Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tip of the Spear: Japanese Games on PC

I don't think it would be a stretch to say that Japanese game development is not as strong as it once was. Generally speaking Japanese developed games are selling far less in the west as a percentage of the overall audience than in years past with perhaps the exception of Nintendo first party games. Rising development costs with this generations jump to high definition have left many Japanese developers with no choice but to move nearly exclusively to handheld systems where such high resolution assets are not required. Some companies, like Mistwalker, that even had somewhat successful hits on HD consoles, are moving to the mobile phone space.

We are starting to see, I think, a new Trend with Japanese Development. The process of porting previously released console games to PC is starting to gain some traction with certain developers as well as catch the attention of the PC user base. More specifically, Steam is allowing Japanese developers to find a second home for games that potentially would have never found their user base.

Anecdotally, I think this makes sense. Take the hardcore and eclectic tastes of a large portion of PC gamers and compare it against those gamers that enjoy turn based RPG affairs, level grinding and high difficulty and I think you'll see that there's significant overlap.

For some examples look no further than:

The Last Remnant, while not getting stellar reviews was a moderately improved title from it's console counterpart that sold decently on Steam.

Reccettear, a tiny little microcosmic economic simulator and dungeon crawler sold over 100,000 units.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana is PSP port that recently got widescreen support thanks to Xseed. Ken from Xseed said this in an interview with RPGamer:

If things work out as we hope they will, perhaps Steam will become the ideal platform on which to try to continue the Trails in the Sky series.

The latest in this trend is of course Dark Souls launching on Steam after a 92,000+ signature petition to bring the title to the platform.

Perhaps the PC in conjunction with digital software distribution networks like Steam will be the saving grace of Japanese development.  PC Gaming is bigger than ever and with the advent of streaming services like Onlive and Gakai these titles have even more avenues to potential customers that might otherwise skip over these titles due to the platform to which they're restricted. It will be interesting to see how successful Dark Souls is and beyond that whether From Software or other Japanese developers start developing a PC skew along with their console or handheld counterparts. Only time will tell.

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