any localisation. 
 
Granted some of us just don't give a fuck, but I know there's a few that grew up with Japanese games and or are fond of their games. I see it very difficult and if not impossible for Japan to pick itself up back up and to adapt to the western market. Its just too hard and there's too many obstacles. Gaming development has more or less doubled since the beginning of 7th generation, making whatever game they localise over here unprofitable. Competition is fierce with gaming juggernauts like the Mass Effect trilogy, the Elder Scrolls/Fallout instalments, the unstoppable Call of Duty franchise and other big names that popped up and were made by series in this new generation. Cultural barriers hinder as well, because whichever theme goes with their games story wise, seem to be favoured by the locales over at Japan. 
 
Even the behemoth Final Fantasy XIII was in my eyes, was a great disappointment (then again, I probably should finish the bloody game. It was just the best example of a freaking linear path as hell). 
 
Its not looking good for Japan's future in the western market. We might see a disappearance of their games in the near future, and I wouldn't like that. 
 
Or maybe I'm just frustrated that Namco Bandai announced that there will be probably no localization of Tales of Xillia; a mothership title of the Tales series. I played Tales of Vesperia and its the best JRPG I've played to date in this generation. Though to be honest, I did a bit further digging and Namco Bandai never did specify that they wouldn't localise this new Tales game, seems like I was judging from the overreacting fans (there was some games in the series that haven't been localised, nor did the North America's PS3 version of Vesperia got a a release).
 
I suppose my only hope for any good JRPG would be Persona 5 when that gets announced and hits the markets.

32 Comments
34 Comments
Posted by Meteora

I'm not sure when developers from Japan began losing their grip on the whole gaming industry, but developers from Japan used to be very dominant in the western market, something that I feel was brought alongside thanks to the NES. I'm not going to go into the specifics of gaming history and whatnot, but most of us get an impression that Japanese developers are a generation behind the western market; where new gaming philosophies, concepts or mechanics are introduced and standardised as the norm. These developers has had limited luck in penetrating into the western market in the 7th generation of console gaming, especially in JRPGs where things feel ancient and that they clung onto for dear life. 
 
As you may or may not know, Japan has trouble either adapting to the new market or just stubborn to change their ways. I feel that the most prominent example would be any JRPGs, where there's a number of common themes and quirks (spiky hairdo, saving the world as the plot theme, extreme linearity, bad/mediocre dubbed voice acting, etc). The market has changed where these themes aren't picked up positively by the western market or aren't getting big enough sales. I feel that it is starting to feel like a common trend that developers and publishers are starting to feel discouraged and may stop or slow down localising games over, because whatever localisation they're doing and the lack of sales aren't warranting any localisation. 
 
Granted some of us just don't give a fuck, but I know there's a few that grew up with Japanese games and or are fond of their games. I see it very difficult and if not impossible for Japan to pick itself up back up and to adapt to the western market. Its just too hard and there's too many obstacles. Gaming development has more or less doubled since the beginning of 7th generation, making whatever game they localise over here unprofitable. Competition is fierce with gaming juggernauts like the Mass Effect trilogy, the Elder Scrolls/Fallout instalments, the unstoppable Call of Duty franchise and other big names that popped up and were made by series in this new generation. Cultural barriers hinder as well, because whichever theme goes with their games story wise, seem to be favoured by the locales over at Japan. 
 
Even the behemoth Final Fantasy XIII was in my eyes, was a great disappointment (then again, I probably should finish the bloody game. It was just the best example of a freaking linear path as hell). 
 
Its not looking good for Japan's future in the western market. We might see a disappearance of their games in the near future, and I wouldn't like that. 
 
Or maybe I'm just frustrated that Namco Bandai announced that there will be probably no localization of Tales of Xillia; a mothership title of the Tales series. I played Tales of Vesperia and its the best JRPG I've played to date in this generation. Though to be honest, I did a bit further digging and Namco Bandai never did specify that they wouldn't localise this new Tales game, seems like I was judging from the overreacting fans (there was some games in the series that haven't been localised, nor did the North America's PS3 version of Vesperia got a a release).
 
I suppose my only hope for any good JRPG would be Persona 5 when that gets announced and hits the markets.

Posted by benjaebe

I'm interested to see how Final Fantasy Versus XIII turns out, since it sounds more like a traditional Final Fantasy (airships and all) than FFXIII was. Nier was a great game as well. I do agree with Inafune though - they really need to do something with their games over there.

Posted by supermike6
@Gap said:
" @Meteora said:
"Its not looking good for Japan's future in the western market. We might see a disappearance of their games in the near future, and I wouldn't like that."
 Thank god for that; personally i got fed up of seeing Mr. generic asian guy with his non-asian facial features and hair styles fight his millionth generic whacky monster and then have to sit through hours of cut-scenes which only anime fans (the whole 10 of them) would enjoy.  Adapt and survive; Japan refuses to adapt and as such won't survive. "
Saying things like this is like saying all games in America are shooters with meaty, grizzled men killing terrorists. Sure, that's some of the games, but you're completely overlooking all the other games that come out and don't include these things. 
 
Also, I like anime.
Edited by HitmanAgent47

I get the feeling they are making the same game they would of made on the ps2, except with next gen hardware. This gen since american games really raised the bar, japanese games compared to it is really getting lower reviews. I bet japanese developers can't figure out why everything they made is getting such low scores when it would of been good last gen. So they even tried to westernize their games ex the new devil may cry. They have to adapt first by actually researching american games. The best they can make is bayonetta and vanquish, also street fighter games. They just don't get it and even kojima is talking about this how americans are ahead of japanese developers. I don't know what their future will be like, however I think it's very bleek.

Posted by ninjakiller
@supermike6 said:
" @Gap said:
" @Meteora said:
"Its not looking good for Japan's future in the western market. We might see a disappearance of their games in the near future, and I wouldn't like that."
 Thank god for that; personally i got fed up of seeing Mr. generic asian guy with his non-asian facial features and hair styles fight his millionth generic whacky monster and then have to sit through hours of cut-scenes which only anime fans (the whole 10 of them) would enjoy.  Adapt and survive; Japan refuses to adapt and as such won't survive. "
Saying things like this is like saying all games in America are shooters with meaty, grizzled men killing terrorists. Sure, that's some of the games, but you're completely overlooking all the other games that come out and don't include these things.  Also, I like anime. "
Anime 
 

Posted by OverLord00

I feel like Kojima can do whatever he wants, and somehow I will still freaking love it.   My opinion of his games is biased, because I loved me some MGS 1-4!

Posted by Animasta

the best game of the year was Nier, which was japanese, so fucking whatever.

Posted by owl_of_minerva

I'm not sure that most of us are qualified to speculate about the future of the Japanese industry in terms of economics, all I know is that they make a lot of damn good games and I hope that continues.

Edited by Vorbis

I don't want it to adapt, for every Lost Planet 2 there's a Vanquish or Bayonetta. I don't want Japan to start spitting out millitary shooters, I want great singleplayer games that I can pickup and play. Because online gaming culture isn't catching on over there, they deliver. EA themselves said they won't make games without an online component anymore and how many more will take that stance? at least with Japanese games you know that will never happen.
 
It's quite sad that people aren't able to look past the character designs because some of the most innovative gameplay systems are in JRPGs, stuff like Resonance of Fate, there really is nothing else like it, but people turn their noses up because the characters have big eyes. When people manage to look past that stuff they find little gems like Recettear on Steam, which sold like crazy and was very popular for a while.
 
I understand your fustration with games not getting localized, but the Western market is too focused on online stuff and does it too well. This is why we have publishers like Atlus and NIS, they bring over games regardless and are happy when a game sells 100k, we just have to hope they continue to think it's worth it. Also in the same way I hope the Eastern Bloc games keep the same focus, I don't want them to appeal to the Western market, I want more great obscure titles like Metro2033 and Cryostasis. I think it's good to have the choice and for there to be some differences.

Edited by Echo

I think what we're going to see is more and more Japanese developers move to western publishers who can really move their games. It's already happened with Shinji Mikami and I wouldn't be surprised if Keita Takahashi and Keiji Inafune follow suit.

Edited by ProfessorEss
@Vorbis said:

" I don't want it to adapt, for every Lost Planet 2 there's a Vanquish or Bayonetta.

I dunno, I think both Bayonetta and Vanquish are good examples of Japanese games that have adapted, or more accurately, Platinum are a good example of a developer who has adapted.
Posted by Jasta

Bayonetta and Vanquish was a step in the right direction, pity that all falls under one developer

Go Platinum games...I guess?

Posted by Vorbis
@ProfessorEss said:
" @Vorbis said:

" I don't want it to adapt, for every Lost Planet 2 there's a Vanquish or Bayonetta.

I dunno, I think both Bayonetta and Vanquish are good examples of Japanese games that have adapted, or more accurately, Platinum are a good example of a developer who has adapted. "
Vanquish maybe, but Bayonetta is a straight up Japanese game, we have nothing on the market like that, God of War is a hundred miles away.
Edited by ProfessorEss
@Vorbis said:

" @ProfessorEss said:

" @Vorbis said:

" I don't want it to adapt, for every Lost Planet 2 there's a Vanquish or Bayonetta.

I dunno, I think both Bayonetta and Vanquish are good examples of Japanese games that have adapted, or more accurately, Platinum are a good example of a developer who has adapted. "
Vanquish maybe, but Bayonetta is a straight up Japanese game, we have nothing on the market like that, God of War is a hundred miles away. "
Yeah but westernization starts with UI and controls not content and Bayonetta (much like DMC back in the day) was very consumable by the western market because of these things.
 
That's why I think Bayonetta is a great example - keep all that messed up content just wrap it some Western-friendly standards.
 
(ps: I don't really know, just hypothesizing and whatnot)
Posted by Akrid

 It's quite simple really. Start making good/fun/original games and I will buy that shit. I don't care how "Japanese" they are, as long as it's original.
 
And I'm hardly dissatisfied with how things are going. Platinum games (and by proxy Sega), Nintendo, Atlus, and Capcom together have made the majority of my favourite games these past few years. Even Square is doing a good job with publishing. They all have the right idea, and I don't think any of them will be going away anytime soon.
 
The majority of developers are on a very positive path, and those who aren't seem content living in the Japanese market.

Posted by Gamer_152

The Japanese developers do seem to be falling behind the times and it's a little frustrating seeing them failing to westernise, because I believe if they could stop making games as though we were still in the last console generation then they'd have something to seriously offer the industry.

Moderator
Posted by ShadowKnight508

I really hope that they can pull of Final Fantasy Versus XIII when it arrives sometime in the future. Final Fantasy XIII (apart from the graphics) was a embarrassment for the franchise and Versus XIII needs to bring back what has made the Final Fantasy franchise so popular to it's fans.

Posted by supermike6
@ninjakiller: Thanks for contributing. I'm glad you actually took time to look at anime that is not Naruto before forming your opinion.  
 
Giant Bomb is the worst people for mentioning anime near. I am well aware Jeff said anime was dumb before, but that doesn't mean we need to make this an anti-anime site. 
Posted by Meteora
@supermike6: Jeff doesn't nearly hate anime as much as people think he does. He stated on Formspring about the anime thing a while ago.
Posted by WinterSnowblind
@shadowknight508 said:
" I really hope that they can pull of Final Fantasy Versus XIII when it arrives sometime in the future. Final Fantasy XIII (apart from the graphics) was a embarrassment for the franchise and Versus XIII needs to bring back what has made the Final Fantasy franchise so popular to it's fans. "
I almost hope Versus is as much of a disaster because of this..  It'd be nice to see them completely rethink how they make the games.  Perhaps even see them go back to a similar style to FFIX. 
More classic RPG'ing, less melodramatic storytelling.
Posted by GhostlyEnigma
@ninjakiller said:
" @supermike6 said:
" @Gap said:
" @Meteora said:
"Its not looking good for Japan's future in the western market. We might see a disappearance of their games in the near future, and I wouldn't like that."
 Thank god for that; personally i got fed up of seeing Mr. generic asian guy with his non-asian facial features and hair styles fight his millionth generic whacky monster and then have to sit through hours of cut-scenes which only anime fans (the whole 10 of them) would enjoy.  Adapt and survive; Japan refuses to adapt and as such won't survive. "
Saying things like this is like saying all games in America are shooters with meaty, grizzled men killing terrorists. Sure, that's some of the games, but you're completely overlooking all the other games that come out and don't include these things.  Also, I like anime. "
Anime 
 

"
As a person who isn't an anime-fan, I must say that there are some good animes out there.  
Posted by ryanwho

I think Fable 3 proved and continues to prove plenty of people in the west don't know what the fuck they're doing either. Also obligatory: 

Edited by tourgen

I don't know there have been some great games coming out of Japan lately.  I love Platinum, there stuff is great.  I hear they're old Capcom people.  I'm officially a fan.  So some Eastern developers are definitely catching on and adapting well.
 
It seems to me as games get deeper with more story and atmosphere more of the Japanese culture and sensibilities show thru in their games.  And well, some things about that culture aren't all that pretty.

Posted by owl_of_minerva

Also, this talk of adaptation to Western tastes smacks a little bit of gaming imperialism to me. First, they are obligated to provide games that will appeal to their own region's tastes and secondarily (ideally) provide games that will be unique, excellent mechanically, etc. so that people of all regions can enjoy them. There are plenty of examples that demonstrate Japan, for its size, produces an inordinate amount of great games. They are far from behind 'the West', which is a totally misguided comparison. On a country-by-country basis, except for the US obviously, I'd say they compare pretty favourably.

Posted by bartok

Maybe I am wrong but it feels like Japanese Public aren't really that big into the consoles anymore.  Which is why they put Dragon Quest 9 on the DS as opposed to the Wii or PS3.   I think Japanese developers should play to their strengths rather then try to appeal to the Western Market with games like Lost Planet 2 and Front Mission Evolved.

Posted by Vodun

Why is it assumed that "the west" is where it's at? Are Japanese developers failing economically because they're not making enough money in the Asian markets and need to dominate gaming entirely again?

Posted by Meteora
@Vodun said:
" Why is it assumed that "the west" is where it's at? Are Japanese developers failing economically because they're not making enough money in the Asian markets and need to dominate gaming entirely again? "
Because the "west" is where it's at in the North American market. Japanese games used to have heavy presence and penetration in the market in North America for quite some time now. This isn't as much of a issue about Japan not making enough profit as much as it is possibly seeing discouragement from Japanese developers from localising games over North America, since it cannot compete with what the western market has and what the consumers want.
Posted by Vodun
@Meteora said:
" @Vodun said:
" Why is it assumed that "the west" is where it's at? Are Japanese developers failing economically because they're not making enough money in the Asian markets and need to dominate gaming entirely again? "
Because the "west" is where it's at in the North American market. Japanese games used to have heavy presence and penetration in the market in North America for quite some time now. This isn't as much of a issue about Japan not making enough profit as much as it is possibly seeing discouragement from Japanese developers from localising games over North America, since it cannot compete with what the western market has and what the consumers want. "
But why should they adapt their game designs for another cultural market? If they sell well in the Asian market, it's quite obvious it's not "wrong" it's just different ways of seeing things. Adapting your game design at that point just to make even more money would be pretty soulless.
 
Also we'd end up with even more of the same, a bland market of shooter X. Not to mention the fact that they might be cutting off their home market, resulting in them not making any more money while at the same time having undercut their cultural heritage. 
 
Another thing, how can the Japanese game industry be considered failing if the Wii is still the dominant console?
Posted by Meteora
@Vodun said:
" @Meteora said:
" @Vodun said:
" Why is it assumed that "the west" is where it's at? Are Japanese developers failing economically because they're not making enough money in the Asian markets and need to dominate gaming entirely again? "
Because the "west" is where it's at in the North American market. Japanese games used to have heavy presence and penetration in the market in North America for quite some time now. This isn't as much of a issue about Japan not making enough profit as much as it is possibly seeing discouragement from Japanese developers from localising games over North America, since it cannot compete with what the western market has and what the consumers want. "
But why should they adapt their game designs for another cultural market? If they sell well in the Asian market, it's quite obvious it's not "wrong" it's just different ways of seeing things. Adapting your game design at that point just to make even more money would be pretty soulless. Also we'd end up with even more of the same, a bland market of shooter X. Not to mention the fact that they might be cutting off their home market, resulting in them not making any more money while at the same time having undercut their cultural heritage.  Another thing, how can the Japanese game industry be considered failing if the Wii is still the dominant console? "
They don't have to (and quite frankly a stubborn number of them don't want to by the looks of things), but if they don't then we may see a dwindling number of games locally released for North America. 
 
Also the Wii is a piece of hardware. Hardware does not equal games (not in a direct sense anyway). And most of the really good games are first party titles by Nintendo; which seem to be more or less immune to be being bad.
Posted by Vodun
@Meteora said: 
They don't have to (and quite frankly a stubborn number of them don't want to by the looks of things), but if they don't then we may see a dwindling number of games locally released for North America.  Also the Wii is a piece of hardware. Hardware does not equal games (not in a direct sense anyway). And most of the really good games are first party titles by Nintendo; which seem to be more or less immune to be being bad. "
I have to disagree, hardware does equal games. Unless the hardware is in the customers house, there is a steep threshold for game sales (obviously). And the opposite is true, if you have the hardware you are more inclined to buy games for it. It's what made PC gaming so big back in the day, everyone had a PC for work or school. 
 
I would say the perceived decline in Japanese games is on PS3/360, because there's tons of them on DS and Wii.
Edited by Icemael
@owl_of_minerva said:

" I'm not sure that most of us are qualified to speculate about the future of the Japanese industry in terms of economics, all I know is that they make a lot of damn good games and I hope that continues. "

Pretty much this.

As for this "the grass is greener on our side" mentality, it's the same amongst Japanese gamers. It's honestly pretty funny to see both sides go "we don't play their stuff, because our stuff is obviously better" when they both produce tons of great titles each year.
Posted by Pibo47
@Gap said:
" @Meteora said:
"Its not looking good for Japan's future in the western market. We might see a disappearance of their games in the near future, and I wouldn't like that."
 Thank god for that; personally i got fed up of seeing Mr. generic asian guy with his non-asian facial features and hair styles fight his millionth generic whacky monster and then have to sit through hours of cut-scenes which only anime fans (the whole 10 of them) would enjoy.  Adapt and survive; Japan refuses to adapt and as such won't survive. "
Couldn't agree more. I've never had any attraction to JRPG's because they are so predictable and fuckin boring as hell. I hope they change, but i doubt it. They just seem to wrapped up in their old ways.
Posted by Cincaid

I think it's a shame so many game companies in Japan put almost all their efforts into releasing games for the DS and PSP, a market that is nowhere as big in the west as it is in Japan.