Next-Gen: The Japanese Vanguard

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From Sony’s initial announcement of the PS4 in February up until now, its upcoming console pretty much seemed like an almost purely-American operation. The conference it held in Japan this morning — a warm-up to the Tokyo Game Show later this month, was the opportunity I hoped Sony would take to show its commitment to its home market going into next-gen.

Why does this matter to western consumers? Flavor mostly. In the end being western or Japanese doesn’t affect my purchasing decisions nearly as much as it did 15 years ago, but the Japanese still design games you’ll just never see spring from an American or European mind. It’s all about the variety of the PS4’s game library which should make the console more appealing. I also want to see the Japanese development community really step up t0 next-gen after it had so much trouble acclimating to the PS3 and Xbox 360, though I don’t actually expect a whole lot. The reason I got worried over the course of this year is because until this conference, Knack was basically the only Japanese launch game for the PS4, and even that’s helmed by Mark Cerny. Yeah you’ve got the big boys like Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts III, and Metal Gear Solid V, but those games are much further off.

For most of the console gaming presentation here I was pretty afraid Sony was just gonna sit there and pray Japanese gamers would accept all these western shooters and sandbox games, but I’m slightly impressed at what was eventually shown. For starters I can’t wait until a higher quality version of that Yakuza Ishin trailer shows up because it looked like a significant visual improvement over the PS3 games. Strangely, the one game I think epitomizes what I wanted to see at this conference and at TGS is Level-5’s Wonder Flick. If the next-gen version actually takes advantage of that hardware it’ll be exactly what I’ve wanted: classic Japanese gameplay with next-gen graphics.

At first I was surprised at how much turned out to be cross-generation (Ishin, Dynasty Warriors 8, Guilty  Gear, etc.), but I guess it’s only to be expected since most western developers are doing it too. Really, almost everything big coming out on consoles over the next 12 months will probably be cross-gen.

And of course Sony pulled the “And one more thing…” move with the Vita TV. I’ve posted more than one blog here about why I personally find it hard to see the value in a Vita, but this is definitely the closest Sony has gotten to selling me one. They basically just slashed the price of entry of the Vita’s software library down to $100. This has potentially big implications.

The Vita itself is in trouble, and even if the Vita TV cannibalizes sales of the standard Vita, one most remember Sony doesn’t really care about selling Vita consoles so much as it cares about selling Vita software. This is a great way to lower the price of entry to all that software. I think this is also the lowest official price there’s ever been for a device that plays PSP games. Indie developers who have games on the Vita should also be really happy about this, because now there exists a $100 device that plays games like Spelunky and Hotline Miami. The Vita TV is probably now the cheapest piece of hardware that plays a lot of indie games.

If you already own a console however, I still don’t think the Vita TV actually guarantees must-buy status. In my eyes the Vita still has relatively few appealing exclusives, and all these ports of console games just truly redundant if you already have a console on which to play them. I still don’t know what games I would buy if I got a Vita TV. Still, if you don’t own any modern game console right now, the Vita TV just became the cheapest way to access a lot of today’s games. It is essentially an Apple TV-style set-top box that plays today’s and yesterday’s hardcore games for the same price.

And we have to remember that this is still really just the prologue to TGS. I’m hoping for a few more next-gen console game announcements even though I know it’s probably going to be mostly handheld and mobile gaming. I’m hoping that more powerful hardware still matters to Japanese developers.

BULLETS:

  • A huge update just got released for Hotline Miami: Linux version, controller support for Mac, new engine, etc. http://t.co/aF8KMCKMA0
  • Writer appreciates copy editor. Film at 11. http://t.co/S4V4brMpem
  • Seeing all that Phantasy Star stuff from Sega just reminds me a bout the English version of PSO2 they said they were gonna release in 2013 but haven’t yet.
  • Idris Elba Reveals the Barriers He Faced to Make Mandela on.wsj.com/1fNsDWa
  • So we got the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo as Akira predicted 30 years ago, and Wrestling’s been reinstated.
  • I’m still getting emails from Audiosurf telling me I’ve been dethroned on the obscure songs I played. This time it was the boss rush theme from Rez.
  • This is why I don’t see a problem with a console developer focusing a lot on media apps: http://t.co/mvmG1CNnu8
  • And happy Dreamcast day!
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One thought on “Next-Gen: The Japanese Vanguard

  1. “…but the Japanese still design games you’ll just never see spring from an American or European mind.”

    You’ve set yourself up for a lot of “like what, hentai rape games?” snark with that one. Just saying.

    As for the Vita, big deal, being able to play a bunch of ports of indie games I can play on Steam. If it wasn’t for The Pinball Arcade, I would have sold mine a while ago.

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