At the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco this month, Fez creator Phil Fish made a rather controversial statement. When taking questions after a screening of Indie Game: the Movie, Fish was asked his opinion on current Japanese game development. He quickly and bluntly replied that Japanese games nowadays “just suck.” This comment has sparked an Internet firestorm over the last few days, but is he justified in dismissing the entire country’s efforts? So, we ask, do today’s Japanese games really suck?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to answer that question, and we certainly don’t have the resources to mount the kind of market research needed to get close to an answer. But we’ll look at some publicly available data and try to determine if any conclusions can be projected on this issue.
First, let’s look at research group NPD’s sales charts for the USA in 2011:
1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360, PS3, Wii, PC)
2. Just Dance 3 (Wii, 360, PS3)
3. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (360, PS3, PC)
4. Battlefield 3 (360, PS3, PC)
5. Madden NFL 12 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2)
6. Call of Duty: Black Ops (360, PS3, Wii, NDS, PC)
7. Batman: Arkham City (360, PS3, PC)
8. Gears of War 3 (360)
9. Just Dance 2 (Wii)
10. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (360, PS3, PC)
Not one Japanese-developed title on the list. It seems Americans weren’t crazy about Japanese games last year. Let’s see how the Japanese chart looks:
1. Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
2. Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)
3. Monster Hunter Freedom 3 (PSP)
4. Monster Hunter Tri G (3DS)
5. Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3, 360)
6. Final Fantasy Type-0 (PSP)
7. Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii)
8. Tales of Xillia (PS3)
9. Wii Sports Resort (Wii)
10. Wii Party (Wii)
Here we see the reverse of the US chart, Japanese gamers didn’t seem to care for anything not from Japan.
What’s to conclude from this data? Japanese and American gamers have vastly different ideas of what sucks, and what works in the US market may not go over so well in the Japanese market (just ask Microsoft about that).