Modern Tactical RPG Musings Part Two: The Possibilities For Japanese Strategy Games On PC

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Last time I gave a quick impression of Lord of Magna for the 3DS while briefly talking about other Japanese tactical RPGs and how they’ve been handled in the western market as of late. These observations along with some interesting solid information I’ve come across has made me start to wonder about the future possibilities for Japanese strategy games in western markets.

I’m starting to wonder if more western PC releases for Japanese strategy games like Valkyria Chronicles and soon Nobunaga’s Ambition might bring those games to more accepting markets. Would the traditional CRPG audience lap up a game like Tactics Ogre?

I feel like strategy RPGs have been on the wane compared to the era when a ton of them came out on the original Nintendo DS and PSP, or when Nippin Ichi Software started doing them on the PS2 during its later years. We’re still getting a few these days like Lord of Magna or Lost Dimension. To me it feels like Valkyria Chronicles should have been a revelation for the genre and perhaps it was, but not to the full extent it deserved to be. Meanwhile Japanese RPG developers are getting increasingly supportive of the western PC market after finally acknowledging it exists.

In a previous blog post I speculated that perhaps one issue with gaming and violence is that the western console market isn’t extremely accepting of certain genres like adventure games, strategy games, and simulation games. Turn-based strategy games, which SRPGs certainly fall under, have been a presence on western consoles since at least the early 90’s, but from what I can tell were always kind of niche. Final Fantasy Tactics was relatively well-known based on its name but that’s kind of it. Nippon Ichi managed to cultivate a dedicated but small audience with games like Disgaea and La Pucelle Tactics, but in today’s console world publishers are wary of anything that isn’t an action game or a sports game.

I think Lord of Magna included a dating sim aspect because the developers felt it needed some kind of appeal to some audience (in this case being the otaku audience) outside of just being a strategy game. That’s how I feel about Fire Emblem Awakening too. Everybody’s into that game for its marriage/eugenics system but honestly I didn’t care about it all that much. I just wanted to play a turn-based strategy game on my 3DS. That mechanic, the “waifus,” and the alternate story paths seem to be the primary marketing point for the upcoming Fire Emblem Fates too. The Fire Emblem development team even suggested the franchise’s future hung in the balance based on sales of Awakening, which if I’m not mistaken is the most successful game in the franchise’s history. I’ve just about given hope on another Advance Wars game, especially after I saw some data on the franchise’s sales history.

Finally, after I suggested on Twitter that maybe a Front Mission game on Steam might be cool (that’s an actual Front Mission game), I got a response detailing Square’s long running mismanagement of that franchise in markets outside JapanFront Mission as a franchise was actually originally meant to have worldwide appeal, and I can definitely see it. It’s a military game with a complex political storyline and it’s about giant military machinery. Unfortunately Square ended up cancelling in-progress localization efforts and censoring the three main Front Mission games that actually did make it to western territories. Maybe consoles were the wrong place to try out this kind of game in the west.

Meanwhile, If you look at the 100 most played games on Steam and listen around for the most talked-about PC games you get results like Cities: SkylinesEuropa Universalis IVCrusader Kings IICompany of Heroes 2, or XCOMXCOM in particular is a relevant case. Before getting the game released developer Firaxis was told turn-based strategy games weren’t viable on consoles anymore. Publisher 2K games reported strong sales but XCOM didn’t appear on NPD charts, possibly because many or even most people bought it on Steam. Now the sequel is debuting only on PC.

I’m just thinking that maybe if it got the right exposure, a game like Front Mission or Final Fantasy Tactics could do pretty well on Steam. Valkyria Chronicles didn’t sell a bajillion copies on Steam but SEGA seems to have been very satisfied with its performance. Now we’ve got Koei actually releasing Nobunaga’s Ambition in the west. It’s been released in the west before, even on PC. Actually the previous three games in the series are already on Steam, but none of them in English. This is the first time we’re getting it on PC in English in “modern times” though, and I’m a bit interested to see how it does — whether the Crusader Kings audience notices it at all.

Maybe if this recent increase in Japanese PC support continues those publishers can move from simply being aware the market exists to actually gaining an understanding of what sells in that market compared to what sells on consoles.

BULLETS:

  • Neat and relevant: There’s the free indie strategy game the director of the original Fire Emblem is working on for PC.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain not doing a pre-load on Steam is a bid disappointment for someone who will now have to wait at least six hours to download the game on the day of release. The only silver lining here is the PC version will apparently unlock worldwide at midnight New Zealand time — around 16 hours before my local street date.
  • Some very interesting gaming information on the next generation of Intel’s CPUs: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1098842 The integrated graphics performance of the Skylake CPUs (the graphics you would get in a $500 laptop for example), on paper, are within spitting distance of the Xbox One’s graphics card. That’s without any dedicated Nvidia or AMD GPU. Integrated PC graphics might match or overtake these consoles a lot sooner than they’ve overtaken consoles in the past.
  • An RE4HD update. http://www.re4hd.com/?p=2602
  • An update on Vane — that indie project from the former The Last Guardian developers. http://www.friendandfoegames.com/devlog-vane/2015/8/19/flight-mechanics
  • A new mod for Sky Rogue, the TIE Fighter. http://nihilocrat.tumblr.com/post/127089024893
  • Some cool samples from a comic art book. https://www.patreon.com/posts/3215105
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