BitSummit 2015: Is There A Future For PC Games In Japan?

PC titles still largely fly under the radar in Japan, but the scene is evolving. Events like BitSummit are bringing PC indies further into the spotlight, and developers are beginning to realize there is a real market for their games, even if it isn’t in Japan.

“Steam is metamorphosing the PC environment for Japanese games and Japanese developers,” said Australian game designer Santana Mishara. The games have always been here, with Comiket and people making their own fan games. They’ve always been here, but there’s never been a way to get them out to people. That is changing.”

The influx of Western developers living and working in Japan and interacting with Japanese developers at game shows is another positive for an industry still growing and trying to carve out a place for itself.

“I think games like Crypts of the NecroDancer work very well in Japan,” says Japan-based developer Matthieu Guillemot of Little Big MMO, which is developing Gangs of Space. “It’s a pure Western game, but it comes to Japan, it has some success and it shows Japanese players and Japanese developers that you can do a very good game with just a few people. I think it will have an effect on new people who will become indie.”

Japanese Indie Games To Watch

Back In 1995 – Throw the warped code out

If you have a taste for retro games but are tired of pixel art, take a look at Back In 1995. The game is Takaaki Ichijo’s homage to 90’s PlayStation action titles. The build he showed off at BitSummit used a modern controller, but no action was mapped to the analog sticks because, “there were no analog sticks in 1995!” The game plays and mostly looks like the original Silent Hill (sans the fog), though it’s more action than survival horror.

JumpGun – TeamHiropon

You can’t jump (on your own at least) but everything else can in this puzzler from Japanese developers TeamHiropon. The goal is to get from one side of the map to the exit on the other side, by shooting obstacles to make them jump and running underneath. Vertical movement is achieved by shooting at a mirror and then shooting the bullet that ricochets back as the maps get more difficult.

Downwell – moppin
Downwell is a fun, simple, and challenging vertical shooter in which you spend most of the game falling and shooting the obstacles and enemies below you. There isn’t much beyond that, but it works.

Kappa Namooooon – SKT
Turning back an army of Kappas is a workout. At BitSummit, you slipped on a pair of gloves and thrust open-palmed at the screen to repel an army one of Japan’s most famous traditional yokai (monsters) in a game that was popular with the crowd.

Forget Me Not: My Organic Garden – CAVYHOUSE
The story helps make this title by doujin team CAVYHOUSE There’s not much in the way of pure action, but the premise is interesting. You are the proprietress of a special greenhouse and tasked with seeding, watering and maintaining a garden that sprouts human organs instead of plants. These organs are then harvested and sold to needing customers.

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15 Comments

  1. TimRobbins says:

    I don’t understand why japanese devs don’t see how lucrative Steam has been in the rest of the world. I would be drooling to fund english translation for my games to get them up on the Steam storefront, even if my games wouldn’t make a huge splash at home.

    • LTK says:

      If your entire gaming network is Japanese, how are you planning to get on Steam in the first place? A developer who doesn’t speak English is hardly going to run a succesful Greenlight campaign.

    • Scumbag says:

      As strange as this may sound Japan is mostly still a physical media nation. While stuff like MP3s and whatnot have finally caught on, games and magazines are still preferred to be in physical copies. That and Japan’s obscene internal pricing system.

    • DanMan says:

      If there aren’t enough gamers in your country, you’d need to translate it. That can be a problem, if you’re on a miniscule budget, because you’ll have to hire someone who probably doesn’t care how little you’re getting out of it. They just want to get paid.

    • Unsheep says:

      Steam is only lucrative if you make a GOOD mainstream game, for each success there are dozens of flops.

      Releasing indie games through PlayStation is most likely easier and more efficient. Plus they have more or less a guaranteed consumer base with the marketing and promotional power that Sony has in Japan. Through PSN they would cover both their home-market as well as the foreign ones, so PSN fulfills the same function as Steam. Using only Steam the Japanese developers would loose their domestic market. Some would accept this, most would probably not.

  2. ChrisGWaine says:

    Is it down to the language barrier that most of the people spoken for this piece seem to be non-Japanese? Or a reflection of this being more of foreign driven thing?

  3. Chicago Ted says:

    needs more touhou
    god I’m awful at touhou

    • pepperfez says:

      Since Touhou is everything at this point, there’s surely some Touhou you’re good at.

  4. RealityJones says:

    It’s bizarre and laughable (and sad) that the Japanese have willingly missed out so badly on PC gaming. If it was me, I wouldn’t ever want to miss a large chunk of possibly great games I could play. The whole lame argument that “well it’s too big of a device, size-wise, for where they live” just sounds ridiculous and like nothing more than a weird excuse.

  5. frightlever says:

    Of course there’s a future for PC gaming in Japan – just look at the quality ports Koei is turning out.

  6. TheAngriestHobo says:

    “Assault Android Cactus” is such a wonderfully Japanese name, I can’t even. At least, not until they release Super Assault Android Punch Heart Romance Cactus Superb next year.

    • purpledoggames says:

      And yet that one’s being made in Brisbane, Australia. But yes, with awesome Japanese sensibilities, and naming convention.

  7. Unsheep says:

    Just as most Western gamers don’t care about 80% of all Japanese games, its only logical to assume that Japanese gamers feel the same way about Western games and are thus only interested in 20% of them.

    • ChrisGWaine says:

      It’s more asymmetrical than that. Japanese interest in Western games is much lower than Western interest in Japanese games.

      • Unsheep says:

        Yes, based on what I’ve read the majority of Western triple-a games are more or less flops in Japan, only a few seem to get through. The Western games that seem most popular in Japan are those that look VERY Western: the Last of Us, Call of Duty, Skyrim etc.