The Thing We Never Heard Of Apparently Doesn’t Sell Well: SEGA & Localization Mishaps With Video Games

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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”.

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  1. #1 by YvoCaro on March 2, 2015 - 7:00 pm

    At times I wonder how people who aren’t into blogging, posting at forums and keeping an eye on gaming sites find good games to play. I guess they have to rely on the big titles that get some attention in the wider media. And even that is few and far in between here in the Netherlands. We hardly ever see a commercial for any kind of game here on the telly. If it wasn’t for my own blogging habits I would never have heard about Hatsune Miku. Or a lot of other games in the past.

    Like

    • #2 by Prof.mcstevie on March 2, 2015 - 8:59 pm

      It seems marketing is struggling to reach much of the world unless they make it a hype parade like many games before.

      I think a good youtube ad does magnificently, yes I can skip these ads after a few seconds but I will always stay and watch when it actually interests me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • #3 by YvoCaro on March 2, 2015 - 9:09 pm

      True, but at the same time the Clash of Clans commercial during the Super Bowl costs an amount of money to make you scared, and is still making a profit!

      Like

    • #4 by Prof.mcstevie on March 2, 2015 - 9:11 pm

      Clash Of Clans is yet another psychologically manipulative game that nickel and dimes people, millions of people who never even played games as well as millions of people who have and are just simple people.

      The fact they can even make such an expensive advertisement FOR THE SUPERBOWL for a mobile game is upsetting….I’m gonna go hold my PS1 now…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. #5 by theimpassionedcynic on February 26, 2015 - 1:31 pm

    Sega is bizarre with what it localizes.

    Like I understand them localizing the Hatsune games, and finally releasing Valkyria Chronicles on PC (I have it for the PS3 but being able to play it on my pc gives me options, and options are good) and yet no Phantasy Star hunting arpg games.

    The Vita is basically the jrpg/hunting arpg machine and they don’t get the hint. It’s bizarre.

    Also I wish more developers, not just the japs, would take bigger risks and localize stuff. They don’t even have to get english voice acting (especially when it comes to japanese games).

    I understand not localizing the more…salacious games (and not even, because games like Monster Monpiece, Criminal Girls and that one zombie undressing game…thing got localized so…) but they’d make some money without really spending all that much. The west has niche audiences that eat that stuff up so why not get some extra dosh?

    If it’s reviews they’re worried about, screw them. The niche audience who would play it actually understands how to read reviews, instead of buying because of the numeric value (for the most part).

    Like

  3. #6 by cary on February 25, 2015 - 2:21 pm

    One of the Wii’s swan songs, The Last Story kinda flew under everyone’s radar. Like, I only heard about it through another blog rather than through some big marketing campaign. It’s not only a solid Wii game, but a great and unique JRPG overall.

    Like

    • #7 by Prof.mcstevie on February 25, 2015 - 7:18 pm

      I think anyone who did see it after the hubbub for the 3 games was probably put off by the heavy and arguably awful English dubbing, like people off the street and told to do an accent kind of bad.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. #8 by Cirsova on February 24, 2015 - 9:16 pm

    Ooh, maybe they could do something with the weird Boris Vallejo redesigns from the US Phantasy Star games the way they did with Crap-art Megaman!

    Like

  5. #9 by Cirsova on February 24, 2015 - 9:15 pm

    Actually, all 4 of the original Phantasy Star games got US releases on their original platforms. What we never got were the PS2 remakes (which would’ve been awesome). The US versions did suffer from typical JRPG translation butchery which wasn’t corrected when they were put on the Sega Classics Collection, but they were still considered classics in the US.

    Now, one of the weirdest issues with Bandai release/localization was when they released an English translation of the 2 volume Tie-In manga for Mobile Suit Gundam: Lost War Chronicles (a spiritual sequel to Journey to Jaburo with MASSIVE improvements to the original engine, e.g. it was actually playable) but never actually gave the game a US release.

    Like

    • #10 by Prof.mcstevie on February 24, 2015 - 9:19 pm

      Ah, my mistake it seems my information got muddled up, thanks for the correction I’ll put it in!

      Yes it does seem in general there have been some really foolish decisions, I have often brought up the tie-in manga thing to the fact that Nintendo is releasing videos of that new Pokemon fighting game with English subtitles. It would seem obnoxious to not release it but it clearly has happened by the hands of others before.

      Like

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