The Substantial Barrier of AAA Games”” Sakurai Col. 514″

sakurai-514-barrier-of-aaa-games

Note: Do not repost the full translation. Please use the first two paragraphs and link to this translation. For additional information, please read this post. This translation is for fan use only, and may not accurately reflect the opinions of Masahiro Sakurai.

This column was originally published on September 29th, 2016.

[TN] indicates a translation note. It is not present in the original text.

Famitsu, Vol. 514 – “The Substantial Barrier of AAA Games”

“I can’t believe it,” I thought to myself. “Is this even possible!?”

Such was my internal monologue when Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U won the Global Award for a Japanese Product at the 2016 Japan Game Awards. The recipient of this prize is determined purely by the number of copies sold. In other words, Smash was recognized as the highest-selling Japanese game worldwide according to this year’s data!

This alone was quite a surprise, but the real shock is that Smash won the very same award last year! This means that, regardless of the difference in sales across two separate data collecting periods, the game sold more copies worldwide than any other Japanese game two years in a row.

“C’mon, there’s no way!” I couldn’t believe my ears. This outcome was unprecedented in both the Japanese and Foreign divisions—the first-ever two-year streak in the history of the Global Award. The winner of the Foreign division has always been the highest-selling game worldwide, but that title has always changed from year to year.

Smash has set an impressive record. I’d like to take this opportunity to once again thank everyone involved in its success: the creators who so kindly lent us their characters, the staff who expended their best efforts over a difficult development cycle, the marketing and sales employees who promoted the game, and the fans who have supported us the whole time. Two years have passed since Smash went on sale, but now is as good a time as ever to raise a glass to its success.

That said, the game developer side of me simply cannot rejoice at this news because Japanese games have all but disappeared from the list of Top 10 Highest-Selling Games Worldwide.

This year saw a number of titles that seemed to have a shot at doing well overseas: Splatoon, Super Mario Maker, Dark Souls III, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, to name a few. All of them sold rather well, but not a single one managed to scrape its way into the Top 10.

Moreover, this trend of Japanese games getting outpaced on the global stage shows no sign of stopping. Only a new Pokémon is able to eke out a spot in the Top 10, but just barely. Games like Wii Fit rode to the top on the wave of the Wii’s booming success, but sales began dwindling as Western games began to dominate the charts.

Japanese games are gradually losing their presence in the global market with every passing year, and there is data to support this conclusion. Pokémon GO has taken the world by storm as of late, but the game was developed by Niantic Inc. and The Pokémon Company. In other words, it was not an exclusively Japanese effort.  

The “wall” of AAA titles is hard to break through. Pick one up and you’ll instantly recognize the impressive amount of capital and technology that went into its creation. There are many wonderful, carefully crafted AAA games out there, but their brilliance cannot be emulated.

At the same time, I’d like to make one thing very clear: sales aren’t everything! I think it’s perfectly sensible to select your target audience and create a game that will drive them wild. If nothing else, that particular group will love it.

However, if you’re going to make a game, it’s also only natural to want to have as many people play it as possible.

There’s no inherent divide, though. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in Japan or anywhere else in the world. Our goal as developers is the same: we want players to enjoy our games.

It all depends on the next project I undertake, but I’ve already proven Japanese games can resonate with the rest of the world, and I’d like to continue doing so in whatever way I can.

Thankfully, Smash was a game that ended up supporting a lot of other games. It’s been proven that including a character as a fighter generates publicity for said character and their respective series. I’m very pleased that Smash can positively promote other titles.

Top 10 Highest-Selling Games of 2014 (1/1~12/31):

    1. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
    2. Madden NFL 15
    3. Destiny
    4. Grand Theft Auto: V
    5. Minecraft
    6. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U
    7. NBA 2K15
    8. Watch Dogs
    9. Pokemon Alpha Sapphire / Omega Ruby
    10. FIFA 15

Top 10 Highest-Selling Games of 2015 (1/1~12/31):

  1. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  2. Madden NFL 16
  3. Fallout 4
  4. Star Wars: Battlefront
  5. Grand Theft Auto V
  6. NBA 2K16
  7. Minecraft
  8. Mortal Kombat X
  9. FIFA 16
  10. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
[TN] Bold indicates a game made by a Japanese studio.


Translation by:

Masked Man
Nintendo Network SB Icon Twitter icon reddit icon

Checked by:

PushDustIn
ask fm email icon Facebook Icon SB Icon Nintendo Network Twitter icon 2015-12-30 (3) reddit icon

PushDustIn
Look at me!

PushDustIn

Founder at Source Gaming
PushDustIn is the founder and administrator of Source Gaming. Being obsessed with the history and development of games isn’t easy. Building a reputation on his research, translations, and article write ups, PushDustIn fully encapsulates the meaning of a 'data-miner'. PushDustIn has studied Japanese for over six years, and has lived in Japan for over four. The name PushDustIn comes from a garbage can in Osaka (Push Dust In). He lives with a very spoiled cat named Kuma.

Mains: Yoshi (64), Game and Watch (Melee), Wario (Brawl), Wario/Pac-Man (Smash for 3DS/Wii U)
PushDustIn
Look at me!
Share this!

75 comments

  1. “Thankfully, Smash was a game that ended up supporting a lot of other games. It’s been proven that including a character as a fighter generates publicity for said character and their respective series. I’m very pleased that Smash can positively promote other titles.”

    Could Sakurai be any further from the mark? Name one series that got a boost of sales due to some form of inclusion from Smash Bros. None. There is no series of Nintendo’s that had gotten more popular. Mario, Zelda, & Pokemon certainly did not need Smash Bros. & it’s proven that post Smash Bros. with Splatoon that games can organically gain popularity.

    He tried to desperately shove Fire Emblem down our throats with every Smash Bros. game, & still the series had been on life support only until the Nintendo 3DS & Fire Emblem Awakening, along with Nintendo finally distributing free demos of their games. It wasn’t as if that was Intelligent System’s only IP that Sakurai could have taken a certain character from. Gee, I wonder when he’s finally coming…

    Bayonetta is another game. Nowhere near the success of Street Fighter, Final Fantasy, or Mega Man, so Sakurai said, “we’ll pretend like she is”, painted the narrative that she of all characters had been the most requested from a given period of time. Why does Sakurai all of a sudden after 18 years need a “fan ballot”, & how in the world could his team have been able to finish Bayonetta from the end of it to the Smash Bros. Direct 8 weeks later?

    Smash Bros. should be treated less like an advertisement of Sakurai’s pet projects and more like an actual Nintendo “hall of fame”. When Ryu & Cloud were announced as DLC, it attracted a lot of attention, as they were huge for Smash Bros. Corrin & Bayonetta are laughable in comparison. As I keep stressing, Smash Bros does not add value to games, but it’s completely the other way around.

    1. Smash 4 came out after Awakening, so I don’t really see where the ‘Sakurai forcing Fire Emblem’ is coming from, also Fates sales seem to prove the exact opposite of what you’re arguing.

      1. So then let’s put another Donkey Kong character in Smash Bros so that it can promote Tropical Freeze. Or Chibi Robo & its terribly selling game. Oh right, Sakurai will only add characters from games that matter to him.

        Corrin was revealed as well as released as a Smash Bros character, before his game even came out in the west. So whether or not the game would do well, it’s yet another hand-picked favorite that Smash Bros. is going to be stuck with.

        1. Yeah thats sort of my point, can’t really prove that Corrin being added to Smash improved sales of Fates but there may certainly be a correlation.

          Also you can’t really blame Sakurai for a lack of viable DK reps, also wasn’t Chibi Robos most recent title an Amiibo exclusive? Speaking of series on life support…

            1. Dixie is one of my most wanted Smash newcomers but her moveset potential is very limited, and I don’t think TF did very much to change that.

            1. I’m merely considering that Dixie wasn’t a priority based on the information we have on how the Smash roster is selected.

    2. Since Sakurai works in the industry, he presumably got this impression from others who, you know, are privy to sales data and can confirm a positive effect from Smash Bros. I’m not sure you or anyone in this community is qualified to say what effect Smash had on, say, Fire Emblem.

      1. Or you know, sales numbers increase because they’re known to be good games? So what about the “god’s gift to action games” that Sakurai was preaching about a while back, Bayonetta 2?

        It is still not even past three quarters of a million copies sold. Great plan, Daddy Sakurai!

    3. Eh, I feel like the Fire Emblem characters in Melee helped make the first localized Fire Emblem a success.
      On a side note, I find it rather quaint to say “He tried to desperately shove Fire Emblem down our throats with every Smash Bros. game” when Brawl, like Melee, just had two reps. (With Roy being replaced with Ike.) I’ll accept he went over board with Smash 4, but with Brawl?

      1. It created this stigma in Sakurai’s mind that every with new Fire Emblem story, there needs to be a character in Smash Bros. I would not be shocked if one of the new characters in the Switch game is Chrom from Tokyo Mirage Sessions.

        1. Again, this seems to be your own personal stigma moreso than having anything to do with Sakurai; Awakening at the very least deserved its own rep, with Lucina being a ‘free dessert’ and Corrin being a character that Sakurai dev team pushed for more than Sakurai himself.

            1. This is Source Gaming; I’m merely paraphrasing from the numerous translations provided here. If you choose to believe that you are being told lies, that is your own misguided opinion.

        2. Eh, I still wouldn’t say replacing Roy (who was new during Melee) With Ike is “desperately shoving”,
          nor do I really see how that defined the moment that a stigma was created.

          1. How is it that Fire Emblem went from 3 characters in Smash Bros to 6, while Donkey Kong doesn’t even have a villain character? Mario should get that many, Zelda & the Pokemon should get that many. Not Fire Emblem is nowhere close to being a flagship brand. More people know who Rosalina is over Marth.

            1. Theres a number of articles on this site that explore how characters are chosen for the Smash roster, I suggest you try reading them. Lets not forget that Fire Emblem has been around since the Famicom in Japan.

            2. Well more like 2 to 6, since Roy was replaced in Brawl. (I am pretty sure we wouldn’t count Toon Link as a third Link since Young Link was replaced in Brawl.)

              As for how Fire Emblem got 6 suddenly, it kinda makes sense to a degree. Awakening was a huge hit, so we got Robin. Lucina was just going to be a alternate Marth Skin, but became her own character due to the minimal effort needed to do so. I don’t really recall people complaining with these two.

              Roy got in as DLC due to popular demand. (Like Lucas and Mewtwo)

              As for Corrin… I honestly don’t know, though I do recall SG doing articles about the reasons for his/her inclusion.

            3. Probably because in the long run, Donkey Kong is considered more a Mario sub-series than its own thing – Nintendo themselves seem to think so as Donkey Kong and Diddy are given amiibo in the Super Mario series, as opposed to separating them and giving them a set of amiibo to represent Donkey Kong.

              And Sakurai might share the mindset, as the very first event match in Smash 4 is Bowser and Donkey Kong, both explicitly mentioned to be Mario’s rivals – go against him.

              Or the rivalry between Mario and DK in Rosalina’s trailer, as opposed to Mario and Bowser, who was also racing with them before Kirby jumped in (Kirby for Mario Kart 8 Switch – Kirby has been seen in more Nintendo things lately especially with that costume in Miitopia)

              Now, Sakurai might like DKC more, since we’ve had more Jungle themed levels than Construction sites, but that doesn’t exclusively mean we’ll get a villain for the DK series – when we just got Diddy in Brawl and K. Rool didn’t make any real significant appearance between Brawl and Smash 4.

              As for Fire Emblem’s increase in characters – easy. Marth is the series’ mascot akin to Mario, Ike plays Marth’s opposite, Robin’s a magic user, Lucina was a costume made clone, Roy was the only character cut from Melee that seemed to make sense (Mewtwo and Doc were already there, Toon Link replaced Young Link… Not sure what Pichu would add – a reason to buff Jiggs perhaps?), and Corrin was pushed upon since FE was having a new entry and could provide unique gameplay.

              In a sense, FE really had 4 reps, only with two clones.

            4. @KL-Cobalt
              “Now, Sakurai might like DKC more”
              If anything Sakurai likes the arcade game more. DKC has always received lackluster content. It always gets jungle stages despite the fact that there’s so many unique environments in the DK games. Dixie and K. Rool haven’t received any acknowledgement beyond trophies. BArely any DKC remixes besides DK Island Swing again and again, despite the games being praised for their amazing soundtracks. No DK series assist trophies. Tropical Freeze didn’t even get a stage in Smash 4. Hell, that Diddy was originally going to be part of a tag-team with Dixie suggests he doesn’t even feel Diddy is important enough to stand on his own initially.

              This was recently brought up in the livestream a couple of days ago, but Push suggested Sakurai associates DK more with his origins as Mario’s rival, and I think that is very likely. Also, notice that the only DK items in Smash are from the arcade games, none from the platformers.

              Fire Emblem’s overepresentation was just unacceptable, and clones aren’t a good justification since he doesn’t have to add them. Lucina could have been Marth’s alt and nobody would have cared, and Awakening already had a newcomer so there was no need for a second. Mewtwo was DLC, so he can already count as the Melee rep rather than Roy. Corrin’s game wasn’t even out worldwide, and Sakurai claimed the last few DLC characters would be fanservice.

              Four characters was pushing it, five was overrepping, six was overkill. It should have just been Marth, Ike and Robin.

    4. I think Fire Emblem and Kid Icarus are the best (or worse depending on your point of view) cases of a series being helped. F-Zero almost certainly increased in recognition, but it is still fairly niche plus there just aren’t that many games to actually buy. Oh, and Xenoblade, probably helped that one a bit.

  2. Have you stopped to consider that you may be biased against Fire Emblem? It seems to be a recurring trend in the Smash fanbase.

      1. I’m sorry but having played Fire Emblem doesn’t make you immune to bias; thats like saying ‘I have friends who are minorities, therefore I cannot be a racist’.

        1. Why would I play 5 games of a series I hate? It’s possible to be an advocate of the series and assume its worth accordingly. People are more aware of the least-known Mario character than they are of the most-known Fire Emblem character in Smash Bros. That is fact, not bias.

        2. Why would I play 5 games of a series I hate? It’s possible to be a fan of the series and assume its worth accordingly. People are more aware of the least-known Mario character than they are of the most-known Fire Emblem character in Smash Bros. That is fact, not bias.

          1. Hate =! Bias

            Don’t really know how you can claim your last point as ‘fact’ when the Mario series is so broad that there are probably some minor charcters so niche even hardcore gamers don’t know them.

      2. Honestly, I think the old ones weren’t that great, but I loved Awakening…Fates I have not played nor do I intend to.

        1. Fates improved on the core gameplay of Awakening in almost every way possible, i can’t begin to fathom why you feel it’s not worth playing.

            1. …If that is supposed to be a “I’m too salty” joke, you should try harder. I have real reasons for avoiding that game. Besides, I heard the plot was meh.

  3. He’s not off the mark when it comes to me! The moment a character from a game was revealed that I wasn’t familiar with, assuming their game was still on store shelves, I did my best to grab it. That is how I got FE:Awakening, Xenoblade Chronicles (my local Gamestop at the time had two “used” copies), and even Bayonetta 2.

    All of which proved to be very solid purchases! Xenoblade itself held me for a good two to three months, even!

  4. I’m surprised people in the comments are still arguing about “too many FE characters” or “too many swordsman characters”, this is just my opinion, but I’ll be honest, while i haven’t played as much fire emblem other than path of Radiance or awakening, there’s no reason to get mad just because Sakurai added more FE characters, that’s like saying there’s “too many Mario, Zelda, or Pokemon characters”, its best to appreciate Sakurai and his team for working endlessly on smash 3ds/wiiu.

    As for the “too many swordsman characters”, that’s just another “fan-made” rule people made because they’re ranting about the silliest things, saying there’s too many swordsman characters is like saying there’s “too many bare-hands and feet characters” , Mario, DK, Fox, C.Falcon, Wario, Sheik, Sonic, Pac-Man, even Ganondorf fights with just with hands and feet, they just have different fighting styles just like any swordsman characters, so there’s no point in arguing.

    1. Haha, there is a reason for Mario to have the most characters. There is no reason or excuse for a series that has flopped for most of its life cycle to have more characters than Zelda.

      The sword wielding characters have sizable advantages against bare handed characters. Classifying Little Mac, Sonic, Captain Falcon, & DK as the same type of fighter is ridiculous. However, every character what wields a sword has extra power, extended range, and high speed, over almost every bare handed character.

      1. Lucina doesn’t have extra power, Meta Knight doesn’t have extended range, Ike doesn’t have high speed. You need to watch your use of inclusive words, else you leave your argument prone to holes like these.

    2. Because Fire Emblem is obviously on the same playing field as Mario, Zelda, or Pokemon. It’s B-list at best.

      1. The entire notion that franchises only deserve reps based on sales, or any other percieved hierarchy, holds no bearing in reality. This has been proven time and time again yet some fans still hold the opinion as truth despite there being no factual basis for it.

        1. I’m not saying that’s how it works; I’m saying that’s how it should work to some degree at the least. And up until this point it kind of did hold true. The bigger names almost always got more characters so thus Fire Emblem’s representation is mind boggling. It is far from Nintendo’s fourth biggest franchise, and yet it is tied with Pokemon for the second most fighters. Name recognition and sales both support that.

          1. Everyone has a different opinion on what Smash Bros should be, but considering that Sakurai bases his character selection on a completely different set of guidelines than what you believe they should be, I would expect continued disappointment for those who cling to patterns that no longer hold true. With that said, the recent “boom” in sales of the FE series is obviously one reason why characters like Robin, Corrin and Lucina made the roster.

            1. That’s another thing, people (especially this site) keep praising Sakurai as a genius that is always right. He has made great games sure, but he is still fallible. He has started to pick characters he wants over ones that should have made it. Then when people like me disagree with that, people like you dismiss us like we are unlearned children. It’s condescending.

        2. Nope, even Sakurai saying he thought six Fire Emblem characters was too much should tell you that franchises should be represented based on how big they are is perfectly reasonable, and arguably the most objective way to decide how many characters a series should be entitled to.

    3. There is every reason to get mad. Mario, Zelda and Pokemon are Nintendo’s biggest franchises and have the most games, so it’s fair that they get the most characters. Fire Emblem is nowhere near as big as any of those three; it does not deserve six characters, and certainly should not have more than Zelda and as many as Pokemon. Sakurai is not some sacred being that should be shielded from critisism; if he makes a bad call, it should be called-out.

      The “too many swordfighters is like saying too many fist-fighters” argument is highly flawed. There is so many ways you can fight with your body, you can be a straight-up brawler like Captain Falcon, a pure power character that throws their weight around like Bowser, a kick focused character like Fox, or just down-right wacky and random attacks like Wario. A sword is a specific weapon. You can use it different from others but you can only swing a sword differently a certain amount of ways before it starts to become similar to someone else. It doesn’t help that there are three clone characters that use them too, or that every Fire Emblem character has one while other weapons in the series like axes and lances are completely ignored.

  5. @Arthur97: I’m sorry if you feel you’re being spoken down to but pointing out the endless amount of logical discrepancies in the ‘Sakurai is biased’ argument is not the same as praising Sakurai.

    1. It is hardly endless nor logical. He. Is. Biased. Everyone is, but you all seem to think he is immune. Even your latest comment reeks of arrogance. It’s like talking to posts.

      1. We all acknowledge Sakurai is human, and therefore has bias. And so do you, I and everyone else. So theres no meaning in criticizing Sakurai if you aren’t also capable of taking criticism. You’ve already stated you believe the roster ‘should’ be different, and you have the right to that opinion. And I guarantee that everyone else here has their own opinions about the roster, including myself. You don’t have to agree with Sakurai, but its hypocritical to blame Sakurai when you’re just as biased as you claim him to be. Not to mention the absurdity of criticizing a man you’ve never met because he may or may not have a different opinion than you. I don’t necessarily agree with the roster either, but I at least care enough to understand why he chose each character, because I actually like playing Smash bros.

        1. You yourself are assuming that you know why I say what I say. For every argument you make there is always a counter argument, so get off of your high horse. His choices have become increasingly suspect, and, while he may be a great guy, he is showing that he may not be the best. Also, don’t bother replying if you can’t do it without looking oh so smug.

          1. Again, that is your opinion, if you wish to make your claim on the basis of fact I would happily refute it, but I really don’t see the point of trying to argue over an inherently subjective claim.

  6. ‘Sakurai is biased because there are too many Fire Emblem characters’ is a subjective claim.

    ”Sakurai is biased because there are too many Fire Emblem characters’ is a subjective claim’ is an objective claim.

          1. No, but I think you’re implying there is a causality between franchise ‘size’ and the number of Smash reps in Smash 4, when Sakurai uses a completely different criteria for deciding the roster.

            1. If it wasn’t the case, Mario, Zelda and Pokemon wouldn’t have a lot of characters and series like Star Fox, F-Zero and Earthbound wouldn’t have so little.

  7. Correlation =! Causality. ‘Bigger’ series are more likely to have more characters in Smash because there are more viable characters to choose from. Also, you are aware that Fire Emblem has had 14 main series installments, and therefore ‘bigger’ than F-Zero, Star Fox, and Earthbound, no?

    1. Yes. Are you aware that Zelda and Pokemon have more installments than Fire Emblem, and are therefore bigger.

      Kirby has more games than Fire Emblem. Hell, Fire Emblem barely has more games than Metroid. Why the hell do you think Fire Emblem deserves to have one of the biggest representations in the roster. Why do you think it deserves to be with the likes of Mario and Pokemon? Why do you think it deserves more than The Legend of Zelda? What do achieve by defending this?

  8. It’s called ‘having an opinion’. And as I already stated, my opinion is not the same as Sakurai’s, but I can understand why those characters were chosen over other possibilities.

  9. If any answer would be ‘unsatisfactory’, in your opinion, then why does it matter to you that I’m defending it?

    1. To make sure there’s at least some sense of logic behind it and not just blind Sakurai fanboyism. But I’m expecting some lame reason like “Awakening revived the franchise, so therefore it deserves six characters”.

        1. Why is any decision Sakurai makes automatically good? Is the guy who only worked on Kirby before Smash allowed to dictate that Fire Emblem is bigger than it actually is?

          1. I didn’t ask if Sakurai’s opinion was ‘good’ or ‘bad’, I asked you if you think it is valid; or specifically, why you think only your opinion is valid.

            1. Sakurai’s opinions are no more valid than anyone else’s. He may have made Smash, but he didn’t create all the franchises that star in, thus his opinions on any he didn’t work on shouldn’t be treated as the ultimate opinion. Fire Emblem is not big enough to deserve six characters. Zelda is an objectively bigger franchise, and so is Pokemon. This is not subjective. You know even Sakurai thought Corrin was pushing it, right?

              Also you haven’t even attempted to explain why you think it’s fair for Fire Emblem to have that many.

  10. I never said Sakurai’s opinion was more valid than yours; likewise your opinion is no more valid than Sakurai’s. Not to mention Sakurai doesn’t decide the roster based on ‘franchise’, he does so on the basis of ‘characters’; so while you may be right about Fire Emblem being smaller than Zelda, its only by your own subjective criteria that it matters in this discussion.

  11. Look, can you just admit that maybe, just maybe, you can be wrong. This “opinion” battle is going nowhere. Who knows who is right, but you should at least admit that there is a chance that you are wrong. I might be wrong, but so could you.

        1. How am I being condecending? I quite honestly think you can’t tell the difference between a fact and an opinion.

Comments are closed.