kitsunebi77

Western games in Japan

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It's commonly said that Western games don't appeal to Japanese gamers and therefore sell poorly.  But what I'm wondering is: how many Western games actually get a Japanese release?  Everyone knows that the vast majority of Japanese games never get a Western release, so is the reverse also true? 

Looking at game sales across all platforms in 2017 thus far, 40 of the top 100 best selling games in the USA were developed in Japan.  Meanwhile 9 of the top 100 best selling games in Japan were developed in the West.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that Western games aren't being released - they might just all sell poorly.

If anyone knows of a comprehensive list of Western titles that receive a Japanese release, for any platform, I'd be curious to see it.

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3 hours ago, Ethereal Dragonz said:

Side question I want to ask: Since you live in Japan, what is your opinion on the difficulty with western games penetrating the market? Is it xenophobia or specific design elements that are a turn-off?

Oh, man, I could write a book about it, but it would mostly be opinion and speculation.  There's definitely a mix of both xenophobia and unappealing design elements at work, and the amount of each in play depends on what era of gaming you're talking about.

I think one important fact that can be added to the discussion is that Western games (for the most part) are not advertised or promoted in Japan.  I just took another look at the Dengeki Playstation issue I just uploaded, and in the entire mag, the only appearances of a non-Japanese game are a one-page preview of NBA Street and a tiny review of Woody Woodpecker Racing. 

I work with elementary-aged kids, and I can pretty much guarantee that the only Western game any of them has ever played is Minecraft, and some of them with older brothers may have heard of Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty.  But that's about the extent of it. 

So no matter how much truth there may be in pointing out factors like xenophobia and culturally unappealing design, I think there is also simply a huge lack of awareness regarding Western games.

One last point - In Japan, there is a cultural propensity for desiring things because they are popular.  We have it in the West as well, but it's much more extreme here.  In the West, there is often a feeling of "oh, so this thing is popular, eh?  Well I'll just have to judge for myself."  And there is certainly no shame in liking or making things that aren't super popular, which is why things like "indie" bands/films/games are seen as just as artistically valid (sometimes moreso) than their mainstream counterparts.

But in Japan, this isn't really the case.  Popularity is everything.  If the masses have decided something is good, then there's no need to judge it for yourself, because it must be good.  If it doesn't sell well or is on an indie label, it isn't because it might be something of excellent quality albeit with a more niche appeal, it's because it isn't good enough to be popular and put out by a major corporation.  One of the things that constantly pisses me off here is that Western movies I want to see come out in theaters months later than - quite literally - the rest of the world.  The reason is that Japan likes to wait until those films have completely run their course at the worldwide box office before they release them so that their advertising campaigns can tout how "this movie was #1 at the box office worldwide for X weeks and made X million dollars so you know IT MUST BE GOOD!!"   That's the general way of thinking here.  So then it becomes a case of chicken and the egg.  Western games won't sell until they become popular, and they won't become popular until they sell.

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Interesting topic here... I'd be curious of examples as well. Looking at my own collection, the vast majority of my games from the PS1/2 era are from Japanese developers. There are definitely some really solid and fun games that are western developed, but I wonder, are there really any genres that are missing from Japanese developer portfolios that western developers have filled in the gap?

 

Only thing that MIGHT come to mind would be sports games, at least in the US, sports are quite huge here.

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7 hours ago, te72 said:

Interesting topic here... I'd be curious of examples as well. Looking at my own collection, the vast majority of my games from the PS1/2 era are from Japanese developers. There are definitely some really solid and fun games that are western developed, but I wonder, are there really any genres that are missing from Japanese developer portfolios that western developers have filled in the gap?

 

Only thing that MIGHT come to mind would be sports games, at least in the US, sports are quite huge here.

Oh there are tons of missing gaps.  Japanese and Western game design are so different, an argument about which is better is a waste of time.  It's apples and oranges, for the most part.  Which doesn't mean one can't prefer apples to oranges or vice versa, of course.

I wasn't suggesting that Japan doesn't buy Western games because Japanese games are better (although that was probably true of console games back in the NES days for the most part, and is perhaps why even today there is a misinformed opinion among some Japanese gamers that all Western games are kusoge (shit games).  Nor was I suggesting that Japan doesn't play Western games because there are plenty of homegrown Japanese games that cover all of the same bases (this is patently untrue - as I said earlier, we're talking about apples and oranges.)

In truth, I wasn't even wondering WHY things are the way they are.  I really was just curious about the numbers -- how many Western games actually get a Japanese release.  Finding a list of Japanese games released in the US is pretty easy.  Even finding lists of Japanese games NOT released in the US is pretty easy (fun fact - there are more Japanese-exclusive PS2 games than there are total games in the entire US PS2 library).  But finding a list of Western games available in Japan isn't easy.  From looking at Japanese magazine coverage, it would seem that the percentage of Western games released in Japan is incredibly small, but that could simply be a bias of the magazine, and not actually representative of the games being sold.

It might also be interesting to see a list that showed how many Western games released in Japan have been localized, and how many are simply released as is (i.e. in English).  I know on the PC side of things, the Japanese PC gaming market for actual games (i.e. not pornographic visual novels) is so small, that almost all of the "real" games that get  released for PCs are of Western design.  However, due again to the tiny nature of the market, the companies that license those games will often release them without localization, and it's up to the gamer to try to figure out how to play in a language they barely understand.

 

BTW, this is irrelevant to the original point of this thread, but you brought up genres that the West does well that are missing in Japan and mentioned sports.  There are actually tons of Japanese sports games, it's just that we haven't bothered bringing any of them over to the West since the 8/16-bit days.  Granted, if you want to play a football or basketball game, you're probably not going to find many options in Japan, but there are plenty of baseball/soccer/golf/tennis/horse racing (that's sort of a sport, right?) games to choose from.

Popular Western genres I'd say are mostly missing from the Japanese design esthetic are first-person shooters (which are famously disliked by Japanese gamers), and open world games like GTA (Japan favors more structured game design for the most part).  Perhaps due to their PC heritage, grand strategy/4x strategy games are also largely missing.  Other genres are present but so different as to almost not count.  RPGs, for instance.  Although early Japanese RPGs were influenced by Western PC RPGs, Japan quickly latched onto the Dragon Quest format of having a character or characters follow a mostly linear path from start to finish, often with a complicated storyline that doesn't allow for much in the way of actual role-playing, since characters have pre-scripted abilities and personalities and will be forced to complete most of their goals in the order that the story demands.  So in my opinion, RPGs (or Western RPGs, if you will) and JRPGs are not actually the same genre.

And of course, the biggest gap in Japanese game design (in my opinion) isn't a genre at all - it's indie games.  Yes, they exist, but the indie game market in Japan is miniscule compared to that of the West.  This is a potential problem for the future of Japanese gaming as I see it, since many new and innovative ideas come from indie developers who have the freedom to experiment and try new things.

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