Just pondering the state of the east/west marketing divide and how those developers must scratch thier heads and wonder “Is there anything we can add to a project so it sells, like, 500,000 copies in Japan alone? A racing game, for instance.” Beg your pardon. Western developers are doing well these days (I’m sitting with one as I write). They are in step with their own market, delivering the right content to their domestic audience. But even so, it’s not ways enough — especially when you consider specific genres. The American market may be huge and important, but in order to live you just can’t ignore the other regions. Most of the time, the european market is seen as an extension of the US. Lately, however, Japan has been identified as an untapped market for HD gaming: market that is opening up to western gaming culture. The current of the FPS is a sure sign of it.
Cultural differences won’t disappear any time soon and not all companies are able to develop one universal piece of content for the whole market, but selling games in Japan is not such a crazy idea anyway. Conversely, I believe you can’t just dump your content on to the Japanese market without thinking it through. It just becomes a burden for the local marketing team. Localisation alone can’t overcome all cultural, and certainly not gameplay, hurdles.
In my discussions with a western comrad and developer, I’m being asked if adding a famous local band to the soundtrack, a popular manga franchise for a decal on a car, or including some female idol would make it, all of a sudden, sell 500,000 copies when it used to sell no more than 20,000… Well, if such a thing was possible, I’d open an office and start getting rich advising companies — or write a bestseller called My Game Design Secrets. In these difficult times, people in the industry in Japan are eager to meet you, especially when you know both cultures and have some experience. They like to share their latest great ideas on ‘how to reach the westerners’.