Through a pleasant conversation between myself and a blogger by the name of Vahrkalla I came onto the topic yet again of the problem with Sega localization and to some degree a decent portion of localization efforts. Sega to much surprise do in fact have a quite large spectrum of IPs that they could not only dote upon while they work out the kinks with the blue blur but also release some if not all of those creations to the rest of the world. The problem though is from a business perspective, you don’t ever release in a market you don’t see yourself selling well in, makes sense. The big problem though is they probably could, If they actually told anyone.
The big image at the beginning of the post? That is a screenshot of the PS3 Hatsune Miku rhythm game, Hatsune Miku Project Diva F. I Own this game, acquired a platinum trophy and have beaten every song on every difficulty to the level right below perfect. I adored every moment playing this game, yet I wouldn’t have known about without a curious browse through the PSN demos. See that attire she is dressed up in? That is a reference to a series known as Phantasy Star, a series that short of **one entry on the forsaken Dreamcast has never seen real western release. Oh by the way have you ever heard of the Yakuza games? No? Well I heard about them from a friend who saw a LP from a lesser known Youtuber. Good games, great series and some rather successful in Japan….yet scarcely heard of elsewhere even when localized.
Namco Bandai or whatever they are calling themselves nowadays has this sort of issue some years earlier for a long time, only somewhat being alleviated now. They’d hardly ever release any of their better titles out in the west and when they do they keep it quiet outside of the dedicated forums and blogposts. I had to periodically Google the Tales Of series to see what would come up on this once off handed articles and news updates about an entry in the series coming westward after 3 years. There isn’t a tangible effort to ensure sales when released, games just chucked into the vast ocean of games as if ’twas naught but an app store game among millions.
There is a enjoyable little DS game called The Legendary Starfy, the 5th entry in its series with this being the first one released outside of Japan. I saw one trailer for it on a small article and that was it, the entirety of Nintendo’s attempts to find ground in the western market. The game is great, an “underwater platformer” often noted upon as being a combination of Mario & Kirby by reviewers. Can you guess how well it sold? Yeah, it doesn’t look like such a good series is coming westward anymore, hell I imported an american copy because no European release had me burning up something fierce. His assist trophy will forever be known as “that weird star guy” in Smash Bros., a tremendous pity.
Many marketing departments seem to fall into what I like to call the Localization Loop: we can’t release it there because it hasn’t been proven to sell well, nothing has been proven to sell well because nobody releases there, nobody releases there because it hasn’t been proven to sell and so on and so on. Nobody is willing to take that first step to take a risk, a notion I can understand in the current gaming climate where even a great success might not keep a company from going bankrupt. Perhaps that with the added issue of some games being heavily slanted towards a very Japanese tone and the fear of coming off as too Japanese.
I would like to point you all to the Smash Bros. series, most importantly the astounding ability it has to expand peoples knowledge of series to the point they gain a sizeable following. Fire Emblem was a franchise that to anyone outside of Japan was a thing of mystery, first making an appearance in Melee the year 2001. Later down the road a few of the GBA games would come over to the west to favourable reviews and what I can only call an average sized following. A Gamecube game, A Wii game, eventually coming to 2012 with the release of Fire Emblem: Awakening, an entry that surpasses all previous with its accessibility without removing what brought the original fans in the first place. The game is a smash hit, selling over a million copies worldwide.
There is something to be learn from these events that developers holding onto all these almost forgotten IPs could learn. If you simply get the word out and get people interested, you can gain a swell and actual sales, maybe even turn a small franchise into a powerhouse with hidden markets waiting to slobber over each entry. At this point it feels to me like a spoilt brat not letting kids play with their toys despite having no interest in them, no I don’t want to play with it but you can’t play with it it’s mine. I’m not telling you you should sell your IPs to another company but out of a purely business perspective selling unused anything just seems logical. Don’t let good games be squandered & most definitely do not let good IPs gain dust, it is such a waste.
Also for those interested a blog I keep my eyes out for that brings the latest and greatest of gaming news in Japan. I hear that the new Disgeaea game will be the last if the company can’t garner enough sales, maybe something you might be interested in approaching yourself – sunrisingblog.wordpress.com
Small link to the blog owner of the one who helped bring this topic back to my mind- vahrkallasvideogames.wordpress.com/
What games have you played that seem to be very niche or poorly marketed in the west? What games or entire franchises do you want to see fly over from the east? Namco Bandai has gotten infinitely better with its work localizing and making swell around the new releases in the Tales Of series, can other companies follow suit? Thanks for the read and I’ll see you later.
**It appears I muddled my information up as the original four games were indeed released on their correct platforms, however we didn’t get the PS2 remakes which is still a bummer. The series itself is arguably a landmark in the gaming industry for making “both online gaming and the concept of fee-based services a reality for consoles”.