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Next-gen has snubbed Japan until 2014… but does Japan care?

PS4 and Xbox One won’t appear in Japan until 2014. Gamers in Sony’s home country will need to wait until February 2014 before they can buy PS4, while--if rumours are to be believed--the Xbox One may not make Japan, and several key European regions, until autumn 2014. Autumn! That’s a substantial delay for a country that has largely enjoyed its console launches ahead of (or at least the same as) the US and Europe. So, why is it different this time around? And does anyone in Japan really care?

While it’d be flippant (and wrong) to claim that no-one in the East is looking forward to PS4, it does highlight the fact that home consoles are becoming increasingly designed for Western audiences. The Xbox has always been a large, bulky example of American design and its core games have been staunchly Western-focused. Halo, Gears, Ryse, TitanFall… As such, Microsoft has struggled to garner much popularity in Japan, so the fact that Xbox One doesn’t see the East as a priority isn’t a huge surprise.

However, PS4 is a different story. Sony is a Japanese company. It has always pushed its consoles to Japan first, then the US, then Europe. Its consoles have been designed in Japan, with equal consideration to Western and Eastern players. Except PS4. PS4 is the work of Mark Cerney, who works for Sony of America. It’s newest, key features are firmly skewed towards players in the West. Twitch support, Facebook sharing, quickly switching between apps and second screens.

And the launch games are very Western-focused too. Battlefield 4, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag--only Knack, PS4’s biggest disappointment, was created by SCE Japan Studio.

Speaking to Eurogamer, Sony Japan’s Masayasu Ito says that: “A next-generation home console has been a strong request from western developers who were anxious to see such devices. That's why we decided to go ahead with the EU and US launches... because EU and US titles were ready.” This console generation has been driven by the West, which is why the US and Europe is enjoying it first.

While I personally felt quite cheated getting PS3 a full 4 months after Japan and America back in 2007, there doesn’t seem to be any real feelings of resentment coming from the East in 2013. Is that because a 3 month delay isn’t all that significant to the Japanese public? Or is there simply no buzz for next-gen on account of both consoles (I’m not counting Wii U as next-gen here, because it isn’t) being so focused on the West?

I recently spoke to Keiji Inafune, legendary Japanese developer responsible for creating Mega Man and--more recently--Dead Rising. I asked him whether or not there’s any real hype for next-gen in Japan. “Obviously, there is a big difference in time between the Western and Japanese launch of the consoles. And the general public isn’t as focused on that aspect of gaming as they are in the West. So no, there isn’t the same buzz.

“Having said that, hearing all the news about next-gen launch from the Western media--and also considering the number of core gamers in Japan as well--a number of people are actually excited. So although there isn’t the same buzz for the hardware itself, it is growing slowly. By the time the consoles actually launch in Japan, I’m confident that the buzz will be there amongst the general public as well as the core gamers.”

It seems that Japan simply isn’t ready for next-gen. Several sources site the fact that Western developers have been preparing for the consoles for longer, whereas Japanese studios haven’t been considering them much before PS4 was announced in February of this year. As such, Knack (lead by PS4-designer Mark Cerney) and Crimson Dragon on Xbox One (a game that was originally being developed for Xbox 360) were the only Japanese-developed games to launch with the consoles. 

Inafune sees games as the key to getting Japanese players excited about the hardware. “So, talking about the hardware itself, Japan has been left out in that sense--the consoles themselves have already been released in the West,” says Inafune. “The launch games too, are more aimed at the western market at this point. There are some more Japanese games planned for release after Christmas, which take advantage of next-gen’s unique features, and they look really good. I think that, as of spring, there will be more Japan-focused games so the country won’t feel excluded.”

This is a trend that has been creeping into the games industry over the past decade or so. While PS4 and Xbox One only have 2 Japanese-developed games between them, 360 / PS3 managed 6, whereas PS2 had 10 back in March 2000 and 20+ when the machine appeared in the US, six months later. The number of Japanese games that make it into the West (as a whole) has declined greatly over the past decade--even Nintendo’s output has reduced.

It all points towards the fact that Japan is increasingly removing itself from the traditional console cycle. Wii U--a console that still very much caters for a Japanese audience--is a good indicator of this, releasing mid-generation and bypassing the chance to become more powerful than 360 and PS3. Nintendo’s lack of concern for creating a machine that keeps pace (hardware-wise) with Sony and Microsoft perhaps reflects the sentiment that Japan isn’t as bothered about marking home console generations in the same way as the West.

PS4’s unprecedented late appearance in its home country is, therefore, less of a shock than it would have been 5-10 years ago. It also implies that Japan is--generally--not too bothered about the wait. Well, with the possible exception of Inafune himself. As the creator of Dead Rising, surely he’s been given an Xbox One early and afforded the chance to play Dead Rising 3 ahead of his countrymen…?

“So, I haven’t played it yet,” he laughs. “I’m waiting for the Xbox One to come out so I can sit down with it, and really get to know the game in detail. From the feedback I’m hearing, I think the gameplay has been created with excellent attention to detail, but maybe the game is lacking in humour--something I was keen to emphasise in the original game. That’s the impression I’m getting at the moment.” Hmm, yeah. If the creator of Dead Rising can wait to play the third game in HIS OWN series, I’m sure the rest of Japan isn’t too fussed about the wait either…

Topics

Japan

12 comments

  • winner2 - December 11, 2013 6:21 p.m.

    Maybe we have to send over gaming missionaries, like those Christian ones are doing all over Asia. We should spread the light that is games the Japanese havn't bothered with
  • pl4y4h - December 11, 2013 4:57 p.m.

    To be honest, at this point i figured all the japanese gamers at this point were playing Monster Hunter 12 er 4......9?
  • jedisamurai - December 11, 2013 1:48 p.m.

    Think about how the Saturn never did well in the U.S. but did VERY well in Japan. Their priorities are completely different. You can talk all you want about social media, better graphics, blah, blah, blah. But what about the things that people like the Japanese (and people like me) know and love already? Beautiful games that tell interesting stories, storybook-like graphics, deep experiences? There ARE companies last-gen that used the tech to tell interesting stories, and most of them were from Europe or Japan (Child of Eden, Heavenly Sword, Enslaved, El Shaddai). They simply aren't interested in American FPS crap. And neither am I. Meanwhile, the PC gaming scene is exploding thanks to the Indie movement, so it wouldn't surprise me if the Japanese started to become PC gamers, attracted to the likes of Paradise Lost, Hyperlight Drifter, Love Live the Queen, and others. Those are the kind of games the Japanese want to play, and the kind of games I want to play too. It's very interesting to me that the only two games on the PS4 and Xbox One that I would actually want to play are the two that were Japanese developed. They sure look a lot more fun to me than the other games that are currently offered.
  • herrer - December 11, 2013 12:41 p.m.

    Its not really surprising considering handhelds and mobile devices are more popular in Japan. Heck I saw the Tokyo game show and most of the things they were games for handheld and mobile.
  • FoxdenRacing - December 11, 2013 11:56 a.m.

    Sounds like Sony's waiting to release PS4 in Japan until there's games that Japanese gamers will give a rat's tail about ready to launch alongside it. Makes sense; a weak line-up can and will hurt launch sales, so if 'Gun Porn 16' and 'Gun Porn: Ancient Rome' aren't going to move systems in Japan, wait until 'Giant Robot Porn 8' and 'Dragon Quest -128 [warning: variable overflow]' are ready to roll.
  • jedisamurai - December 11, 2013 1:49 p.m.

    I think you hit the nail on the head.
  • Sinosaur - December 11, 2013 10:38 a.m.

    It's sort of disingenuous to talk about how Keiji Infafune is having to wait to play a game in a series he created when he created that series for a company he left and has since started a project that is... uncomfortable similar to another property he created for them.
  • Errrrbo - December 11, 2013 9:04 a.m.

    Yet another article about Japan (where I live) written by someone outside the country making very broad assumptions and cites miniscule anecdotes to support it. First off, when talking about games, it's always set up that there's Western games and there's Japanese games. Let's keep in mind that the "Western" group is far, far bigger than Japan is. The U.S., Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK all contributed games to the PS4/XOne launches, and that's not even counting the 7 or so studios that worked on AC IV. I know Japan has a long history with gaming, but the fact that Japanese game developers are now outnumbered 10 to 1 is still important. One other thing... "Hmm, yeah. If the creator of Dead Rising can wait to play the third game in HIS OWN series, I’m sure the rest of Japan isn’t too fussed about the wait either…" What does this even mean? One Japanese developer is less than stoked to play a new entry in a series he used to work on but no longer has any association with... and you're saying this illustrates the entire country moving away from console gaming? There's not a shred of sense in that. If the Respawn Entertainment guys (who used to be at Infinity Ward) aren't eager to play Call of Duty Ghosts, does that mean Americans don't care about next gen consoles? This article also omits information that goes against the writer's point. Isn't it relevant that the PS4 preorders sold out within minutes at all major retailers in Japan? I feel like that's a worthwhile piece of information. I have nothing against you, Mr. Hartup, I just think this is a bad article.
  • sepirothpk - December 11, 2013 7:11 p.m.

    Totally agree with this
  • Talvari - December 11, 2013 8:27 a.m.

    I'm kinda with them really...I mean it's not like the launch titles are anything particularly amazing and the price point isn't particularly attractive, especially in this day and age. I guess their gaming culture just differs a lot ours, they don't really want to play the multi platform sports games or shooters as much as they want to play their handhelds for the Monster Hunters or vocaloid/rhythm games. I'm pretty interested to see how many PS4s sell within a month over there regardless though. I guess that will be proof enough whether they care.
  • JMarsella09 - December 11, 2013 8:17 a.m.

    It always seems to me that Japan very late into a consoles life cycle. While americans want to experiment and try out some thing new, Japan is more about creating the best experience the possibly can. Hence we get games like Persona 4 or Pokemon B&W. I'm looking forward toward the next few years of the Ps3's life span.
  • JMarsella09 - December 11, 2013 9:53 a.m.

    Oh wow... I really messed up that first sentence...

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