NISA President Says Microsoft Is Not Very Supportive Of Japanese Games
The president of Nippon Ichi America, Takuro Yamashita, told MCV that he does not believe Microsoft is very supportive of Japanese games in a candid interview with the outlet.
The actual reasoning gets into a little bit of minutiae, as Yamashita's reasoning has more to do with Microsoft's requirements for publishing on the Xbox. He explains that Microsoft requires a minimum order for publishing on their systems. For niche games, like the kind Nippon Ichi specializes in, the minimum is way above what they expect to sell.
Nihon Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo also agreed, but explained that the Xbox's mindshare, or lack thereof, in Japan is the largest determining factor for their decision not to support the system.
Microsoft's relationship with Japan and Japanese developers has always been a strange one. The original Xbox failed to make much of a dent in the Japanese market, as the PlayStation 2 was the undisputed market leader and whatever scraps remained in the market were taken up by the Gameboy Advance and to some extent the Gamecube. Microsoft made a stronger attempt with the Xbox 360 by courting developers and paying for major JRPGs like Tales of Vesperia, Blue Dragon, and Lost Odyssey. It is strange to think about now, but there was a time where the idea of Devil May Cry or a new Final Fantasy on the Xbox was considered unfathomable.
This also did not do much and the Xbox 360 was barely a blip on the radar in Japan once again. This lead to confusing marketing strategies from Microsoft's Japan team, including partnering with Japanese pornography actresses to position games like Gears of War and Dead Rising alongside pornographic films as things only for adults.
The chicken-and-egg scenario of how and why Japan did not care about the Xbox brand lead Microsoft to simply give up on the region with the Xbox One. The system launch treated Japan as a Tier 2 region, which made a lot of business sense but also made for bad optics to Japanese developers, and Microsoft stopped making deals with Japanese developers and publishers. After the high-profile cancellation of Scalebound, and Microsoft's seeming blitheness about it, a lot of trust in Microsoft has eroded from both developers and fans of Japanese games.
Fans particularly took notice this year when many high-profile Japanese PS4 games were exclusive to that console but didn't show any sign of even entertaining Xbox One versions. Games like Yakuza, Persona, Nier, and Ni-Oh completely skipped the Xbox One, despite some of them having PC versions released or announced.
Xbox head Phil Spencer recently tweeted about going to Japan to meet with partners, indicating an intention to take the region's games seriously. It remains to be seen how Microsoft will work with Japanese publishers in the future, but smaller ones appear to need more proof of support and enthusiasm before getting on board.