How A Japanese Death Superstition Could Impact The Next PlayStation

Sony is working on a new PlayStation machine. According to the story Kotaku broke, it's called Orbis. That could be a codename -- it also might be the console's final name.

There are some reasons why Sony might not choose to call its machine the PlayStation 4. In Japan, four (四) can be read as "yon" (よん) or "shi" (し). The kanji for death is "shi" (死), which is why the number four is considered unlucky. While its origins are very different, it's akin to the number 13 in the West.

That's why when you give people presents in Japan, you would not give them four of something. If possible, you'd give them, for example, three cakes -- or five -- instead of four. It's also why you don't see a lot of products with the number four in it.

What you do is a bunch of video game titles with "four" in it. Mario Party 4, Ace Attorney 4, Yakuza 4 -- Japanese game companies don't skip over the four iteration out of superstition.

And when the four iteration pops up, the games are not usually called, for example, Mario Party Shi. Rather, Mario Party 4 is called "Mario Party Four" (マリオパーティフォー) in Japanese. So even something like Ace Attorney 4, which has a Japanese title full of kanji (逆転裁判4), becomes "Gyakuten Saiban Four".

"Four" (フォー) is an easy way for Japanese people to separate "4" from its Japanese counterpart -- and the superstitious it contains.

In Japan, the PlayStation 2 is called the "PlayStation Two" or the "PS Two" and not the "PS Ni", with "ni" (二) being "two" in Japanese. Likewise, the PlayStation 3 is called the "PlayStation Three" or the "PS Three" in Japanese and not the "PS San"; "san" (三) is "three" in Japanese.

The PlayStation brand is very strong, and its something Sony won't ditch no matter what the Tokyo-based electronics giant calls its next game machine. If Sony does dub its next PlayStation console the PlayStation 4, people will call it the "PlayStation Four" in Japanese. However, that doesn't mean Japanese people won't make death puns if the console flounders. They will.


Comments

    I guess it really underscores how superstition is entirely cultural, and can be safely ignored. In Japan, 13 is just another number. Here in the West, however, some people are convinced it is unlucky. Indeed, there are people with a phobia of the number 13 (Triskaidekaphobia).

    It was an interesting read, but wholly silly in the 21st century.

      The quantum nature of the universe will have its way with you yet. The mindset alone could cause this happening.

    I was already aware of the japanese superstition around the number 4, thats why soon after we first lean't how to count from 1 to 10 in Japanese back in High School, the very next thing we were taught was how to pronounce 1 to 10 in Japanese using yon for four instead of shi, and nana for seven instead of shichi. (for essentially the same reason)

    . . . and now I wait for the Bashcraft bashing. . .

      I can't imagine why anyone would bash him for this article. An article about Japanese culture, which is more that 2 sentences long, seems entirely appropriate on this site. If it was:

      "Hey, do you guys know that the number four is associated with bad luck in Japan?! I wonder how Sony will deal with the naming of their next console!... Kthxbi!"

      I didn't know the number 4 was the number the Japanese were superstitious about.

        you are giving people too much credit. . .

        I've seen people flame Bashcraft articles that were (amazingly) more substantial than this. . .

        As it's been said, I think the bashing of American correspondants (that includes Plunkett despite him being Australian) has become something of an in site meme, a really bad one at that.

        The Japanese i do believe are very superstitious about death, so it's not really surprising that they'd go to such lengths to avoid said superstition, but it isn't just the Japanese though, i'm fairly certain throughout my life I have been in a building that is missing it's 13th floor.

          I'm guilty of criticising Plunkett. His "article" about some guy shooting and iPad was woeful. More something you'd share with your mates of Facebook, not what you should get paid for. But then again, I don't pay him. That's just feedback, I certainly didn't attack him personally.

          You are right about some buildings missing the 13th floor in the West. I think they'll go something like 11, 12, 12a, 14.

            Yeah, I've said it before, but I have no problem with people criticising the author if it's justified. There was an article Bashcraft stupidly made about a guy who was beaten up and raped by two women and it had the slightest possible relation to video games. He got absolutely flamed for it and rightfully so, that I agree was whole heartedly deserved. Another article which thankfully was not posted down here but made the rounds amongst many American sites was when Kotaku US posted an article by a guest writer who then proceeded to write about how he got a woman to have sex with him on top on a Sonic quilt. Understandably Kotaku was heavily criticised for the sexist and misogynist nature of that article, so much so that I believe either Plunkett or Totilo himself was force to apologise for being stupid enough to post the article in the first place. They were occasions where heavy criticism to flame can be justified.

            However many of the articles nowadays don't deserve the level of hatred they seem to be receiving, and in all honesty makes the commenter seem more like anidiot than the Author they're flaming.

              And you know what the ironic thing is? Generally speaking, the more comments an article generates, the better it is for SEO, so these unnecessarily hostile comments really have the opposite effect than is intended.

              Crescente left for greener pastures at Vox Gaming with The Verge. All that's left is Plunkett, Bashcraft and Tim Rogers with some tenuous attempt at professionalism by Totilo. If these guys push out poor material, which they do more often than not... Then they should be rightly flamed. That terrible Alyssa Bereznak article about the professional Magic guy allegedly got her removed from Gizmodo.

              Even then, Giz US exists on its own plane of awfulness that puts even those kotaku editors to shame. What about their article which was basically one guy calling their readership idiots for criticizing their increasingly biased pro-Apple content? Or the "Who's the worst commenter" poll and whoever voted Jesus Diaz was banned? Don't like their articles? Take it to the comment section or before you know it, EVERY article will be Plunkett playing Internet show-and-tell, or Bashcraft's creepy anime statues with hand-painted panties.

                you bring up some interesting points, I've said numerous times during this there are cases where flaming can be justified, I also admit I have flamed Jesus Diaz on Gizmodo when he has made a ridiculously biased pro Apple article.

                Sometimes constructive criticism can actually help improve the overall quality of the site, however 'taking it to the comment section' as you called it isn't really going to be very effective. Kotaku Australia exists as a seperate entity to Kotaku US, and therefore the only contact the American site has is putting their articles up on the Australian site and then promptly forgetting about them, I highly, highly doubt any of the American contributors read the comments on this site, and even if they did it would be at such an infrequent rate that they would register any criticism as a one off. Secondly. . . criticism, in order for it to be effective needs to be constructive. Alot of the comments here basically just flame Plunkett or Bashcraft, and/or call for them to be fired or harmed in some way or another. These commenters really only clarify their hatred when I questioned it early last night. . .

      Holy crap Ruen you just solved a question for me thats actually bugged me for something like 22 years??? Why we suddenly switched from Shichi to Nana from grade 7 to grade 8!!! I NEVER understood why til right now :D Thanks!!! (No sarcasm at all, thats 100% genuine) I hereby nominate you for Community Kudos for solving a question thats been plaguing someone for nearly a QUARTER OF A CENTURY lol.

    "According to the story Kotaku broke, it’s called Orbis. That could be a codename — it also might be the console’s final name."
    Or it could be neither. Rumours are just that: rumours.

    "In Japan, the PlayStation 2 is called the “PlayStation Two” or the “PS Two” and not the “PS Ni”, with “ni” (二) being “two” in Japanese. Likewise, the PlayStation 3 is called the “PlayStation Three” or the “PS Three” in Japanese and not the “PS San”; “san” (三) is “three” in Japanese."
    So, what you're saying here is, that the next Playstation probably won't be called the Playstation 4 in Japan. Which isn't really news, because the Playstation 3 wasn't called that in Japan, nor the PS2. 4 being an unlucky number doesn't merit a change in the naming convention because the naming convention allows it.

      It's a stretch Josh. This was actually a pretty good article!

      Beware the jabberwock my son.

      Yes the "Could be a codename" infers that the naming is a rumour.

      Also It was explained even if the console followed naming conventions, it could still joked about. As I dare say 98% of Japanese people know that four translates to shi.

      Exactly. All the posters above seemingly missed this point. Good point Josh. The consoles before were not named in this convention so this is merely an interesting post on numbers. The premise for the article is flawed.

    Yeah, those are pretty awful.

      That WAS a reply to someone. Now it just looks I'm talking to a ghost. The ghost of Kotaku past.

    The Chinese have the same superstition. Here in Malaysia you would be hard pressed to find the button 4 in an elevator. They change it to 3A. My friend lives in apartment Level 23A room 3A.. I'm not sure if that is unlucky or not!?

    I dont know if I'm the only one...but I'm loving the name Orbis for the next Playstation

    Wonder if there's a similar superstition with the number 3 at a certain game developer...

      Hehe. Excellent post. Would read again ;)

    all reports I've seen do make the PS4 seem to be the death of what once made the PS and PS2 great... the use of shi may be more appropriate than they'd like.
    I mean come-on.... Absolutely no backward compatibility and locking physical purchases down to a PSN account, you can't lend a game to a friend, or even hire one out, or give one away, or sell it... I hope Sony's PS4 crashes and burns and takes whats left of the company (or at least the division) I used to be quite a fan of with it.

      what are you playing??? What physical purchases are locked down??

    Am I the only one that thinks Orbis as a release name is unlikely? Surely the marketing department will say the term is too 'round' to be released against the 360?

    The thing that stuck out most to me in that article was "Ni" :P

    Very interesting, I also had no idea that their four is as unlucky as our thirteen.

    People living on the 14th (or 12A'th) floor know they are really on the 13th. I know I'll be playing the Playstation 4, and that knowledge wont kill me.

    Sony should just go back the original "PlayStation" moniker, without any numbers on the end. Also an retro-evolved PSone design would be fantastic, though I wouldnt hold my breath after being dissapointed with the WiiU design. Some of those mock-ups for the WiiU were awesome!

      the wiiu design won't be showed off until e3 2012, unless you can point me to a link with pictures of the final design?

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