Here’s Some Facts that Show That Japanese Games Are As Big As They Have Ever Been

Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett has come out with another skewed, ill-informed article that has, somehow, made an appearance on the well-known gaming site. The article titled Here’s One Theory Why Japanese Games Aren’t as Big as They Used to be ( starts from the premise that Japanese games don’t sell well and are not creative. For those of you who subscribe to rhetorical theory, this is the article’s main warrant. Luke quotes Dead or Alive creator Tomonobu Itakagi in an interview with Gamasutra where he said “In Japan, in this industry, they are lacking not just in technology, but the important thing is the creativity and ingenuity”. I should start off by saying that anyone who thinks this way was not in last year’s E-3 where the western publishers showcased an endless barrage of Unreal and God of War skins and the Japanese developers showed true innovation, but that’s something I already wrote about. For this post let’s focus on Luke’s assumption which is backed by his commentary that Japanese games are loosing ground in the Japanese market.

This is the part where a good rhetorician would engage you, the reader, with an astonishing display of logic while appealing to your emotions and establishing his credibility. I will do no such thing. Instead, I will invite the very knowledgeable Mr. Plunkett to LOOK AT THE DATA. I do not care to go back and look at data in a comprehensive manner for this post, but allow me to share with you, dear reader, some tidbits of information.

In 2008, the best selling game o the year in the US was Wii Play, with Mario Kart Wii snatching a 2nd place, Wii Fit a 3rd place, and Super Smash Bros Brawl a 4th (McWHerton). If one decides to add up the number of sales for multi-platform releases, as Kotaku decided to do with FPS games and Madden, then Wii Play is still the best selling game of 2008 with Mario Kart dropping to 4th place. Of course, if we are going to add up the number of sales for multi-platform FPS games and Madden, it would only be fair to do the same with Mario Kart, which McWherton forgot to do. If we add up the sales for Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii, then Mario Kart sold over 6,000,000 units, which places it above Wii Play. What we see here is that in 2008 America, Japanese games dominate the charts, with American games giving an impressive showing. In Japan we see a drastically different trend – only Japanese games made the top 10 best-selling games, with JRPGs Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite snatching first place, Pokemon Platinum snatching a close second, and Dragon Quest V making it to 7th place. The rest of the top-selling games in Japan were all Wii or DS titles in the tradition of Wii Fit (3rd) and Mario Kart Wii (4th).

In 2009 we see that US gamers rushed out to buy Modern Warfare 2 for the X Box 360, 2009’s top-selling game in the US, but that their purchasing habits shifted to more Japanese game-geared ones. Positions 2 to 6 were earned by New Super Mario Bros, Wii Fit, Mario Kart, and Wii Play. The last positions were snatched up by Modern Warfare 2 for the PS3 (which makes me wonder why on this year Kotaku decided not to mix the scores of the multi-platform releases of Modern Warfare), Wii Fit Plus, Halo 3, and Pokemon Platinum. Going by these charts, provided by Kotaku, it seems to me that American gamers have moved away from American games and towards Japanese games. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, the Japanese gamers made Mario and Luigi 3 the top-selling game in the land of the rising sun, with Yakuza 3, Resident Evil 5, Dynasty Warriors Strike Force, Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology 2, Rokemon Mystery Dungeon, Winning Eleven on two different systems, Final Fantasy Christal Chronicles, and Warriors Orochi Z following in suite. All of these games are Japanese games, which shows that between 2008 and 2009 the Japanese did not make a shift from Japanese games to American games.

On 2010 we see that American gamers spend more on American games rather than Japanese games, with Call of Duty: Black Ops making top seller, Madden making second place, and Halo: Reach 3rd. The first Japanese game in the lost appears at the 4th spot – New Super Mario Bros. Wii Fit Plus, the only other Japanese game on the list, makes number 6. I would argue that this is due to the lack of Japanese titles ported to the US during this year and the media focus on FPS and Madden games, but I’m feeling too tired right now, so I’ll just leave it as it is: in 2010 Black Ops was # 1 and Japanese games lost ground… in the US. I should note that E3 presented a different, Pokemon-filled, list where the best-seller of 2010 is New Super Mario Bros and Final Fantasy 13 weights in at number 4. If we are to take this list as the true US sales charts, then we would have to accept that US and Japanese games are doing equally well in the US. In Japan, however, Japanese games reign supreme. Japan’s list of top 25 sellers for 2010 does not show a single American developed game, and games like Tomodachi Collection and Sekai e no Chousen rank in the top 10 along with Pokemon, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and Final Fantasy 13.

While 2011 is not over yet, Japan’s list of the 20 best-selling games so far shows a remarkable lack of American games, while charts mapping monthly sales of games in the US show a balance of Japanese and American games where titles like Pokemon (various versions) and Ocarina of Time 3D fight for the top spots with games like Black Ops and L.A. Noire.

So, what has this survey of videogame sales shown us? First and foremost, that Kotaku hosts biased pieces of writing that completely discard facts in favor of opinion. We learned that Kotaku is not a real game review site (like RPGamer) as much as it is a sort of ‘videogame tabloid’ site, and that, unlike commentators from other sites, Kotaku pieces rarely go beyond the fact-gathering and thinking processes of a high school kid. As for my personal assumption,  I think that Kotaku is filled with the same immersion loving, GDC worshiping FPS humpers that plague many other videogame communities.

And so, Kotaku writers have lost much ethos.


*** EDIT***

Look at this guy making a plea to Nintendo to bring some Japanese games to the US. The statements he makes about how “Japanese videogames sell more in the US than in Japan” (3:00) further prove the facts I have here stated and show Kotaku’s lies.





About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on July 27, 2011, in Video Game Commentary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Interesting view of things, however, public perception is what matters, and number figures won’t impress the average joe. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with your point, but if you talk with the mainstream gamer they, as of now, identify more with non-Japanese franchises, and that’s where the problem lies.

    • I see no problem with identifying with Western franchises – my own list of favorite games in this generation is topped with Fable, Fallout, and Mass Effect, and I have no doubt that when Skyrim comes out it will shoot straight to the top. My argument (or more like boring list of facts) was against the spreading notion that Japanese games are dying. Sure, we could point at Final Fantasy XX and talk about how much like the other 19 it was, but for every Final Fantasy there is a Katmari, a Shadow of the Colossus, or an Okami, and re-hashed games seem to be the exception, not the norm, while on the other hand, for every Battlefield there is a Call of Duty, and the exceptions seem to be Bioware, Blizzard, and Bethesda. At any rate, my post was because I get irked whenever I see misleading propaganda, and I felt I should throw out a little something to set the truth free. Thanks for the comment 🙂

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