When talking about the PlayStation as a platform, the first thing you might think about is the Japanese games. Whether if it’s Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy on the PS1 or something like Persona or Bloodborne on PS4. However, the fact of the matter is that in the current generation, Sony hasn’t had a great Japanese exclusive presence on their platform – something that seems like its changing.
When doing my recent predictions and dreams for the PS5 Showcase, I asked you, the readers, about your dreams. I got a few responses that wished for a true JRPG exclusive from Sony, or games funded by Sony made by Japanese teams. This is something I concur with, I think Sony has a great lineup of games but somehow they miss that Japanese itch currently. Even though they have great games like Gravity Rush on their platform, they seemingly forget about them during the current generation.
When the PS4 was set to launch, it would be out worldwide by November 29 worldwide… Except for Japan, who wouldn’t receive the latest hardware until February of 2014. This was something almost unheard of in earlier generation, Sony is a Japanese company and they’ve always had great support from both developments team which have always had a great (exclusive) presence on the PlayStation eco-system.
But something changed on PS4. Looking at their exclusive titles from Sony Japan, we got games like Knack, Astro Bot, and Gravity Rush 2.
The thing is, Knack’s director is Mark Cerny, which means that it has a lot of Western influence. Astro Bot Rescue Mission, while great – sadly wasn’t marketed a lot. And Gravity Rush 2, which is a game I adore – was totally forgotten. Barely marketed, and to this day Sony seems to forget about it. They even closed down the servers, which they haven’t done for almost any other exclusive game during the PS4 generation. (The example I can think of is Driveclub, which got closed servers because of the closure of the dev-team.)
Looking at third parties, you notice a similar trend. While they’ve had great exclusives like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Persona 5 on their platform, there’s been a trend of Sony losing even these exclusives.
For example, franchise Yakuza has released on Xbox, and even has a timed-exclusivity deal on the Series X. We’ve also noticed a trend of some earlier exclusives going multiplatform, an excellent example is Ni No Kuni which didn’t perform that well on PS4.
It’s worth stating that this isn’t to say that I don’t feel happy about games being available on more platforms, but I think it speaks volumes on Sony’s support of Japanese games and the feelings of the audience in Japan.
Currently, the PlayStation platform is on a downward trend in Japan, and fans of Japanese games in the west seems to be craving for more Japanese-based content. At this point, a lot of people choose the Nintendo Switch, or even the PC as their choice of platform and PlayStation is seemingly wanting to change that.
Beginning with a comment from SIE Japan Asia president who talked about Persona 5 Royale, and the importance of Persona, he said the following
Persona is one of the Japanese IPs that can compete internationally. The IP has walked alongside PlayStation ever since the first entry in 1996, I hope we can continue walking together in the future.
Persona is developed by Atlus, which is in turn owned by SEGA. They’re currently working on Shin Megami Tensei V for the Nintendo Switch. However, Sony seems to want Persona exclusively on the PlayStation eco-system going forward – similar to their positioning on the western side regarding Marvel’s Spider-Man which brings us to the next part, Square Enix.
After months of rumors regarding the subject, we know that Sony is trying to be closer to Japanese publisher, Square Enix. For example, Final Fantasy VII Remake has a timed-exclusivity on PS4, and even more recently, we have Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers, Project Athia, and Final Fantasy XVI all being console exclusive – in other words, they will only be available on the PlayStation eco-system in the console world.
This news are huge, and Sony seems to be pushing for a closer relationship with Japanese publishers and the overall market.
This is also further strengthened by the latest PS5 Showcase, in which the release date was finally confirmed for the PS5. However, different from the PS4 launch, Japan got the prime release date together with places like North America. In an interview that AV Watch held with Jim Ryan earlier this week, he said the following
The release in Japan and the release in the United States are the same days. It was of utmost importance to announce that.
We have a lot of negotiations going on to spend more time and build good relationships with major Japanese publishers. We have a very good relationship with Koei Tecmo as well as Square Enix and Capcom. It was a big strategic goal to have a close relationship with all Japanese game publishers.
He further stated the importance of the Japanese gaming community in the interview, saying:
The Japanese game market and the Japanese game community are one of the most important markets in the world for PlayStation.
We would like to thank everyone for their appreciation for the attention and concentration we are showing to the Japanese market, such as setting a simultaneous release date with North America and paying attention to the relationship with Japanese publishing partners.
This is interesting. Not only is he mentioning Sony’s relationship with Square Enix – but he’s also talking about Koei Tecmo and Capcom. I suspect that similar to the exclusivity deals we’ve seen with SE, that we might see something from Koei Tecmo and Capcom.
One thing Sony is currently lacking is a big fighting game exclusive on its platform, and Capcom can fill that spot. Street Fighter V was exclusive to the PS4 and PC, and the rumors of SFVI having a troubled development could back up the fact that Sony would be able to once again secure the franchise by funding the development for Capcom.
What intrigues me, even more, is Koei Tecmo. I’m guessing that it means further investment in the Nioh franchise, but I’d be very happy if we one day got to see the fabled PlayStation crossover in a Musou game.
What’s even more interesting about Jim Ryan’s comment is the fact that he heavily emphasizes the importance of Japan, the audience in Japan, and the games that come from Japan. It seems like Sony sees it as one of the most important focuses going into the next generation.
The most likely answer, in my opinion, is that Sony is going to fund and publish multiple titles for different developers. Basically, the same as they did for Final Fantasy XVI, they’ll pay for exclusivity. Some games I think we’re almost guaranteed to see at some point are Nioh 3, Persona 6, and something *big* from Capcom like an exclusive Dino Crisis remake or, more believable, Street Fighter VI.
But I do think we need to look at a recent Sony Corporate Report, in which it says the following
In addition to improving the personnel and work environment in its own studios, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) continues to invest in, or acquire, firms with abundant creativity and cutting-edge technologies to build up Worldwide Studios (WWS), an association of first-party title production studios.
This confirms and backs up the fact that Sony is investing in exclusive content, but there’s one word in there that I think is the big one. “Acquire”
The latest acquisition from Sony was Insomniac Games in 2019, which is already looking like an amazing get since they’re putting out two launch-window titles for the PS5 in Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
I think that while Sony keeps investing in companies like Square Enix, Koei Tecmo, and Capcom, we will see them acquire a Japanese-based development team. Whether if it’s a team like Level-5, Falcom or Mediavision I think there’s a good chance of Sony trying to grow their internal studios by acquiring a Japanese based development team.
Perhaps the most interesting possibility (that would surely anger a lot of people) would be Kadokawa Entertainment. If you don’t know, Kadokawa owns a lot of manga and anime-based titles, and more importantly, they own FromSoftware. (Dark Souls, Sekiro, Elden Ring)
The reason that this would make sense for Sony is plenty. From getting one of the most beloved gaming studios in FromSoftware to furthering increasing their manga and anime output – something that Sony also recently talked about.
The gist is that Sony wants to invest and conquer the anime market, they currently own Funimation, own a big stake in Bibili, and is rumored to acquire anime-giant Crunchyroll. They also produce their own animes like Demon Slayer. Seemingly, Sony also wants to invest in anime-exclusive games for the PlayStation and kind of meshing the brands together.
This would make Kadokawa a great get since it fits with multiple departments of Sony. They’ve previously created Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne together, and I while I foresee the anger of FromSoftware fans, I can also foresee a lot of excitement for the possibility of Bloodborne II.
All in all, I think that there’s a lot of proof of Sony wanting more exclusive games made by Japanese developers on their platform. I think that what they’re currently doing with Square Enix is only the beginning of something much bigger and in the coming years, we might see a big change in support for Japan.
This would be a great change, seeing as the PS4 sometimes felt like it forgot about its audience and games in Japan. Looking at the travesty that is the treatment of Gravity Rush is a great example of Sony ignoring the greatness of Japanese games.
The Playstation Worldwide Studios currently consists of 12 dev-teams, one support team, and one phone-gaming team. From those 14 studios, there are only three Japanese based ones. Japan Studio rumored to be working on Silent Hill, Polyphony Studios who is developing Gran Turismo 7, and Forward Works which is developing games for phones.
While Sony has (In my opinion) the best exclusive games on the market, with examples like Last of Us, God of War, Spider-Man, Ratchet & Clank, etc – the big piece missing is Japanese games. I think it’s about time Sony further invests in the market and their games, and I am very excited about the future of Sony’s further investments in Japan.