Danganronpa's Steam Release Shows Japan Looking to PC for Success

Danganronpa's Steam Release Shows Japan Looking to PC for Success

Consoles are cool, but Japanese developers and publishers are finding out that Western audiences are on Steam.

Spike Chunsoft announced today that its popular visual novel, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, is coming to Steam this February. The same game that players enjoyed on the PlayStation Vita is coming to Valve's platform with full support for Steam achievements and Steam Cloud. Spike Chunsoft is also looking to add Steam Trading Card support at a later date.

The interesting thing is Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is not being published on Steam by NIS America, who handled the publishing duties for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair on Vita. Instead, Spike Chunsoft makes its Steam debut as sole publisher. Unlike classic console platforms, it's much easier for Spike Chunsoft to release games on Steam, so when you buy this version of Danganronpa, all the profits go to the developer.

Steam has been a boon for Japanese developers, who have struggled in recent times to make a dent on leading game consoles. There's a strong fanbase for Japanese titles; those folks may not own a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, but they do have a reasonable PC that can run these older, more modest titles. The PC audience in Japan for those titles isn't as strong, but when those games head West, being on Steam seems to help. There have been a number of success stories over the past 3-4 years: the Ys series, Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, One Way Heroics, Agarest: Generations of War, Hatoful Boyfriend, and a whole host of shoot-em-ups.

Probably the earliest major success that made publishers and developers take notice was the 2012 release of Ys Origin and Ys: The Oath of Felghana on Steam. Nihon Falcom was previously a PC developer that moved onto PlayStation platforms in Japan, but Western publisher XSEED felt that the game could reach a larger audience on Steam. So XSEED put forth the resources to make it happen.

"It's never been about convincing Falcom to release their great catalog of PC titles on Steam as they have always been well aware of the potential benefits," XSEEDdirector of publishing Ken Berry told RPGamer in 2012. "The problem has always been their lack of internal resources to handle the localization programming since they are a small development house and always busy working on new projects. It finally came down to us offering to handle all aspects of localization, including the programming, so that it would require only minimal involvement by Falcom."

The results were successful for both Nihon Falcom and XSEED. They followed those releases up with Ys I and II, Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, and The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC. (XSEED also released Acquire's Akiba's Trip.) A quick search on Steam Spy shows the Falcom titles breaking 100,000 owners easy, which is amazing for these smaller titles. The full list of Nihon Falcom sales is below.

  • Ys Origin: 236,972 ± 10,707
  • Ys: The Oath in Felghana: 146,376 ± 8,417
  • Ys I and II: 161,370 ± 8,837
  • Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim: 34,815 ± 4,105
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: 169,375 ± 9,053
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC: 13,469 ± 2,553

"Speaking for the situation right now, there are probably more users in North America than Japan playing Falcom PC games. We're especially happy with the situation on Steam," Nihon Falcon representative managing director Toshihiro Kondo told Windows Central. "We think there is still room for us to try a few things here [in Japan], too. [The challenge is that] people think of PC gaming in Japan as something pursued only by a small, super hardcore audience. Falcom was originally a company that only developed and sold PC games; we'd love to see a PC gaming revival in Japan."

XSEED only reached that point through the help of another publisher and localization house. Carpe Fulgur had taken its shot two years earlier with EasyGameStation's Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale (currently at 437,604 ± 14,545 owners according to Steam Spy). Carpe Fulgur editor Andrew Dice helped XSEED connect with Valve and actually worked on The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC with the publisher.

Carpe Fulgur kicked off a big trend.

"For a long time there was a little uncertainty if the project would actually go forward, even after the two Ys games came out," Dice told Kotaku in 2013. "We had to be sure they'd sell enough to justify working on other titles, and to prove that XSEED could sell PC titles-which, by the way, they can."

Rising Star Games brought SWERY and Access Games' Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut to PC in 2013. The Twin Peaks-style survival horror title has gone on to sell over 186,000 copies on Steam. The same year, publisher Ghostlight has brought over Agarest: Generations of War, the series being a strategy RPG collaboration between Idea Factory, Red Entertainment and Compile Heart.

"There's a lot of interest in the idea of bringing JRPGs to PC/Steam," said Ghostlight community manager Ross Brierley told GamesBeat at the time. "Every time we even mention the subject in a blog post, we get a large increase in traffic, and the overwhelming majority of comments we get are excited about the idea. Should this first release take off, we will be looking to bring more JRPGs to PC. And with the nature of the PC as a platform, we would be looking to give them a worldwide release [wherever] possible."

Ghostlight has since launched the Agarest prequel, Agarest: Generations of War Zero, and the sequel Agarest: Generations of War 2 on Steam. The first game leads with 191,484 owners on Steam, while the prequel sits with 66,200 owners and the sequel with 45,234. For smaller titles, those are respectable numbers. Ghostlight also published Idea Factory's Mugen Souls, but the game failed to take off as well, possibly due to localization changes. The Sekai Project has single-handedly released a ton of visual novels on Steam since the release of World End Economica episode.01 in mid-2014.

In 2014, Sega also launched Valkyria Chronicles on Steam. The title was originally developed by Sega for PlayStation 3 in 2008, putting a six year gap in-between its initial release and the Steam launch. Despite that, the game was a big success for Sega. It hit the top of the Steam download charts within 24 hours of release.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the fans for their support in the phenomenal success of this launch," said Sega Europe's John Clark at the time. "We're also delighted at the response from the Steam community which indicates that newcomers to the series are finding it as enchanting and engaging as those who have played it before."

Valkyria Chronicles has over 600,000 owners on Steam according to SteamSpy. Those are absolutely amazing numbers for an older game and they're numbers that cause larger publishers like Sega to stand up and take notice. Sega ported Sonic: Lost World over to PC in 2015 and in the press release, the company hinted at other potential PC releases. Fans are hoping titles like Yakuza and Vanquish might find new homes and new life on Steam.

"We're delighted to be able to bring Sonic Lost World to PC," said Clark in the press release. "This is the latest in a string of high quality PC ports of past SEGA titles that we will be building on in the coming months and years."

Steam releases are so profitable that they actually revived one defunct Japanese developer: SNK Playmore. In an interview with Famitsu (translated via MMCafe) SNK Playmore executive Yutaka Noguchi said that the success of Steam ports convinced the company to move away from the pachislot focus it once held. That came on the back of successful ports like King of Fighters XIII: Steam Edition and Metal Slug 3.

Steam represents a huge chance for Japanese developers and publishers in the West. It's quickly becoming the best platform to release Japanese titles on, as they have little visibility on home consoles, the Japan-friendly Vita is on its way out, and the 3DS is getting a bit long in the tooth. The original age of the game doesn't seem to matter, meaning older games like Capcom's Okami or Square Enix' The World Ends With You could find new fans. (Capcom recently released Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen on PC and it already has nearly 100,000 owners.)

The other benefit of the PC is perpetuity. For the time being, you can ensure that your game will release on a platform that will stay relevant for years to come, unlike consoles and handhelds. Recettear may have released in 2010, but you can still buy and play the game on a modern PC. You can't say the same for console titles you may have purchased around the same time.

So here's hoping Danganronpa does great numbers for Spike Chunsoft. The Japanese development community needs to know that the PC audience is ready for their games and the barriers to entry in regards to publishing are much lower on Steam. Instead of going through Western publishers, it may behoove them to release the games themselves and reap the rewards. Which in turn may mean more awesome Japanese games in the future. I think we can all agree that's a great concept.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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