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Does the PS4 Face Exile?

Does the PS4 Face Exile?

| December 4, 2013

The PlayStation 4 (PS4) will arrive in Japan on February 14th. Wait…. what? Sony is releasing its flagship product on its home turf three months after it launched abroad? That can’t be true! But it is.

I remember the PlayStation 3 (PS3) release from 2006 very well; I sat in front of a computer in a dusty dorm watching videos of that shiny black, Spiderman-fonted tease being unboxed, all the while knowing I had a three month wait until I got mine. Because I was neither Japanese nor American (I was in the UK), I had to wait my turn like the rest of Europe. It was not a good feeling and it’s a tragedy that Japan is suffering it today.

On the PS3’s Japanese launch day, over 80,000 consoles were sold in 24 hours. People queued around the clock and their enthusiasm was through the roof. At that time, I remember feeling bitter toward American gamers who received their consoles only a week after Japan, but I certainly didn’t doubt Japan’s right to be first in line; this was a product from their country, the fruit of Japanese labour, and it was only fair that they got first dibs.

 

 

There could not be a bigger shift: from 24-hour lines in 2006 to 3 month delays in 2013. So, what has changed? Why would Sony make such an obviously antagonistic decision? Masayasu Ito answered these questions in a round table discussion at the Tokyo Game Show: he stated that “Japan is completely different. It’s more portable-heavy…[Japanese] publishers are showing an interest. But it’s a completely different picture of readiness compared to Western publishers.”

It’s simple, really; Sony no longer has the developers’ full support, so games are just not available on the PS4. It remains to be seen how Japanese consumers will react to this, but one thing is sure: no matter what spin we put on it, the Playstation brand is no longer the apple of Japan’s eye.

As Masayasu stated, Japanese gamers have begun to break away from traditional consoles and move more toward the portable market. With more customers choosing the Nintendo 3DS, the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation VITA, Android and iOS devices, the developers have followed suit. Traditional JRPG names like Final Fantasy, Shin Megami Tensei, Suikoden and Persona are all being released with much greater frequency on handhelds and Persona 5, one of the most influential JRPGs was recently announced for the PS3 rather than PS4. These games have much bigger followings in Japan compared to Western countries and their departure from traditional consoles will hit Sony hard.

 

Persona 5 confirmed for PS3, no mention of PS4

Persona 5 confirmed for PS3 with no mention of the PS4.

So what does this mean to those of us who appreciate the uniquely Asian flavor of our games and purchased PlayStation 4 consoles in the hope of seeing more of it?

Honestly I don’t know. Sony has yet to announce a full Japanese launch line up, though we know that launch date coincides with the release of several Japan-focused games such as _Natural Doctrine, Yakuza: Ishin_ and _Strider Hiryu_. While this is an obvious attempt to get Japan’s gamers back on the home team, victory is not certain. If these offerings fail to entice we could see the PS4 losing its ability and motivation to attract Japanese gamers and that would be a disaster for us all.

Because if the PS4 loses its connection to its homeland, it would become a console in exile: a console which has lost the charm which sets it apart from other home consoles out there on the market. When all is said and done, a PS4 without the Japanese influence is just Xbox One by another name.

UPDATE 4-12-13: Spelling correction.

Comments

  1. Who is developing the games that are being released abroad (i.e. not targeted at the Japanese market)? Are the bulk of existing releases for the PS4 coming from American or European or Asian developers? How does Nintendo fit in to all of this? If Japanese gamers aren’t on Playstation anymore, what are they playing?

    Just curious…nice read!

  2. Hi Will

    Currently the vast majority of games are coming from American publishers. The PS4 is a really expensive console to develop for, so only companies with a lot of capital can really afford to get in on the action early, these companies are usually American.

    Nintendo is always a trickier one because with the Wii and Wii U they have moved away from traditional markets and moved toward casual gamers. Motion controls never really caught on with traditional gamers but are popular with kids and people more interested in social elements of gaming.

    As to what the Japanese are playing that’s interesting because the Japanese market seems to have a preference for portable consoles, the PSP, PS Vita and 3DS all perform very well there. Also iOS and Android are gaining support from Japanese companies, most notably Square Enix, making it more difficult for PS4 to win back it’s fan-base.

  3. Adam

    I think this is not about a lack of support for PS4 in JP but a distinct sign in how the gaming industry has become a truly global market.

    When I was a kid Genesis, SNES etc most games came out of Japan therefore you bought Japanese games or didn’t play games much at all.

    Now since PS1 more international developers have rose to prominence and, much like it took a look time for anyone to recover from Apple’s early dominance, Japanese games developers have struggled to shrug off their myopic view that what sells in Japan sells globally.

    In fact it is now the case that a game that sells well in Japan often barely registers globally (with a few exceptions).

    The PS4′s decision to launch in Japan last is a simple one, there is far more money to be made in USA, Europe and much of Asia than there is in Japan – certainly right now anyway.

    The USA launch line up of PS4 has no distinctly Japanese games available at launch and even Hong Kong’s launch titles only contain 2 obviously Japanese games.

    Sony has refined the strategy for PS4 compared to the previous 3 consoles and whilst Japan will be a tougher nut to crack this time they’ll be in a far stronger position internationally than domestically which I believe is an intentional and wise decision on their part.

    • I absolutely agree. My main worry is that globalisation will push certain genres further and further from the centre. I am especially concerned about JRPGs which have been getting entirely too comfortable on handhelds and DLC.

  4. Alex

    Actually, they want to compete with the Xbox One in time for the holiday/Black Friday sales. Since the PS4 dominates the console market in Japan, there is no need to focus their attention on the Japanese launch. It worked perfectly well when you see their sales figures.

  5. MrToffee

    Another big reason for Japan’s late release was that Western developers were more pro-active in developing for the PS4 even before the past few years. Japan devs were more concerned with the portable market; it’s more of a switch in focus than actual disinterest on next-gen.

    Yakuza’s track record has been high since the first game on the PS2, so there’s really no worry sales-wise unless the game breaks from its open-ended beat-em-up route.

    • Yeah I agree. Western countries have seen the dollar signs and are working as hard as they can. My worry is that because the Japanese market is so small and the PS4 so expensive to develop for that we are going to see the Japanese developers focussing more and more on less expensive projects.

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