I'm sure you guys have heard it in the news. Multiple japanese games censored in the past 6 months due to a new Sony policy. What is it about? And what does it mean for Japan? Here's a closer look.
First: What is happening: Sony has a new policy that requires a Japanese game to first be "vetted" by sony of america, meaning they must show and explain the game to an American employee at Sony whose job it is to vet the game and approve/deny it, and if they deny it, they will press the japanese developer and ask them to explain their reasons for having X in the game. It's worth noting this is required to take place even if no english version of the game will exist and even if they have no intent on releasing the game in American markets.
How does this impact devs? Hugely as you might imagine. Most of the big devs are quiet, with ATLUS unable to speak at huge volumes over the issue, not even being able to confirm that the upcoming Catherine won't be censored, but the smaller devs in Japan are more vocal about the impact on their company.
Light representative: “Right now Sony seems to be moving toward disallowing ports of ages 18 and up titles worldwide. And this games is ages 18 and up, so it’s being subjected to a very strict inspection, and we’re getting all these questions. And like ‘Please write everything in English.’ So we’re in the middle of answering those now, and we’re not sure if we’ll get approved or not. It’s terrible, but in any case, development is done. “So internally it’s complete, but there are things we can’t do without connecting to Sony’s servers, like Trophies. So everyone is like, ‘When will we be able to add Trophies?’ “And we have a guy who is in charge of translating everything into English and sending it to Sony, but it’s like, ‘Don’t you guys understand Japanese?’ At present we’re thinking we can release early next year if it passes Sony’s inspection… And if Sony says no, then I guess we’ll just find somewhere else to put it.”
Developers in Japan are now required to have English speakers on staff for these dialogues, and its hinted that English translations of some parts of these games might be taking place to better explain X or Y to the American.
Why is this being conducted in English instead of Japanese? Well, it's part of Sony's attempts to globalize their company. It's clear they are moving away from regional branches and attempting to make a central vision for the company, this is in line with a few other developers making the other politically inspired moves, and for whatever reason, Sony thinks America should decide what the central vision is, despite being a Japanese company.
What does this mean for Japanese developers? They can no longer market the game to the Japanese market. Yes, i'm serious. Japanese market has always had different standards than American market, such as bigger tolerance for sexuality but less tolerance for violence, but now they will have a two-fold impact: they can't have as much violence or sexuality in the games anymore, because the American branch doesn't think it's politically correct, and of course because Japanese legal restrictions Sony can't change will continue to censor violence in the released games. Talk about the Worst of Both Worlds, huh?
This world has many different markets, but Sony doesn't think the Japanese market should continue to seclude itself from the West, and is choosing to forcefully absorb the market with this move. By requiring Japanese developers to market their game to English speakers, even if the game has no intention of releasing in an english speaking country, even if they want the game to be japan only, this will make it easier for them to release the game in the west. Sony of America wants the revenue and they think this will help them get it, those Japanese exclusive games will be exclusive not much longer, and those games that want to remain Japan only must still be vetted and approved by the Americans before release, and so, Sony has yielded the Japanese market entirely to America, on the PS4 end, with developers being impacted the most.
At its heart, this is a financial money-driven move, in an attempt to destroy and eradicate exclusive regional differences in videogames, and falls in line with multiple companies like Ubisoft trying to do the same, and its up to the players to decide if that's a future they're okay with.
TL;DR: Sony doesn't think it's OK for Japan to be Japanese anymore
There's a lesson to be learned in arrogance, here. Sony were number 1 for two straight generations. The PS1 and the PS2. They let anything go. The games came like manna from the sky. So many games. All different, each and every single game setting itself apart from the rest. Innovation was at full force, creativity at max, even sequels were greater and better than the last. Everyone looked at Sony as a no nonsense publisher. You couldn't get it on Nintendo because kiddie family. Xbox was trying, but couldn't catch up. Sega, well, they fucked up.
Sony rested on their laurels. They made a new machine with a weird architecture, expecting devs to follow suit. Microsoft took the chance and made the 360 easy to develop with. It changed the game. Sony was no longer at pole position, but they still went on at a very close second. Nintendo took a weird turn, leaving the race to attract another kind of market. Which did wonders for them. So, Microsoft took the opportunity Sony left and made the 360 debut a bomb. Jrpgs, better looking games, rock-solid online. Sony was left in the dust for a while, until devs caught up with the Cell Architecture and started producing fire. Little by little, slowly but surely, Sony caught up with the 360.
Armed with their failure of a launch in the last gen. Sony learned: Make it easy for the devs. Microsoft were in the lead and it got to their heads. Their XBox One launch was a disaster. Sony returned the favor by making the PS4 launch straight fire. They came back. They were number 1 again. At the top, they pulled a Microsoft and now here we are.
Will Microsoft learn from its past mistakes? Will they be able to entice developers to target their platform first? They're being offered Japan in a silver platter.
If I were to be Microsoft, right now? I would contact every single developer and publisher from the East and offer them money to switch consoles. Hell, probably help them port the game over. Uncensored and its in integrity.
I would also launch a campaign telling gamers that our games aren't censored and the experience is as it's meant to be, but maybe I would wait until Sony reveals the PS5 and then drop the bomb for that. But I would absolutely try and buy as many devs as possible to switch to my platform now.
MS isn't gonna learn shit from this, they're going to continue to make stupid as fuck decisions like they've been doing before. Plus, their consoles sell like ass in Japan, and with their attempts to merge into the PC gaming market, which isn't that popular in Japan, it's pretty much Nintendo or bust if you want your shit uncensored. It's up to the Japanese consumer base to make PC gaming a viable platform for things besides H games and the like as that's gonna do very well in the west.
The reason why Xbox keeps tanking over there is because Microsoft was always half-assed in its approach to releasing their damned consoles over there.
Unlike Sony or Nintendo, who each have established gaming branches in the US instead of staying in Japan, MS has never formed an Xbox branch in Japan. They never had dedicated marketing teams from Japan who know how the local market works, and they never formed their own Japanese development studios to make Xbox-exclusive Japanese games. They tried to attract Japanese devs back in 2005-2006 via timed exclusives of Japanese Xbox 360 games (Eternal Destiny, Ridge Racer 6, Idolm@ster, Kanon, anything released by Cave, etc.), but gave up less than two years later.
Xbox always fails in Japan because MS never had the motivation to put in the resources needed to succeed over there. If they can get over that, then there's no reason why Xbox would tank over there.
Yeah, if anything, this is a golden opportunity for Microsoft to reach out to Japanese devs, especially the smaller devs that make niche games.
I would also launch a campaign telling gamers that our games aren't censored and the experience is as it's meant to be, but maybe I would wait until Sony reveals the PS5 and then drop the bomb for that.
I don't think it's at all comparable to the disastrous Xbox One/Azure/used games stuff, if that's what you're implying. The best way for Microsoft to handle it is not to "drop the bomb" but simply quietly allow for the unabridged versions of these games while encouraging devs behind the scenes to support their platform. When those games start showing up on Xbox uncensored while the Playstation version is either chopped to bits or doesn't even exist, the people who care will notice.
The problem is, not many people do care. The console market has largely shriveled away in Japan or else Sony would never have done this to begin with, and the games affected by this are mostly very small sellers, even in Japan. Microsoft isn't being offered Japan on a silver platter. They're being offered a slight chance at coming in a very distant second place to Nintendo, so it's just not worth much of a financial investment to them. In all likelihood, though, Sony will just shrug its shoulders about losing a bunch of already censored ports of PC H-games, make sure to get exclusivity on a few games that really matter in Japan, and use their established presence there to drub Xbox again anyway.