Square Enix Has Theories on Why Dragon Quest Isn't Popular in the West

Dragon Quest isn't as popular as Final Fantasy in the west, but hey -- we might be getting Dragon Quest XI anyway.

News by Nadia Oxford, .

It's a rough ol' world out there for western Dragon Quest fans. While Square-Enix has been consistent about localizing Final Fantasy for English-speaking audiences, Dragon Quest's translation efforts have been far patchier over the years.

In an interview published in the December "Japan Special Edition" of Edge Magazine, Dragon Quest executive producer Yu Miyake acknowledged Square-Enix's general failure to support the series in the west. Nintendo Everything collected Miyake's thoughts at the start of January.

"It's a topic we have been thinking about a lot internally: the question of why Final Fantasy is so much more popular than Dragon Quest in the west," he said. He has a few theories in mind.

First, whereas Japan's nostalgia for RPGs is rooted in the Famicom's Dragon Quest releases, the west's RPG nostalgia stems from the massively successful release of Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation. Second, Miyake admits Square-Enix dropped the ball on localization efforts in favor of focusing on Final Fantasy translations. Third, he believes Akira Toriyama's "cartoonish" art style may be regarded as too childish for westerners, even though the Dragon Quest series itself isn't short on mature themes.

Given the popularity of Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball Z in the west, it's interesting that Miyake believes we may find the Dragon Quest series too childish-looking for our tastes. That said, it's hard to deny Dragon Quest games usually sell modestly outside of Japan even when extra work goes into the localization process.

Yes! Dragon Quest XI in English! ... Maybe! Please!

"We put a lot of effort into Dragon Quest VIII. We put a lot of thought on how we could appeal outside of Japan," Miyake says. "We used a lot more regional voice acting, for example. We put a lot of thought into the menu design. But we didn’t want to give up the core element that made the game Dragon Quest. The game did have some modest sales overseas, but it wasn’t anywhere close to the level of Final Fantasy sales."

Fortunately, Miyake infers that Square-Enix is hoping to be more supportive of western Dragon Quest fans. "We're trying to put a lot more effort into promoting overseas the spinoff titles we've been working on – Dragon Quest Builders and Dragon Quest Heroes – in order to soften up the ground for Dragon Quest XI."

We awarded Dragon Quest Builders multiple honors here at USgamer, and critics generally seem to love its mash-up of Minecraft and traditional RPG mechanics. Though Miyake didn't outright state Dragon Quest XI is getting a western release, it's safe to surmise Square-Enix is considering it.

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Comments 16

  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #1 cldmstrsn A year ago
    I will always support DQ games that come out west but im done with this wishy washy will they wont they. They should just say yes it is coming but more likely much later than the japan release. It wont ever be as big of Final Fantasy if they dont do the marketing for it.
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  • Avatar for DemiurgicSoul #2 DemiurgicSoul A year ago
    Sadly I think he's right about the art style. I personally love it, and wish more games had the same sort of whimsical style as Dragon Quest. But I see a lot of people in message boards dismiss games like this as not mature enough for them based solely on the art style. I even see people who refuse to play Persona games simply because the characters are in high school.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #3 donkeyintheforest A year ago
    For me it was the fact that the reviews always said were so long and bit grindy. My first jump into them has been DQ Builders and I'm loving it, so as soon as the reviews come back and the main story of the next DQ can be completed in the ~40 hour mark I'm in!
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  • Avatar for mobichan #4 mobichan A year ago
    I agree with their assessment, but have to wonder if the appeal of "porcelain skinned jpop stars/anime CG" was all that much stronger of an appeal for westerners when FF7 came out. I think Square just had the right product at the right moment in time to capture PS1 players. I would say that all the DQ spinoffs probably are making it harder for people to understand what a mainline Dragon Quest game is. The FF brand solidified itself before exposing people to the flood of spinoffs (which essentially are what the FF brand is now). DQ never quite did that when the playing field was wide open and now they have no hope of overtaking FF in the West.

    But ultimately, who cares? They should just keep making good games for the people who like that kind of game. And stop thinking the ultimate goal is to dominate the RPG market, because that isn't in the cards for them anymore in the West.
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  • Avatar for garion333 #5 garion333 A year ago
    "But we didn’t want to give up the core element that made the game Dragon Quest."

    Then it'll never have a huge following in NA as the gameplay is uber traditional JRPG/DQ to this day. I know that's a feature of a DQ game and can get behind it myself to a certain extent, but I believe it's a huge detraction for many NA gamers.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #6 SargeSmash A year ago
    @garion333 : Is that really a problem, though? I don't think the gameplay style is the issue, there are other very traditional RPGs that seem to have done just fine. I believe it's more an issue of what series we all have nostalgia for. As pointed out, Japan was into RPGs with Dragon Quest long before they finally caught fire here with Final Fantasy VII.

    I also think presentation has a lot to do with it. Perhaps it's too "anime" to appeal to a wider audience, although I don't think it's really that. I think it's more that, if you look at prior releases, they just didn't look very good. Four NES games, a massive hiatus where we didn't get the two on SNES, a late-gen release on PSX that looked pretty terrible, and finally a game that stood up presentationally in DQVIII.

    And then right back to handhelds and the DS. So any mainstream buildup was blunted for the series on consoles.

    I'm personally a huge fan of the series, but much of the market keys in on graphics, and let's face it, the series has only once really hit the bar, at least here in the West.
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  • Avatar for detten17 #7 detten17 A year ago
    toriyama aint no amano. I ain't feeling all whimsical and projecting a feeling of awe and wonder and shit like that, when I see dragon quest I'm reminded of that one time future trunks cut frieza in half, cool, yes, do i want to play a game with that guy, no.Edited January 2017 by detten17
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  • Avatar for TheWildCard #8 TheWildCard A year ago
    The difference is almost entirely due to historical timing. Dragon Quest VIII is the only big budget and modern looking game at the time of its western release. Everything else has been old (NES releases), purposely dated looking (VII) or handheld (IX, remakes). Not super surprising they don't stand out from the crowd for more casual gamers.

    That said, I wonder if their sales are actually lacking compared to the Personas and Tales of the jrpg world, or are they just underwhelming for the company the size of SE?
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  • Avatar for Vaporeon #9 Vaporeon A year ago
    I would honestly love to love DQ. The graphics are actually an incredible lure for me, though DQ8 on PS2 left me too frustrated by two key battle features: 1) when a targeted enemy falls and you swing at a blank space, instead of auto-targeting a remaining enemy and 2) Slime A took 42 damage! Slime B took 15 damage! Slime C took 28 damage! Slime D took 7 damage! Slime E took 34 damage! Enthusiastic Western fan wonders why they don't just flash the numbers above each slime to save ten seconds of my life multiplied over hundreds of battles!

    Are those the "nostalgic" features they insist on retaining? I'm all for JRPG nostalgia, though some mechanics could be streamlined so easily with today's tech.

    Am I missing something about these old features that make them appealing?
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #10 riderkicker A year ago
    I think it's mostly due to Dragon Quest being a very conservative series, like Nintendo does with its franchises, never straying too far from its roots. Unlike Nintendo who managed to make Mario replace Mickey, Dragon Quest just didn't capture the same imaginations of kids back in the 1980s. Can you name a piece of Dragon Quest media like a Saturday morning cartoon or a breakfast cereal? Nope. Some of us were attracted to the series based on the merits of Toriyama's artwork, a style seen only in Dragon Ball Z. The rest, from word of mouth and praise from organizations like this one. We like Dragon Quest just fine, don't expect it to reach levels similar to its fandom in Japan.

    Final Fantasy is better received around the world due to the fact that it's a game that pushes boundaries in every successive title, with elements that are quite different from console to console. I like it because I never know what I'm going to get, unlike Dragon Quest which is always comforting.

    I have read that senior citizens in the 1990s love Dragon Warrior I and II, enough calling into the Nintendo Power Line to brag about their exploits. Maybe there is an untapped marketing opportunity there. ;)Edited January 2017 by riderkicker
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #11 SatelliteOfLove A year ago
    That erratic and late-to-the-system launching of titles would be a smokier gun to me...
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  • Avatar for GaijinD #12 GaijinD A year ago
    @riderkicker Actually, yes, I can:

    It didn't last long, but this was on TV in the US. I remember watching it.
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  • Avatar for Jericho-GM #13 Jericho-GM A year ago
    "Given the popularity of Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball Z in the west, it's interesting that Miyake believes we may find the Dragon Quest series too childish-looking for our tastes."

    I think the thing with the art style is that Dragon Quest has always been leaning towards the kid Goku Dragon Ball style, which is more childish and comedic compared to the "edgier" and "cooler" designs of the Dragon Ball Z era when the series was at its most popular.

    I'm fine with it but it's also easy to see why some people are put off. My personal opinion is that the best way to start getting some traction outside of Japan is to start fresh with a new art style but Akira Toriyama is as much a part of the "core Dragon Quest element" as anything else so that's not happening.Edited January 2017 by Jericho-GM
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #14 riderkicker A year ago
  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #15 nadiaoxford A year ago
    @Jericho-GM That's a good point. Dragon Quest definitely leans more towards "Dragon Ball" than "Dragon Ball Z." Not that it stops me from naming my characters according to the DBZ characters they most resemble.
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  • Avatar for Jeremiah-Jones #16 Jeremiah-Jones A year ago
    I couldn’t agree more with what was said in the article. My childhood RPG roots were with Final Fantasy. I don’t get the overall visual style complaints, though. VIII’s visuals were what drew me to it in the first place. Colorfully vivid games are a great thing. The characters, in their animated ways, were a fresh breath of air in comparison to the more moody heroes that I was getting sick of at the time. In a way, I get the DBZ criticism, but that’s like saying, “I don’t want to watch Disney’s Aladdin because it looks too much like Ducktales.” (I love both by the way.) Both are different enough. Yes, towards the end of the quest of DQ8, there is a “find seven orbs” quest, but once the first one is found, you realize that “That’s where these are,” then that is about done in 20 minutes. That’s 20 minutes of an 80+ hour game.

    Also, on the subject of new Dragon Quests, I really hope that XI has some sort of character creation. Even if it is only hair (beard options PLEASE!!), face, and skin. I really got spoiled with Dragon Quest IX, and when playing through Dragon Quest 8 recently, I really wanted to personalize the main character more, both personality, and look. When the story took the “control” away from me in regards to characterization, for the purpose of the story, it annoyed me a little. I haven’t had the chance to play a Persona game (you are not the only one Nadia,) but I’d love to have my Dragon Quest blank slate protagonist be able to mingle a bit more with the cast in “Dragon Questey” ways. I know it is a ridiculous amount of extra work, but what has always made me love the series is how I feel like I am the main character, and not just inhabiting another character in the story.

    Apologies for the length, I do ramble, but we have to “Get ‘spific for the Guv!” Yangus is always watching you ‘ear?
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