Post Response: The “Japanese Game Decline”

This post was interesting and spurred some interesting conversation on Kotaku, Destructoid, etc:

Because we merged with Eidos and had games like Tomb Raider, Deus [Ex], and Hitman, as a company we were able to keep face. But the decline in Japanese titles was almost humiliating. This has been a week where I worried daily about how we can fix this.

Ironically, Japanese titles were what attracted me to video gaming back in the late 80’s and early 90’s (look, I just dated myself, hah). We had a Nintendo before we had a personal computer. Much fun was had playing Mario, Final Fantasy, Mega Man, etc. Good times.

His post seems like a fair concern, though perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. We can probably though, all safely say that Square Enix’s slice of the market is in decline based on the quality of their latest releases but the entire gaming industry? Eh maybe so maybe not. I have a sneaky feeling that the Japanese titles that are decent aren’t being localized over here because they are either deemed too niche or just didn’t sell well enough in Japan to justify the expense. Square Enix’s problems more-or-less seems to be a problem with the way Square Enix handles things.

Then again, for every clever JRPg and clever Japanese puzzle/attorney game, there are at least a dozen crap-ass filler titles. I really wish that certain Japanese game developers would stop catering to fanboys and weeaboos. Please cut it with the games pandering to Western audiences, but made by developers who do not understand what Western audiences want and what the current trends are. Also, especially stop the moe shit; It’s creepy and borderline pedophilia.I really love games that retain the Japanese aesthetics and culture but aren’t afraid to push gameplay boundaries. Worry about the writing, gameplay and art direction, not if a game is going to be too “Japanese-y”. Besides, I am of an opinion that a legitimately good game story surpasses cultural boundaries.

I just don’t feel that the Japanese gaming industry as a whole have met the maturing tastes of gamers as a whole. The average age of the American video gamer is 37 years old, having played for 12 years according to fairly recent statistics (side thought: what does that study consider gaming? If stuff like FarmVille is included, that stat is bullshit). That statistic is actually up from an average age of 33 in 2006 (also from an ESA study). Teenagers with super powers saving the world have a very limited appeal to that demographic. If anyone has a similar study for the Japanese gaming market, please link it. Very interested in reading that.

Though to be fair, a similar argument can be made of the Call of Duty series or any number of popular shooters. I love them all to death, but even I am getting a little bit tired of nitty-gritty, gray area morality shooters done in a brown color pallet. To be even more honest, I am thinking that the BioWare style choice RPG system is starting to wear a little thin (I love love love your games but they are kind of all the same). Gaming fads come and gaming fads go; Move with them or fall into obscurity. Who knows, 12 year old bishounen pony superheroes could be next year’s thing…or not. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

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