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Current State and Future of Japanese Video Games

With E3 2017 setting the big picture for video games in the next 5 years or so, and with recent trends and new hardware, it’s time to stop and identify the current trends in Japanese video games and what we can expect to see from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Let’s accept one cold, hard reality: games like Minecraft, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto not only get glowing reviews from Famitsu magazine, but they also comfortably make it to the top ten charts of Japanese video game sales. Deny it all you want, but dating simulators and bullet hell shooters are an acquired taste by Japanese gaming standards even. The sales figures speak for themselves, heck Minecraft for the Switch was the most downloaded title in Japan over the past few months!

The point I’m trying to make is that Japanese gaming is changing, and there’s been a stronger unification as to what humanity enjoys in the digital medium. Let’s have a look at some of the major ones shall we?

World Building and Creation

Trendsetter:

Minecraft

Current Signs in Japanese Gaming:

Dragon Quest Builders

The Souls Punishment

Trendsetter:

From Software (Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Demon’s Souls)

Current Signs in Japanese Gaming:

Souls style games NOT made by From Software (Nioh, Code Vein)

Open World Epics

Trendsetter:

The Witcher, Just Cause

Current Signs in Japanese Gaming:

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Final Fantasy XV, Breath of the Wild

Warriors Style (This Will Never End)

Trendsetter:

Dynasty Warriors

Current Signs in Japanese Gaming:

Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem Warriors

Reboots/Remakes By Western Developers

Trendsetter:

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

Current Signs in Japanese Gaming:

DmC, Metroid: Return of Samus, Sonic Mania, Sonic Boom

Niche Developers Having Bigger Budgets

Trendsetter:

Atlus (Persona 4)

Current Signs in Japanese Gaming:

Nippon Icchi Software (Disgaea 5), Atlus (Persona 5), Falcom (Legend of Heroes)

 

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2 comments on “Current State and Future of Japanese Video Games

  1. Another inclusion you can make is Monster Hunter and its various clones (God Eater, Toukiden, Soul Sacrifice, etc.). Why I can’t speak for the success of its clones, Monster Hunter continues to climb up the sales charts in Japan with each new entry. It easily matches the popularity of Pokemon and Dragon Quest now.

    It’s fascinating to see Capcom transition Monster Hunter from portables back to consoles, given the success the series found on the PSP and 3DS. As you’ve said, open world games have become more popular in Japan, so it makes sense that Monster Hunter World would go open world itself. But I have to ask if Japanese gamers will be open to a more westernized take on Monster Hunter?

  2. Jahanzeb Khan

    Nailed it with Monster Hunter and its many, many clones. You are right that its success hasn’t translated quite the same way outside of Japan.

    I think Monster Hunter World is the Westernized take on the franchise, and if the success of Metal Gear V, Final Fantasy XV, and Breath of the Wild are any indication I think Monster Hunter World will not only be well received by purists in Japan, but it may even become the most successful Monster Hunter game globally.

    At the moment there’s still apprehension. A lot of the clones have mostly gotten limited prints or digital only releases in the West. Nintendo has not indicated any plans to bring the Switch version of Monster Hunter Generations to other regions which is quite disappointing. But Monster Hunter World has a chance to finally make this amazing franchise mainstream.

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