Here’s Why Japanese Gaming Is Not Dead

Here’s Why Japanese Gaming Is Not Dead

At the 2009 Tokyo Game Show, Keiji Inafune, creator of Mega Man, Onimusha and Dead Rising uttered the following: “Man, Japan is over. We’re done. Our game industry is finished.” I hope Inafune was watching E3 this year.

It’s true that over the past half-decade Japanese and Western gaming markets have gone in different directions. While the West has become more and more focused on console gaming, Japan has become far more interested in mobile gaming — be that portable consoles or mobile phones.

And because portable games are cheaper, easier to make and have a nearly ubiquitous install base in Japan, Japanese game publishers have been focusing on making profits in the home market in recent years. That doesn’t mean they’ve sworn off home consoles, though.

To accommodate their big budget titles aimed at the worldwide market, Japanese publishers have been hiring Western studios to develop their Western-targeted titles. Other publishers have simply bought well-known Western studios (e.g. Square Enix and its purchase of Crystal Dynamics).

But at this year’s E3 we saw something we haven’t seen in a long while: a string of Japanese-made, in-house titles aimed at the world market — and man, do they look good. Kotaku’s Jason Schreier has previously described the large amount of great-looking JRPGs coming West this year, but that doesn’t even begin to cover all the big-name titles heading straight from Japan to your living room.

From the return of everyone’s favourite plumbers to animals in Tokyo’s streets, the games shown at E3 2012 prove that the Japanese gaming industry is far from dead. Even excluding JRPGs and portable titles, the Japanese-made blockbusters showcased at this year’s E3 still spanned a wide range of genres.

So if you’re one of those people who had been agreeing with Inafune and “the death of Japanese video games,” take a few seconds to see what you’d be missing out on if you decided to ignore Japanese games in the coming year.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Platinum Games — the creators of Bayonetta — have teamed up with Kojima Studios to create the first hack-and-slash Metal Gear game. Sure the game moves away from the stealth roots of the Metal Gear series, but who can deny the visceral appeal of being able to cut anyone or anything into tiny little pieces?

New Super Mario Bros. U

The last game in the series, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, sold over 25 million copies worldwide — making it the fifth best-selling Wii title overall. Clearly Mario’s classic 2D roots are still popular the world over; so it’s no surprise to see a sequel coming out on the Wii U. What is a surprise, though, is that for the first time since the N64 this newest Mario game will be available at launch.

Resident Evil 6

Sure the Resident Evil series has had its ups and downs as it’s tried to find the sweet spot between action and survival-horror, but Resident Evil 6 may have finally found it. With a world-spanning, multiple-character conflict, dark and creepy locals, and the ability to move and aim at the same time, Resident Evil 6 looks like it just might be the Resident Evil we’ve all been waiting for.

Persona 4 Arena

From the studio responsible for the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series comes a fighting game set in the world of popular JRPG Persona 4. It looks just like you’d expect: fast, tight and beautiful. Best of all, the game not only features the characters of Persona 4, but Persona 3 as well.

Pikmin 3

Pikmin and Pikmin 2 were easily among the best titles in the GameCube library. Yet other than both games getting a port to the Wii, the series was absent the entire last generation. That all changed at E3 this week with the announcement of Pikmin 3 on the Wii U. But it gets even better. You won’t have to wait much longer to command these cute planty minions as Pikmin 3 is scheduled to be one of the Wii U’s launch titles.

Tokyo Jungle

Tokyo Jungle came out last Thursday in Japan, and I feel I must mention this one due to its sheer creativity. This is a game where you play everything from a pomeranian to a T-Rex trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo. It’s a game that mixes stealth and action across the ruins of some of Tokyo’s most famous locations. If you’re looking for a truly unique title, then look no further.


    • Seems to be the case. So many game journalists are so sensationalist and make hysterical claims about the industry. It also doesn’t help that so many gamers are stupid, spoilt children.

  • Are people actually looking forward to RE6?
    I’m not a big survival horror fan and have never really been into the series, but my mate an absolutely massive RE junkie, who loves the series probably more than any other, but who following 5 has no interest in 6. (He’ll still get it no doubt, but he’s not really interested or excited about it at all). I’m curious if those anticipating it are the same people that love the old games or those that prefer the action direction of newer titles and the like.

  • As a big fan of the series RE6 looks to be very middling. Three different styles of play within the one game seems puzzling. Previews for it thus far have not been exactly glowing. Fingers crossed it turns out to be good.

  • But where’s the games that we’ve come to know and love from japan? The JRPG isn’t doing nearly as well as it was in the 90s, I think a lot of that has to do with gaming becoming much more mainstream in the west and consumers looking for the next big FPS, or TPS. Because of this Japanese developers have maybe lost their way in trying to appeal to a whole new cross section of people that they probably won’t ever reach (but probably need to in a financial sense to stay afloat). Just look at Res Evil and Metal Gear to see how much more westernised Japanese games have become. There’s less ‘Japan’ in Japanese games now, they’re trying to cater to both worlds east and west and it’s not really doing either, alienating their core fans and not really reaching the masses

    I’m not saying Japanese gaming is dead, I just think it’s just a bit confused. I’ll probably always dig Japanese developed games because that’s what I started with back in the day, but the younger generation never had that, they were brought up on COD, GOW and in their eyes maybe Japanese games like Final Fantasy, no matter how recently it was developed, is old and boring.

    I’m not saying I’m right, that’s just my gut feeling.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!