Last week, I wrote an article bemoaning the lack of exclusives so far in 2017 for the Xbox One. In particular, the strong exclusive lineup of Sony’s PlayStation 4 in the early going of the year only magnifies this problem. Since the start of 2017, I would estimate that six notable exclusives have been released on the PS4 so far:
- Horizon Zero Dawn
- MLB The Show 17
- Gravity Rush 2
- Yakuza 0*
- Nier Automata*
You may be wondering why I put an asterisk next to the final three games on that list. These are Japanese games that have received critical acclaim. They are console-exclusive to the PS4, yet Sony was not involved at all in the development or creation of those titles. Either via a publishing deal with Sony or outright refusal of the developer or publisher to put these games on the Xbox, the PS4 is the only console on which you can play these games.
This is a problem for Xbox. Many Xbox fans are clamoring for strong single-player experiences from Japanese developers on the console. Certainly, games like Nioh would only serve to help the Xbox One lineup. There are Xbox gamers that want more diverse experiences on their system of choice that Japanese games can provide. So why are developers and publishers across the Pacific reluctant to support the Xbox One?
A common belief is that Japanese games will not sell to publishers’ expectations on Microsoft hardware. However, there have been several examples to the contrary fairly recently; Dark Souls III, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, and Final Fantasy XV have sold well on the Xbox One. All of these are Japanese games. Of course, these games did sell significantly better on the PS4. That doesn’t change the fact that a market for Japanese games does, in fact, exist on Xbox.
A game like Nioh would be great on Xbox One.
Another common excuse is that Japanese developers and publishers may not want to invest in porting their game over to the Xbox One. Tying in with the aforementioned belief that Japanese games will not sell on Xbox, they may feel that porting games to Microsoft’s machine may be cost- or time-prohibitive. While the Xbox One may be slightly weaker than the standard PS4, they do share very similar x86 architecture. In theory, porting a game to Microsoft’s console shouldn’t be that much of an issue. Certainly, Phil Spencer and team have worked with developers and publishers to get Japanese games like Final Fantasy XV onto Xbox One. Even Kingdom Hearts III will be releasing on Xbox.
Even though it’s easy to debunk those two theories, Microsoft does face some very real issues when it comes to garnering Japanese support.
Historically, Microsoft consoles have never sold well in Japan. It isn’t common for Microsoft to only move a few hundred Xbox Ones in the country on a weekly basis, if that. Japanese studios may be approaching this situation with a little bit of tunnel vision. Because Xbox One is not relevant in their home country, Japanese developers and publishers may think Xbox fans elsewhere in the world would show little interest in their games and franchises.
More recently, Japanese studios may be apprehensive in dealing with Microsoft because of the Scalebound situation. The development team at Platinum Games was apparently in turmoil. The situation reflects poorly on Microsoft’s ability to work with the developer to manage the situation. Spencer’s comments that Scalebound’s cancellation was “good for gamers” didn’t help either.
Recently, Spencer visited Japan to meet with publishers and developers. He stated that there is strong interest from the Japanese game development community in producing content for Xbox One and the upcoming Project Scorpio. He referred to it as being a “great trip.”
I hope Spencer is right, and that the trip was productive. Having strong Japanese support on Xbox benefits everyone. It bolsters the Xbox One with a more diverse portfolio of games. By putting their games on Microsoft’s box, Japanese games are open to more exposure and increased sales. Lastly, and most importantly, it gives Xbox fans more great games to play.
The Land of the Rising Sun is home to some of the most talented and renowned developers in the world. Having those great minds creating more content for Xbox can only be good news for Xbox One fans.