Bringing Yakuza To The West Is Still Tricky

Bringing Yakuza To The West Is Still Tricky

Sega’s Yakuza games are terrific. You really need to play them. Yet, they’re not always localised, and if they are, they arrive late. According to series mastermind Toshihiro Nagoshi, Sega is still trying to figure out how to appeal to Western gamers. [Image: Sega]

I’d say keep doing what you’re doing, but it’s not that simple, I guess. Via Famitsu, here’s Nagoshi: “As for Europe and America, it seems like fans have increased, but I wouldn’t say it’s become a good situation. It feels like we need to come up with a bit more of a plan on how to attract [American and European gamers].”

Bringing Yakuza To The West Is Still Tricky(Image: Famitsu)

[Image: Famitsu]

Famitsu asked if Sega was putting effort into taking Yakuza global to which Nagoshi replied, “Originally, because Yakuza was a game made for Japanese men, we cast aside the American and European markets as well as the rest of Asia.”

(Things are changing, though. Elsewhere in the interview, Nagoshi says that women now make up about 20 per cent of the Yakuza fanbase in Japan. He also said that originally most players were in their 30s, but now the number of new players in their 20s is increasing.)

But as Nagoshi points out, since Yakuza has seen success elsewhere in Asia, perhaps, dependent on their approach, the game could do well worldwide.

“However, it doesn’t matter how good the game is, if players have no motive to buy it, then it won’t sell,” Nagoshi continued. “I think maybe gamers elsewhere in Asia are buying Yakuza for different reasons than players in Japan are. So, if we throughly analyse those motives, then it looks like there’s the possibility of it being successful abroad.”

Don’t expect the series to get a major overhaul, though. “Appeal too much to international players and Japanese players will say things like ‘The Yakuza I know and love is no more,’ which is what I want to avoid. So, the feeling that these games are made for Japanese men is unchanged.” Nagoshi added that straying from the core of Yakuza would be disrespectful to the series. Rather, it sounds like he wants to figure out a way to position the games in a way that will work outside Japan.

Maybe Sega is overthinking this? Just make more Yakuza games in which players can beat the crap out of convenience stores. If that doesn’t appeal to international folks, then nothing will and God save us all.


  • How about, to start with, just actually bring them over in a timely fashion? Still waiting for Kenzan and Ishin.

    • A bit of marketing wouldn’t hurt, either. I don’t recall ever seeing a whole heap of advertising or any other promotion for them. I suspect most people have never even heard of the series.

  • I played my first Yakuza game this year. Number 3. I loved it. It was very Japanese but they probably shouldn’t change anything. Just release them on time. (But not too fast, I still have 4 & 5 to play)

  • Played it a little but never really got into it. Usually Yakuza titles releases clashes with other game that I am very interested it. End up being abandoned. Not to mention I have abandoned my PS3 as well :/

  • You’re never going to appeal to a market that isn’t initially interested in it. Just bring it out localised and market exactly as you would in Japan. The people who want it will buy it

  • Just release it digitally, and don’t worry about gameplay localisation. You’ve already made the game, so your just paying for translation then, and would likely make enough sales to cover your translation and then some.

  • I sympathize on their desire to figure out how to localize.

    Localization is NOT always merely about translating the text and numbers and letting it out into the wild.

    Take Korean MMOs, for example. For the most part they’re grindy as fuck and even after quest exp gets buffed to shift play focus, flow fine-tuned to ensure players are seeing different biomes more regularly, , and exp requirements tuned down to allow faster levelling… even after those changes are made, they’re STILL often considered ‘too grindy’ for Western tastes.

    But when it comes to games like Yakuza? I don’t know that you’d actually NEED to localize. I mean, yes… there will always be some Western hysterics about the cultural differences like sexualization, but in terms of having an audience, I think they’ll do just fine with finding people wanting to play a game which has been tailored to an audience of Japanese men.

    • They should come to realise that the very people who love this series in the west, love it because it’s so different. For me it scratches all those itches that other games just can’t and gives me a loving dose of idealised virtual Japanese tourism.

      • Yeah, it’d be like going to a foreign country then only eating McDonalds and watching your home country’s Netflix via VPN. WHY THE HELL DID YOU GO THERE?

        • Shit, I don’t even watch my home country’s Netflix when I’m in my home country.

  • I played 3 and half of 4 and I gotta say, I got massive burnout. I actually really enjoyed the games but I can never seem to go back to them as they seem so repetitive. Cant see myself buying another one tbh.

  • Nothing should be changed.

    The whole draw of the game is how authentically Japanese it is. I still to this day hate when things get translated because western consumers cannot comprehend a differences cultural and economical outside of their country ( USA is the big one here).

    Games like this never do well sales wise (Shenmue 1/2 as an example), but have great insight to the location the game it is exploring.

    I think they just need to make some marketing decisions, that spend too much, but still gets it out in the wild.

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