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Opinion Drama Game Dev [rant] It's 2020 and most japanese companies still act like we're in the 90s

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ShadowWolf712

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Dec 27, 2019
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Little preface on my background as a gamer: i've been gaming for more than 20 years, starting with my original Game Boy, and old PC games, I lived the days when Tetris or Pokémon Red/Blue became huge phenomena like Fortnite or Pokémon Go in recent years. I remember when Myst, Simcity and The Sims were the best selling PC game franchises of all time, the golden era of LucasArts,... I then transitioned into home consoles with PS2 (loved those years too), then took a break from video games last gen, only playing occasionally and often missing out on big releases: this continued for most of this gen up until 2016.

Throughout all those years i've always noticed how most japanese gaming companies have always operated with the mantra of:

Treating Japan as the absolute priority, while the rest of the world as an afterthought

This made perfect sense in the 80s-90s as clearly the japanese market was by far the biggest in the world in gaming on any platform besides PC (PC gaming was still relatively new and small at the time, hardware was very expensive, so it didn't count as much as consoles or even arcades). Not only that but it also made sense considering the early state of the internet / the lack of market researches and most importantly the production costs back then: investing on a worldwide release was both a question mark and a giant risk.

This mentality of treating the west as the last wheel of the wagon has always been even more obvious in Europe, where we often had to deal with japanese companies completely skipping the old continent, thinking it's not relevant enough, or dealing with big delays even after the US release.

But as we all know time has changed, gaming has grown a lot here, while japan "hardcore" (so not counting mobile) gaming market has started to decline, and now US, Europe or even China are arguargbly far more relevant.

What really hasn't changed is the way most japanese studios/gaming companies see gaming, and that business strategy have more and more started to become out of touch, to the point where it's almost unbearable considering the age we live in:

I LOVE Japanese games but absolutely HATE most of the companies behind them.

The following is just a summary of some of the annoying practices and a few examples, i really wish they fade in this new decade, since there are plenty of data which shows how relevant are western markets and how simultaneous worldwide releases are more than feasible nowadays, and localization shouldn't be considered a valid excuse anymore considering it can all be planned in advance.

Most of the time the big reason why all these release issues are still a thing, is the lack of resources put into western branches and localization teams.

Note: I won't touch on delays/lack of releases in other minor markets like Australia, Canada, Latin America, Middle East, Africa though i'm aware of the issue.

1. Epic delays for the release in western markets. Generally is about 12 months delay from the japanese release, sometimes it's more

Eg:
Phantasy Star Online 2
JP: 2012
US: Q2 2020 (not released yet)

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
JP: 2011
US & EU: 2013

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of the Cold Steel
JP: 2013
US-EU: 2015-16 (PS3), 2017 (PC), 2019 (PS4)

2. Treating Europe as not relevant in 2020, skipping it entirely or huge delays, ecc.

Eg: Phantasy Star Online 2 - No European release at all.
Only recently they said the game is not region locked so you can play the US version, dealing with the lack of an European server.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey: didn't come out at all up until the remaster on 3DS
JP: 2009
US: 2010
Strange Journey Redux
JP: 2017
US: 2018
EU: 2018

Brain Training: Devilish Training
JP: 2012
US: 2013
EU: 2017

Honorable mentions: all the missing physical releases (Capcom is famous for doing that, sometimes Bandai Namco too)

3. Handling marketing for the west pretending we don't know all the news from Japan already. This could have worked 20-30 years ago, in the age of youtube, twitch, gaming websites, we've seen these games already by the time they come out in one single country. Stuff get leaked even prior to the , release.

Case in point: Atlus USA/Europe.

This could a minor issue for some but yesterday they released the japanese demo for Persona 5 Scramble, but we won't hear a thing from western branches as it's not yet confimed and it won't be until the game is out in Japan.

At some point i'm sure this backward thinking we'll make me sick of video games again as sometimes it oddly feels these companies don't care about their consumers at all, they know you'll pay so why bother improving? The question is how long they can go on like this?
I understand the spirit of this, and I agree with some of it, but there are often times that releases in the West are delayed simply because doing those, hiring localization teams, translating, re-recording, etc. takes money. Sometimes a LOT of it. And if the game might not sell well enough to justify it, it becomes a case of "why bother"?

In the case of the original Yakuza, for example, Sega originally went all-out with localization, right down to getting an English voice cast and even getting names as big as Mark Hamill to be part of it. But while it sold relatively well for a niche title, it didn't sell well enough to justify that level of production/localization again, and the lack of that in future games actually did put some people off.

So there IS some logic behind that, it's not simply "screw the West, Nihon is all that matters" or something. Though it does get relatively annoying when it sometimes creeps up in franchises established to have a strong following in the West as well.
 
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