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 Pokémon 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. Pokémon GO has taken the world by storm as of late, but the game was developed by Niantic Inc. and The Pokémon 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):
- Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
- Madden NFL 15
- Grand Theft Auto: V
- Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U
- NBA 2K15
- Watch Dogs
- Pokemon Alpha Sapphire / Omega Ruby
- FIFA 15
Top 10 Highest-Selling Games of 2015 (1/1~12/31):
- Call of Duty: Black Ops III
- Madden NFL 16
- Fallout 4
- Star Wars: Battlefront
- Grand Theft Auto V
- NBA 2K16
- Mortal Kombat X
- FIFA 16
- Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
[TN] Bold indicates a game made by a Japanese studio.