If there is one thing you can say to me that will make me angry and confused when it comes to video game companies and them releasing games, it would be this: “We just did not think that [insert game here] would resonate and sell well with western audiences.” Simply put, some person in Japan says “those uncultured swine will not buy this great thing we made, so I’m not gonna take a chance on it.” Now, I’m gonna talk about why this is absolutely insane (especially in the digital download age), but I ALSO want to focus on why I think that doing things like this is a quick way to alienate your fans.
What Were They Thinking?
So, you might be asking, what has Kevin’s panties in a twist? This right here. During June of last year, there was an interview with Toshihiro Nagoshi, the series producer. In this interview, he was asked if Yakuza would come to the Switch at any point in the future. His response:
This is, in no uncertain terms, absolute utter horse crap. Yakuza is an incredible series that anybody can really enjoy. Also, saying that you won’t put anything on a Nintendo console because your experience with the WiiU wasn’t up to snuff is hilarious. Oh no! My sales were trash on a system that sold like TRASH worldwide. Of course, your stuff sold like crap! NINTENDO’S OWN GAMES sold like trash, but you don’t see Nintendo cancelling Pikmin, do ya? Whatever, I’ve made my point on that, but you get what I’m saying, right? Like, ok. I get it. You don’t like losing money, but you’re SEGA! This is part of the job description at this point!
Now, I do have to concede that game companies have the main focus of making a product that sells, but Yakuza as a series is no slouch! As of 2019, the entire series has sold just over 12 million copies, which is a feat for any series. Why not bring this to one of the current consoles with the largest install base. Now, for those of you not in the know for what Yakuza is as a series, you’re in for a real treat. I highly recommend looking into it as soon as you can. The first 6 games are… uh… how do I put this… well, they’re a lot of things. So many things in fact that I’m calling in an expert.
Here’s what my man Madison (@thepepronisecret) had to say when I asked him to sum it all up.
“Yakuza is a mini open world crime drama about a man named Kiryu Kazuma who is a good guy in a criminal world who constantly clashes against the ideals of other yakuza as they pursue their violent political agendas. Outside of that bullshit, Yakuza is a game about wandering districts of Japan helping people and playing mini games from shogi, cee-lo, billiards, golf, to street racing, arcade games, and real estate. The appeal of the series is engaging with the story for all it is. Drama, lunacy, heartwarming [stuff], and stoicism. Then ignoring all of it to help a kid get his copy of dragon quest 4, or pose as Onomichi Hiroshima’s mascot, or go slot car racing, or bet on bikini girl catfights.” In short, Yakuza is nothing short of a great time and an incredible story and certainly an experience that Switch owners would LOVE.
12 Years I Waited… IN AZ-JAPAN!!
So, I get it, Yakuza should be ported immediately because the game is incredible and you should all go play it immediately, but what about region-specific games? We’re talking about things like Trials of Mana before they remade it, Moon before they FINALLY localized it this year, MOTHER 3, and The Great Ace Attorney that MAY OR MAY NOT be getting a translation. Each of these games are examples of stunning, A+ tier games that either don’t make it to the West or take their pretty time doing so. So here’s the question: Why? The sheer quantity of memes you can make about Reggie Fils-Aime not releasing Mother 3 is staggering, but why not? The game is critically acclaimed, fun to play, and known by millions who have played as Lucas in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Sure, the task of localizing a game to ANY language is extremely nuanced and difficult, but there are teams of people who are more than willing to give them their fan-made translations for free. People just really want to play this game legally and to give the series the support it deserves. From a company perspective, it doesn’t make sense. You want money, and you have a surefire hit that will make you boat-loads of money, so why not capitalize and become a hero in the fans’ eyes? (We’ll get to this later)
This brings me to my next point though. When Japanese game companies decide to exclude non-Japanese countries from games in existing franchises it does a few things: frustrates international fans, encourages piracy, and creates artificially high import rates for people who want to play them. None of this is good for either party involved (except for companies who import games for gajillions of dollars. This works pretty well for them). A great example of this would be something like Capcom’s “The Great Ace Attorney”, an Ace Attorney game that takes place in the early 20th century alongside Sherlock Holmes. That sounds AMAZING, but they’re only available in Japan (BOTH of them, mind you), so let’s think of what predictably happened. Fans pirated the game because they had no other way to get it in the US, translated it themselves and made fans rejoice – unlike the company who, you know, actually MADE the game. Instead, had Capcom simply thought “A new game in a beloved franchise would probably be a recipe for success and should be shared with the world” they would have a lot more happy fans in the world.
Why Every Part of This Makes No Sense
I can be angry about localization and porting all I want, but I want to explain why I will give this topic no grounds as to why it is still perpetuated in today’s world. We live in a world that thrives on digital trade, and as such things like global releases are so much simpler without the worry of having physical games being left on shelves. Like, correct me if I’m wrong here, but if aside from making the actual thing, all the work you need to do is translation (which, while complicated, guarantees that more people will play your game) why would you not do that?
Having played some games that didn’t make the translation trip over seas, I can verify that not everything that has the potential to be sent across the ocean is good or even worth our time, but there are so many games that could benefit from a bigger audience. Just slap those things on the eShop and let positive reviewing and word of mouth do the rest. Heck if you threw Yakuza on a Nintendo Direct and said that it was an eShop exclusive you would have HEAPS of sales. Literally everyone wins when you localize.
Alright, I feel like I’ve done all I can in the rant department here. I mean, sure I could go on about how not having incredible, and more often than not bizarre games which are more popular today than ever, on American consoles (mainly the Switch) is a shame and an incredible loss on the developers part. Maybe I’ll come back to this some time and you can all yell at me for how wrong I am about localization for some reason or that I should just learn Japanese and import consoles and game all the time. For now, let’s just agree that there are plenty of games we never got out here in the rest of the world because some person or team at a game company said “They’ll never buy it” when they should have said, “But what if they do?”