As a gamer and a historian, I know my roots. I know that the business of video games almost completely went under in America, and that Nintendo saved us all with their Famicom and NES systems.
I also know that, in the present day, two out of the three major video game hardware manufacturers are Japanese based. However, with the huge success of the XBox 360 among American console gamers, I wonder if the era of Japanese dominance is over, at least in North America.
A few things make me think this way. For example, I would argue that the most popular genre, or at least the most exploited, in America is the FPS. This genre is not nearly as popular in Japan, and so is neglected by most Japanese developers. There are more FPS games being played in America than I could probably even count.
Call of Duty: One of many
“But Mr. Mike”, you say, “I love my RPG’s and Japan is the best place for them!” Well, you may have a point there, but it’s no longer a 100% clear argument. The emergence of Fallout, Elder Scrolls and Mass Effect show that Western developers have begun to carve out some of the profits for themselves.
Even a game such as WoW, despite being a PC game, has more people playing RPG’s now than ever before. I am a big RPG fan, but I do realize and acknowledge that this genre is perhaps the most stale. Final Fantasy XIII may change that, but it is only one of the few titles from Japan that I am eagerly awaiting.
“That’s well and good Mike, but what about all those companies that I love from Japan and the games they make?!” Well, I wonder whether folks are more emotionally involved in these series’ than they are excited for the actual product. This emotion may even be negative, as Nintendo could certainly say.
The Wii is the biggest thing in videogames for a long time, and yet is shunned by the hardcore. I troll messageboards and listen to feedback and about 80% of the Nintendo talk is how abandoned and neglected the enthusiast gamer feels.
Even when Nintendo talks of doing games that I as an enthusiast gamer am interested in, the negative wave is almost suffocating. Nintendo, it seems, cannot make hardcore gamers happy unless they throw away the audience that is giving them gobs of money. An unlikely occurence I would think.
The Wii: Apparently, the enemy of all who game
Konami has been rehashing the concept behind Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for..what, 8-9 years? Capcom and Mega Man…well, let’s leave that alone. Dolphins will evolve into the dominant species on Earth before Dragon Quest ever evolves into something new.
The emotional investment we have in these series’ are certainly a factor. It’s called branding, and it’s the reason most kids want McDonalds over Burger King, regardless of whether they like the food better. That clown makes it happen.
DQ IV: Not to be confused with I-VIII
I am beginning to think that these days we have an American gamer and a Japanese gamer, and that they are going down different paths. XBox is the preferred means of play in America, while the Wii, DS, and nostalgia seem to be sating the thirst for Japan.
That isn’t to say that convergence won’t happen at all. I personally like Japanese style games, and will continue to like them. But I am aware enough to realize that I am a niche, and that catering to niches is not profitable, especially with the limited income most of us now have from this economy.
A Japanese game about Europe? Crazy!
Don’t get me wrong, many American companies have left creativity by the wayside too. This is why they continue to crap out Madden titles once a year and why the FPS genre has so much representation that I really think the saturation point might be coming.
Activision is essentially holding you hostage with each new plastic factory they make you buy every 6 months. But if all companies are feeding you the same junk, why would Japanese companies be running the show.
Japan has run the console industry for over 20 years. Do you think this trend continues? Am I insane for believing that Americans may now be dominant in their own territory? Let’s have a discussion. And remember, this is not intended to be a xenophobic article, so let’s keep it civil shall we?