At the risk of startling a good thing and scaring it away, it must be said that Japan is responsible for some of the best games of 2017.
The reason this is such a big deal is because the Japanese game development industry hasn’t exactly been prosperous these last 15 years or so. Whereas there was once a time when Japan was synonymous with the entire video game industry, things started to go downhill for Japan’s reign of dominance sometime around the year 2000.
It was around that time that first-person shooters, open-world games, and third-person action adventures began to dominate western markets. Elsewhere, companies like BioWare were taking over the RPG scene that Japan had unquestionably ruled for years.
None of this would have been a problem if Japanese developers had capitalized on emerging trends. For better or worse, however, many studios in Japan decided to stick to many of the design conventions they had adhered to for years. This helped them retain a certain fan base, but it prevented them from appealing to a global market.
This year, however, we’ve seen Japanese studios start to come around. Zelda embraced the open-world genre just as Resident Evil acknowledged horror game advancements made in recent years. It’s a slow process, but we’re starting to benefit from the results.
There is at least one notable exception to that trend.
Simply put, PC gaming isn’t that big of a deal in Japan. There are exceptions to that statement, but they tend to prove the rule. The reasons why that is the case vary, but the thing to keep in mind is that many major Japanese developers have either ignored the PC market or treated it as a second class citizen simply because the people of their country are relatively uninterested in the medium.
This year, however, a Japanese studio named Platinum Games decided to port a few of their most popular console games from recent years to PC after their 2017 hit Nier: Automata proved to be especially successful on that platform.
The results were stunning. Bayonetta – an eight-year old console game – sold over 100 thousand copies on PC in just two weeks of availability. Mind you, it did that with despite an almost complete lack of marketing beyond worth of mouth. It’s believed the numbers are similar for another Platinum PC port, Vanquish.
The success of these games, along with the success of titles like Dark Souls and the Final Fantasy series on PC – has led to some Japanese developers treating PC releases with the same care and urgency that they once reserved for console
Still, there are many notable Japanese games that aren’t expected to see a PC release anytime soon. While many of those titles are Nintendo games which will simply never legally be available on PC, other titles like Nioh and the Persona series which have topped many PC gamer’s most wanted lists in the past remain unavailable due to a lack of interest or outdated console exclusive conditions which hinder a developer’s ability to find the full market for their game.
There’s no reason to believe a new era of Japanese gaming isn’t ahead of us. We just hope that old habits don’t prevent Japanese studios from reaching out to a market that’s more than ready to embrace them.