Japanese Gaming Is Back- But So Far, It Looks Like Only Sony and Nintendo Are Benefitting From It

Microsoft needs to be a part of that Japanese party.

Posted By | On 01st, Apr. 2017 Under Article, Editorials | Follow This Author @Pramath1605

Over the last ten years, the narrative that Japanese games are now irrelevant, that they don’t matter, has become increasingly prevalent. In the wake of the PS2 era, the Japanese market contracted tremendously, and we were left with smoldering ruins. After the PS2, Japanese developers, who have traditionally supported one system en masse, had three equally appealing (or unappealing) options- the Xbox 360, which was easy to develop for, but which had no cachet in Japan whatsoever; the PS3, which should have logically succeeded the PS2, but which was insanely difficult and expensive to make games for, and was failing in the market (at least at first); and the Wii, which was easy and cheap to develop for, and selling a lot, but which didn’t have a audience that would purchase most serious, high end console games.

This, combined with the harsh realities of the transition to HD, meant that Japanese developers struggled to put out games on these consoles at all, and when they did, they were often lacking- franchises that had once blazed the trail, like Final Fantasy, were struggling to get games out, and when they did, they were complete misfires- games that had spent so much time in just transitioning to HD, that not enough development time or resources had been left to dedicate to the actual game part of the equation.

This led a lot of these console games to fail in the market, in the west, and in Japan- and in turn, it led to lower that expected sales of all consoles in Japan (barring the Wii, which was nevertheless plagued by an inability to actually sell software outside of Nintendo’s own fare). En masse, most Japanese developers fled to supporting first handhelds (the DS and PSP), and then smartphones. For years, if we wanted quality Japanese games, we either had to buy a DS or a PSP- a quality Japanese console game (outside of Nintendo or Kojima fare) was simply no longer an option.

"After the PS2, Japanese developers, who have traditionally supported one system en masse, had three equally appealing (or unappealing) options."

Western developers had handled the transition to HD far better- they were, of course, used to multiplatform game development, as well as development for high end machines, thanks to years of experience with PC gaming (neither of these factors stood true for Japan). And so, as they struggled less with the transition to HD (though even there, we saw the bottom fall out of the mid tier market, and we saw multiple studios going bankrupt and shutting down) they could focus more on the nuances of their game design. And so, while Japanese companies were giving us Final Fantasy 13, western companies gave us Mass Effect 2. While Japanese companies gave us Lost Planet 2, western companies gave us Uncharted 2. While Japanese companies thought Resident Evil 6 would be a good game to put out, or struggled to put out The Last Guardian, western companies in turn gave us The Last of Us or The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. As a lifelong fan of Japanese games, it hurts to admit this- but for the longest time, this was true. Japanese developers were falling behind their western counterparts, and the Japanese console (and later on, handheld) market was contracting catastrophically. It seemed as though common wisdom may actually be right- Japan would be more and more irrelevant as time went on.

Except now we know that wasn’t true. We had signs of the brilliance Japanese developers can exhibit every now and then over the last few years- Dark Souls is one of the most vaunted games of all time, and many developers, including western ones, openly take inspiration from it. It came from a Japanese developer. Nintendo’s games continued to remain largely high quality (though they became safe, and almost sterile). But by and large, Japanese games had fallen behind.

That all changed this year- this entire year so far has been a tour de force of the brilliance that Japanese developers can and still do exhibit. Late 2016 and 2017 so far has been one of the best, greatest, most memorable years for video games in recent memory (and we’re not even four months in yet!)- and that owes itself almost entirely to Japanese developers and their output.

"This entire year so far has been a tour de force of the brilliance that Japanese developers can and still do exhibit. Late 2016 and 2017 so far has been one of the best, greatest, most memorable years for video games in recent memory (and we’re not even four months in yet!)- and that owes itself almost entirely to Japanese developers and their output."

This year, we have received Yakuza 0, Gravity Rush 2, Tales of Berseria, Resident Evil 7, Nioh, NieR Automata, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD, Persona 5, Toukiden 2, Super Bomberman R, and of course, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. All of these games have been exceptionally well received- there are at least five Game of the Year contenders in that list already, and Zelda may even be a Game of the Generation contender (it is currently the third highest rated game of all time on Metacritic). These have all come from Japanese developers, over a period of little over 90 days- that’s almost one game every week 0n average ever since the year started. Meanwhile, western developers have turned out For Honor, Ghost Recon Wildlands, Halo Wars 2, Mass Effect Andromeda, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Now, don’t get us wrong- those are all good games (and Horizon in and off itself is one of the best games of the generation so far, and another Game of the Year contender)- but they are dwarfed in quality and quantity by the output from Japanese developers this year so far.

The most amazing thing is, this doesn’t look to be stopping any time soon, either- multiple great Japanese games are planned over the coming months and years, including Death Stranding, Tekken 7, Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, Dragon Quest 11, Kingdom Hearts 3, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Shenmue 3, Shin Megami Tensei V, Gran Turismo Sport, Ace Combat 7, Ni no Kuni 2, and all of Nintendo’s lineup, which includes Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and Fire Emblem, among other things. Some of the most exciting upcoming console games are all Japanese- meanwhile, western developers appear to have lost a lot of cachet and mindshare over the last few months.

All of this has resulted in the Japanese market being buoyed again. The Nintendo 3DS is now the third highest selling handheld of all time in Japan, the PS4 is now outpacing the PS3, selling a steady 40,000 units a week, and the Nintendo Switch has consistently remained sold out since launch. The Japanese market, which many had written of for dead, has returned triumphantly in the wake of the resurgence of Japanese developers, whom many had similarly written off as irrelevant.

"The PS4 gets every Japanese game made (alongside every western game being made), giving it a thorough lead over the Xbox, and even the Switch gets Japanese games where Xbox doesn’t."

The interesting thing about all this – and the part that I am sure many of you were waiting for after reading the headline – is that while Sony and Nintendo are reaping all the benefits from this (the PS4 is the de facto game platform for all Japanese game releases now- in fact, of all the games mentioned above, all except for the Nintendo ones (and Shin Megami Tensei) are PS4 games, with most of them also being PS4 exclusive; meanwhile, every notable Japanese developer and publisher has also pledged full support for the Switch), the Xbox is being left out of the party entirely. Of all the Japanese games that I mentioned above, only one – Resident Evil 7 – is out on the Xbox as well, and of the upcoming ones, only four are hitting Xbox. Meanwhile the PS4 gets every Japanese game made (alongside every western game being made), giving it a thorough lead over the Xbox, and even the Switch gets Japanese games where Xbox doesn’t- meaning the Xbox loses the edge it has over the Switch thanks to western games.

The result of all this? The Xbox is the only system unable to play exciting looking upcoming games like Dragon Quest 11 and many other Japanese games.

"Japan is resurgent, and it is delivering some of the best games of the generation so far. By choosing to sit out on this party, Microsoft is only hurting itself."

The worst part is, it doesn’t have to be that way. The original Xbox and Xbox 360 had some great Japanese games on them- and the Xbox 360 even managed to make some headway into the Japanese market in its early years. It is on the Xbox One that things appear this bleak, however- most major Japanese games skip the Xbox One entirely, most western games forego an Xbox One launch in Japan, and in Japan, the Xbox One is selling literally less than 500 units a month.

The Japanese gaming market is back, you see, and so are Japanese game developers- no matter how much someone might want to tell you that Japan is irrelevant, the truth is that it is not. It is resurgent, and it is delivering some of the best games of the generation so far. By choosing to sit out on this party, Microsoft is only hurting itself.

The good news is that there is hope on that front yet- while D4, ReCore, and Scalebound may not necessarily have panned out, Xbox head Phil Spencer has intimated multiple times that he is looking to change things as far as Japanese support for the system goes. He has been meeting Japanese developers over the last few months, and he has indicated that he’s getting positive responses- this is a great sign. Hopefully, we can see it all bear out some time soon. This E3 Microsoft needs to present a wide range of games, if it wants the upcoming Xbox Scorpio to be appealing- and Japan must be a substantial part of that line-up.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.

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  • Eddie Battikha

    I’m very excited about E3, I’m shocked at how much bigger Sonys Floor plan is compared to Microsofts this year.

    • Rebelox

      Hahah.. i feel you! Sony is boss!

  • Riggybro

    Yes it’s great to see Japan back with the AAA awesomeness.

    I would say over the past decade it hasn’t QUITE been as one sided as you argue.

    People mention Skyrim and Witcher 3 for example and I immediately think of how excellent the two Xenoblade games are.

    Likewise there was a huge influx of critically acclaimed 3DS (and some Vita and Wii U) through this period.

    It still was not the best period for Japanese games yes, but I wouldn’t say I felt completely starved. I had enough crumbs to keep me goin..

    • Gemmol Lewis

      they left for the 3ds, Vita and Wii U with a little on PS4………now that the Switch here they can forget the others

    • J.j. Barrington

      Tell me you don’t believe this crap you’ve been spewing everywhere.

    • Gemmol Lewis

      show me a couple ps4 games that sold over a million games l???

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    • Mohammed Allha

      The only Nintendo console game that passed the one million is splatoon
      And I am not sure but I think if you combine ff15 digital&r regular sales they passed the 1 million on the PS4 in Japan

    • chaz

      Thus far, no PS4 game in Japan has crossed a million units in sale.
      Multiple Wii U games did- Super Mario Maker, Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, Splatoon, New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land.
      One Vita game crossed a million units sold- Minecraft.
      Too many 3DS games did to list them out, sorry

    • Gamez Rule
    • Gemmol Lewis

      might be right might be the only, i have not check the link yet, might be to sold to retailers, but if it is sold to customers it was the only game on ps4 to reach 1 million or close to it…….good eyes bro for remembering

    • chaz

      Not yet, not at retail anyway. Getting my numbers from Media Create.

    • Gamez Rule
    • chaz

      Right, but that includes digital too.

    • Gamez Rule

      But still sold over 1 million.

    • J.j. Barrington

      You’re not making any sense. None of what you’re saying makes any sense.

    • Gamez Rule

      All sold 1 million or more.

      Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
      Dark Souls 3
      Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4
      Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
      Dragon Ball: XenoVerse
      Dragon Ball: XenoVerse 2
      The Last Guardian
      Final Fantasy Type-0

    • Gemmol Lewis

      metal gear solid v sold only 500k in japan, where you getting your sales from

      dark souls 3 sold close to 400k in japan

      Ninja Storm 4 120k in Japan

      look none of those games sold a million in Japan…..stop giving fake names

      @jjbarrington:disqus @mohammedallha:disqus

      and @disqus_ile7KKeXAf:disqus is correct only Nintendo console sold over million in Japan, and remember media create count digital too, and if it did not, then those Nintendo games would have even higher numbers……

      my whole point, beside Nintendo system……..Nintendo handhelds have many games that sold over 1 million….and the Switch will continue what the 3ds accomplish so all those developers will move to the Switch and eventually stop support Sony in the future if sales still struggle to sell 1 million

      companies will use common sense and realize just like Square Enix with dragon quest series and Capcom with monster hunter they will make more profits from Nintendo handheld………I bet once the sales come out for Dragon Quest 11 on PS4 and it under perform compared to the Switch, that will be the last Dragon Quest game to hit Sony console

    • Gamez Rule

      You didn’t stated *Japan* only when you posted.. “show me a couple ps4 games that sold over a million games l???”..

      So I showed games made in Japan that sold more than a million Worldwide. Truth is we can’t just over-look sales of a game to just one place as that isn’t showing the full sales data, we should always look at the whole worldwide sales.

      Games may not sell well in Japan, but those games sell ok in other places when looking at the bigger picture.

    • Gemmol Lewis

      the article is about Japan? where did you get confuse at?

      im sure all companies care about worldwide, but there are japan companies that care about how they country see them, so selling well in their country give them great pride……my point of focus was that on Nintendo handheld they were able to get their pride because they sell millions and millions, which is why most Japanese developers were happy the Switch came out even Square Enix, they see the sales they get on the 3ds, and they want the same sales again, which they no longer will get on main consoles……..

      its just like Nippon Ichi a Japanese developers wrote, they were mainly a play station developer, but with Japan being a handheld country, they have to add Switch to every PS4 game now

      and just seeing them write these words already show my prediction was correct……

      I watched japan sales from DS era, to 3ds era, and I already knew consoles were dead, they struggle to sell 1 million in game sales……..so what do it means????? it is simple AAA games that were once exclusive to consoles will now start to transfer to handheld one by one……..I bet after this generation finish there will be 2 or 3 new games that only come out on handheld now…….meaning just like dragon quest and monster hunter they will leave consoles behind

    • Gamez Rule

      “the article is about Japan? where did you get confuse at?”

      I didn’t get confused as I mentioned games made via Japan that made over 1 million sales worldwide.

    • Rebelox

      True bro.. ur right.

    • Gemmol Lewis

      they never talk about japan and its influence worldwide @gamezrule:disqus its about japan games being taken serious in Japan……where they are benefiting from Sony and Nintendo……..worldwide sales a whole other topic…….but speaking only about JAPAN and JAPAN only……… the developers do not sell well on consoles…….they sell better on handheld….which go back to what I said……with Switch finally out and dev kit going out still, in a year or two they will take over Japan……..why?????

      because sales matter…….all it take is to look at media create sales every week

      if someone have free time, I would like for someone to make a chart when ps4 game sales drop lower and lower……this way we can keep track of the data easier

      we should see soon a top 10 weekly sales from media create with it being full of Nintendo games from 1st and 3rd party developers

    • Gamez Rule

      Ok. We can talk about JAPAN and the Switch, but lets also look back.

      So lets begin with this… Wii sold really good in Japan yes? Did the Wii U sell good in Japan..No?

      Wii sold great in worldwide sales yes? Wii U flopped in worldwide sales yes?

      Now PS4 100% leads this gen when compared to other consoles on the market yes? ( even IF games don’t sell well in Japan )

      So what makes you think Switch will sell good everywhere OR get support like PS4 has everywhere?

      Japan cannot keep themselves to themselves with the gaming world beating at the door for games to be made even though games do not sell well in Japan. Truth is Switch has many issues ( see video ) and those issues could hurt the switch sales & Switch support ( like what happened on the Wii U )

      So IF Switch doesn’t sell as expected then Nintendo In My Opinion needs to look at the bigger picture and cater for the rest of the world ( including devs ) or suffer more flops In their hardware.


    • Gemmol Lewis

      you still bringing up worldwide??? smh

      you remind me of my friend Trey, when it comes to anything where we both debate back and forth, and he do not want to admit on topic i am correct, he try to open up the topic to include other things that were not in the topic so what he say can be correct, but its still not correct because its not on topic………now lets say there was a topic on it was on worldwide sales and you bring up the stuff you bring up now where you just wrote how sony do well in other areas, I would admit you right and not try to bring the topic to another topic. it is not that serious.

      Then you showing me bad stuff that happen on Nintendo Switch launch, like other systems did not have bad stuff on their launch, and like I wrote above this is not on topic either.

      Now you telling me to look back, look back for what, how do this add to the topic that Nintendo and Sony bringing back Japanese developers to limelight where they use to belong.

      Wii, Wii U, PS3, PS4 are all consoles

      DS, 3Ds and even the Switch is a handheld that can turn into a console, but it is still a handheld first

      from PS2, to Wii to Ps3 to Ps4 to Wii U……sales for Consoles get lower and lower…..there will never be another console that sell as much as ps2 and Wii

      and my point from earlier with Sony and Nintendo brining Japanese developers back to stardom……The Switch will take over once it have a year or two under its belt……..how is this wrong?????? media create sales show people prefer handheld

      is it that hard to accept???

    • Gamez Rule

      “The Switch will take over once it have a year or two under its belt……..how is this wrong?????”

      I’ll tell you why this *could* be wrong… Until that time comes it’s guess work because you cannot see the future, you can only hope what you posted comes true. I see Switch as another flop like Wii U, but until that times comes it’s still guess work not based on facts or truths.

      Japan / Nintendo games also sell better in other countries 99% of the time than what they do in their own homeland, so this is why I stated what I did. Looking at the bigger picture handhelds do sell better in Japan BUT *it’s not all about games in Japan* is it when gaming is concerned ( hence this article showing PS4 games in the west ). That’s my point.

    • Eddie Battikha

      Man U are a long winded one.

    • Rebelox

      It’s not all about game sales..

    • Gemmol Lewis

      i have nothing against sony you can check gamer tag Gemmol……..same name on Switch @rebelox:disqus @gamezrule:disqus

    • Gamez Rule

      I never said you did have anything against Sony? So why the tag?

    • Rebelox

      And more will sell.. the PS4 is not finished yet. Wait untill Tekken 7 and Gran Turismo drops..

  • The truth-ier

    Then you look at how much actually sells there, and its one of the smallest market, means nothing compared to europe and the USA… Japan is important for home base of companies reason, but is a small overall slice of the pie.
    Whats good or not is a opinion, but numbers dont lie.

    • LordCancer Kain

      yup, japanese games do not sell well on xbox, never have, never will.

    • crazy_black_man-

      That’s funny because apparently western games don’t seem to sell well on Xbox either.

    • Riggybro


    • LordCancer Kain

      witcher 2 and 3 are good examples.

    • chaz

      Except games sell fine in Japan? It’s the second largest individual market in the world currently, after only the USA.
      Or are you saying no individual market other than the USA matters?

    • gomes86

      I think EU goes before Jpn though.

    • J.j. Barrington

      He said “individual” for a reason.

    • chaz

      Well, obviously, Europe is a continent, Japan is one country.

    • gomes86

      Indeed. I was referring to regions; NA, EU, ASIA, JPN, etc.

    • Rebelox

      Some japanese games never even reach the european markets.. you can test this by creating a japanese psn account and watching all the demos that are on there.

      Probably because of localization (translating the game into local language) that most japanese games never make it outside of Japan.

    • J.j. Barrington

      And the numbers say that you’re combining all of the European markets in order to say they’re bigger than Japan. That’s pretty telling.

  • J.j. Barrington

    Japanese gaming never went anywhere.

    • Aaron blanchard

      Agreed. I finally agree with the infamous Jj. Barrington on something. Japanese gaming is big in Japan and let it stay there. Sick of the same old Japanese crap.

    • Lightpost

      Does that mean that when Japanese games were localized to the West, it somehow stopped you from playing non-Japanese games?

    • J.j. Barrington

      It’s big everywhere, actually. It’s part of the reason the Wii was so popular last gen, and also part of why PlayStation has always had worldwide appeal.

      If you don’t want to play the crap, then don’t. But don’t presume to fool anybody with making it sound like only Japanese games are crap, and ALL Japanese games are crap. I can do without you agreeing with me if that’s the ridiculous direction you’re heading in.

  • Mr Xrat

    Just you wait!!!! Phil will come through soon!!! He told me so on Twitter!!! Stop laughing at me!!!

    • crazy_black_man-

      LOL! Classic!

    • Rebelox

      Ahahah.. lmao!!

  • Mohammed Allha

    Ummm I don’t think that Japanese games were dying or anything but from 2006 to almost 2011 most good Japanese games were on the 3ds&psp but since 2012 and to today I have been seeing some really really good jrpgs
    Tales of graces &xilila 1&2
    Ni no kuni & white night 1&2
    The final fantasy trilogy
    Dark souls 1&2

  • kee1haul

    Nobody cares.

    • J.j. Barrington

      That’s why Zelda, Nier, Nioh, and Persona have been getting so much praise? Cuz nobody cares? XV released last year to a lot of noise(both good and bad), but nobody cares?

      Why not just say Xbox fanboys like you don’t care because you’re looking at the games as sour grapes since you can’t have em on your console of choice? That’d be far closer to the truth.

    • kee1haul

      I hate those types of games with a passion. It’s not sour grapes. They are spaghetti on a wall. Throw enough out, and something sticks.

    • J.j. Barrington

      That’s still just you, though. You not caring doesn’t mean nobody else does.

      And those games are all pretty different, so exactly what do you mean by “those types,” except that they’re Japanese? And what does spaghetti on a wall have to do with anything here?

    • Rebelox

      I think the jj barrington dude hates everything japanese and Sony related..

    • J.j. Barrington


    • Rebelox

      Sorry i mean the ‘kee1haul’ dude!!.. you are cool bro!!

    • Lightpost

      Deny it as much as he can but it I still feel a lot of bitterness coming from him.

      I wonder what generation he’s from? Prolly a kid or maybe someone who only started gaming recently but avoided video gaming in the 90s – mid 2k.

  • Rebelox

    Please just stick with the PS4. Don’t let too many japanese developers develop games for the xbox scorpio!

    Sony should just buy up all these japanese studios so they won’t make games for the Scorpio.

  • Ned K.

    Now, the Switch will take over all the Japanese games. Japanese games originally do not require horsepower machine to run anyways. When DQ11 comes out on multiple platforms, I will definitely get the Switch version rather than PS4 version. Why? I can play on both big screen and handheld sitting on couch or lying in bed!

    After playing both Horizon (PS4Pro) and Zelda: BotW (Switch), I realized that Game quality >>>>>>> Graphics. Superior graphics draws attention initially, but when my eyes get used to it, it does not matter – just like I’m so used to 4k movies now I do not get impressed by picture’s quality anymore.

    3DS’s graphics was far behind current technology. So, I tried to stay away from it although it had huge library of good games. Also, I could not play on huge screen. Now, the Switch is just in the right place. Its graphics is gorgeous on both portable and dock’ed mode.

    As I find Japanese games to be better quality than western games these days, I think I can ditch my PS4Pro and keep the Switch as the main console from now on. Good job this time, Nintendo!


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