Today, with little fanfare, NIS America quietly put up a Steam store item from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. That's right, the very first Disgaea is coming to PC, with a planned release window of February 2016. Hopefully, if the game does well, NIS will think about porting its other titles to the platform.
Depending on the pricing, this is a win for everyone. The veteran fans get the original Disgaea on PC, where the potential of mod support could make a great game even better. NIS America gets a wider user base, allowing new non-PlayStation owners to get in on the Disgaea action. New players get a chance to enjoy one of the better tactics strategy franchises in the industry.
This is not the first game that NIS America has released on Steam. If you click on the publisher NIS America, Inc. in the Steam store page for Disgaea nothing pops up, but NIS America previously released Cladun X2 and Clan of Champions on the platform. Whether it's intentional or a clerical error, the Disgaea release will be separated from those previous titles.
It looks like Disgaea's PC releases may be delivering on statements made by NIS America president Haru Akenaga to Siliconera back in 2013.
"For PC, we are going to release several titles for Steam. I can't say for sure, but in the future there may be a chance [to see other] Nippon Ichi titles on Steam. We are planning to do something seriously with Steam," Akenaga said at the time. "At this moment, we cannot announce anything about our Steam projects other than Clan of Champions."
The interesting thing is that porting over the first Disgaea instead of the recently released Disgaea 5 means that Nippon Ichi's PlayStation-platform focus remains intact. Earlier this year, Nippon Ichi Software president Sohei Niikawa told 4Gamer (translated via Gematsu) that future NIS titles would be PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita only.
"It's precisely because nobody else is making that big jump that we think there's value to be had in setting our sights square on PS4," Niikawa said. "As a result, we've received support from Sony and are now able to do things like put out commercials. In that respect from a promotional perspective, there are merits to going the route that we have here."
The problem is that while the PlayStation 4 is a solid player in the Japanese market at this point, it's only working with an addressable userbase of 1.9 million in that region. That means Nippon Ichi's titles don't have much to work with in the company's domestic market and outside of Japan, NIS is a developer of niche products. To illustrate the problem the company is working with, you just have to look at Japanese Media Create sales numbers for when Disgaea 5 released.
The game debuted at #13 on the charts, selling only 22,725 copies in its first week. By week two, Disgaea 5 had dropped to #37, meaning its sales numbers weren't even being tracked anymore. Of course, looking at #20 on that chart shows sales of 8,297 units, meaning Disgaea 5 sold less than that on its second week. By week three, it was number #47 and by week four, the game was no longer in the Top 50. Assuming Disgaea 5's sales numbers were right behind the 20th title on each week's chart (which is a best case scenario), that puts the game's total sales at 35,912 units in Japan. That's pretty dire for Nippon Ichi's flagship title, unless the game has a real long tail.
Disgaea coming to PC is a good start for NIS America, but I'd argue that Nippon Ichi Software as a whole needs to expand that concept outward. There are a number of NIS titles that simply didn't get their fair shake because of the platforms they released on. DanganRonpa, Guided Fate Paradox, and The Witch and the Hundred Knight should have a chance to find a larger audience and Steam is a place where that can happen.
Of course, saying that is much easier than getting it done. Porting isn't a simple process. It requires development staff and time, which means it requires money. For NIS and NIS America, they may feel that the money is better spent on new projects, instead of bringing over older projects. Disgaea PC may be a way of testing the waters to see if Steam is really the land of milk and honey. I hope it works out, because the company catalog deserves to be seen by more people.