While the PlayStation 4 is kicking ass and taking names in the rest of the world, in Sony's home region of Japan, the system is lagging behind. The PS4 is trailing behind the 3DS and PlayStation Vita, but it also slots in behind the Wii U on a week-to-week basis. According to the weekly Media Create numbers, the PS4 has only sold 671,683 units in Japan, which puts it at a fraction of the 10 million PS4s sold worldwide. That's partially because Japan seems to prefer portable consoles, but it's also because the PlayStation 4 just doesn't have enough great games for the Japanese consumer.
Last night was Sony's pre-Tokyo Game Show press conference, giving fans a glimpse at what they could expect to see at TGS on September 18-21. It was Sony's chance to say to the Japanese consumer, "We haven't forgotten you. The PS4 and Vita has content you want." It was also the chance for Western gamers to see what Japanese-developed games may be heading their way in the next few years. Back in the day, most of these products remains in Japan, but with publishers like NIS America, Atlus, and XSEED on the case, we're getting many of these games domestically.
Vita Means Life
Sony Computer Entertainment Japan president Atsushi Morita kicked off the entire thing with a focus on the PlayStation Vita, a system which the company ignored at its E3 press event. The Vita has been well-positioned as a home for Japanese titles and indie games, giving it a solid, but unimpressive niche in the market. It's refreshing to see a solid push on the portable, even if that push probably won't do anything to help the system with the mainstream. Sony announced that 100 new Vita games will be released in Japan by the end of March next year.
The first game on display was Zettai Zetsubou Shoujo - Danganronpa Another Episode, a spinoff of the Danganronpa series that trades in the visual novel gameplay for a third-person shooter. The game stars Komaru Naegi, younger sister of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc lead Makoto Naegi, and takes place in-between Danganronpa 1 & 2. (Note: Danganronpa 2 is coming out this week!)
Danganronpa was quickly followed by Phantasy Star Nova, an action RPG in the long-running Phantasy Star series coming to Japan in November. Then there was Samurai Warriors Chronicles 2 coming in December, a new Way of the Samurai game, the customizable Gundam Breaker 2, rhythm game Deemo, and strategy RPG Luminous Arc Infinity in a series of quick trailers.
Sony also made an effort to reach out to female gamers with the announcement of a new NeoRomance game from Tecmo Koei and another entry in Nippon Ichi Software's Uta no Prince-sama series. In addition to the otome titles, Sony will be releasing a new Light Pink/White PlayStation Vita in Japan on November 13.
The company detailed PlayStation Vita update 3.30, which will add support for Vita themes. The themes will work like PlayStation 3 themes, changing the background, icons, and music of your PlayStation Vita. It's a small addition, but further customization of your consoles is always a plus in my book.
Japan Gets Into the Next Generation
The PlayStation 4 portion of the press event got off to a rough start with trailers for Japanese releases of Western-developed titles like Destiny, Assassin's Creed Unity, The Crew, Far Cry 4, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, LittleBigPlanet 3, and The Order: 1886. In fact, it looked like that was all Japanese PS4 fans were going to get: re-dubbed versions of the West's biggest titles. Not exactly the most exciting line-up for Japanese fans, though games like Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us have found success in the region.
There were a number of Japanese games on display that had previously been announced: Bloodborne, The Tomorrow Children, Kingdom Under Fire 2, Let It Die, Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War & Nightmare, Dead or Alive 5: Final Round, and Disgaea 5. Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair also popped-up, an enhanced version of Earth Defense Force 2025 for PS4. Many of these were exciting announcements for fans, but nothing particularly new. Sony was probably ready for that though, because their next few titles were legitimately surprising.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 picks up where the 3DS game left off with a brand-new cast and new setting. The team behind the first Revelations is developing this new game, meaning the classic Resident Evil-style gameplay will be coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC. I'm looking forward to moving beyond the Chris, Jill, Leon, and the rest; I'm glad Capcom is giving the Revelations team a chance to shine. According to Capcom, we'll hear more RE:R2 at Tokyo Game Show.
Dragon Quest: Heroes for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 brings the Japanese juggernaut RPG series to the Musou genre, because everything needs a Musou version. The game is a collaboration between Square Enix, Koei Tecmo, and Omega Force. Dragon Quest: Heroes is coming in spring 2015. Sony also announced that a Dragon Quest Metal Slime Edition PlayStation 4 will launch alongside the game.
Persona 5, originally planned for PlayStation 3 only, was revealed as coming for PlayStation 4. A new trailer showed off the protagonist, but didn't reveal much else about the game. Persona 5 is coming to PS3 and PS4 in 2015. It'll probably be horribly messed-up in concept, but an amazing game to play. Perfect Persona.
A new Ys is also in the cards. Falcom announced that the new Ys puts players back in the armor of Adol Christin and it's set in the Goethe Sea region. The game is coming for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in 2015.
God Eater 2: Rage Burst for PS4 and Vita is one of the few announced games coming this year. Yakuza Zero for PS4? 2015. Marvelous unveiled Senran Kagura: Estival Versus for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, coming March 26, 2015. One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 for PS4, PS3, and Vita is coming in 2015 as well. An unnamed Gundam game is coming the same year. Hurting for some new Touhou Project games? The doujin game series will be coming to PS4 and Vita at some undisclosed release date.
Finally, Bandai Namco's Tekken team revealed its tech demo for the Project Morpheus virtual reality headset. The demo is called Summer Lesson and involves the player interacting with a young schoolgirl. Summer Lesson will be available to the public during Tokyo Game Show. Honestly, I'm not surprised such a demo is coming out of Japan. I expected it to happen with Project Morpheus, but I expected it to come from Konami: Project Morpheus + Fox Engine + Love Plus = Instant Bank. It'll be interesting to see how the tech demo turns out, even if the teaser video looks less than innocent at points.
The newly-announced titles coming to PlayStation 4 seemed to be cross-platform titles. Sony remains committed to making it easy for developers to create games across the entire PlayStation family: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita. Many of these new titles for PS4 are also coming to PS3 and Vita; a few were even PS3-only games until the press conference.
Sony's obviously been working with developers to bring content to the PlayStation 4, even if that content doesn't completely use the system's power. The Ys gameplay looked like a PlayStation 3 title with a further draw distance, for example. For Sony, it's about convincing Japanese PS3 owners that they can upgrade to the PS4 without missing out on any of their favorite titles. Taken together with the PlayStation Vita versions and possible Cross-Save options, Sony could position the PlayStation 4 as the home waystation for Vita's most popular titles.
Is that compelling to Japanese gamers? I'm not sure. I am happy that games like Persona 5 and One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 are moving on up; anything that lets me bin my PS3 a bit earlier is a win in my book. We'll have to see how most of these games turn out in playable form at Tokyo Game Show.