Alphaville is *not* big in Japan

by Alphaville Herald on 26/03/04 at 1:36 pm

Big in Japan-alright, pay!
Then I’ll sleep by your side
Things are easy when you’re big in Japan
Alphaville, “Big in Japan”

Well, for weeks we’ve been told that the Japanese players would be here soon. And a week or so ago the game opened to the Japanese market with its Japanese language chat interface. The question is, where are they? All we’ve seen so far are scam houses with fake Japanese players trying to lure in the newcomers. And now even the Japanese scam houses are gone – a sure barometer of the lack of Japanese newbies. Reports from other cities are the same: no newcomers. Clearly, this is another monumental misstep in a string of missteps in recent months (missteps that included trial accounts and nerfing the social interface). Like the trial account fisasco, this looks like a desperation “hail Mary” pass, to bring users to TSO (currently with 80K subscribers instead of the 1-2 million projected). EA hoped they could get lots of users on the relative cheap by opening the game to the MMORPG savvy Japanese. The flaw in reasoning: if you are MMORPG savvy you know TSO is a pile of crap compared to the other options. The Hail Mary play to save TSO failed; we are not big in Japan.

10 Responses to “Alphaville is *not* big in Japan”

  1. Snowcrash

    Mar 26th, 2004

    Typically American games don’t do well in Japan. It’s just the way things are. EA seems to have overlooked this fact and tried to pull off that “hail mary” to a reverse Final Fantasy XI. Unfortunately, the pass was picked off.

    I think EA is deluding themselves if they thought it would do well in Japan. Games like The Sims are a dime a dozen there. They’re called dating sims. From here it seems like a poor business choice, but I really hope I’m proven wrong. The last thing I want to see is a repeat of Earth and Beyond for you guys. Believe me, it’s really ugly over there.

  2. RB

    Mar 26th, 2004

    As i have said frequently on Stratics. EA are fools. they SHOULD have gone European first. so easy, so cheaper too. But no they wanted to be stubborn pricks and leap right into the Asian market head first. This will cost them dearly. again.

    - RB

  3. TBT

    Mar 26th, 2004

    Well think about it… EVERY sims game expension releasedc was so bug-ridden it was rather pathetic to think that their quality assurance is that bad and careless.. They ALWAYS have 100s no 1000s of players with problems and they need to create patches imediately to fix the umpteen problems in each released exp pak..

    TSO was released a year before it should have been.. They’ve already decided to cut the only factor in the game that would keep users entertained and coming baCK (USER CREATED CONTENT)..

    So what makes you think that starting in Japan vs. another country that they would have finally wised up? They NEVER will!

  4. RB

    Mar 26th, 2004

    True words TBT :)

    Releasing to the right continent (not a single country) first would not have made them change thier ways.

    This is just the next dumb thing the incompetant fools have done.


    R.I.P :(

    - RB

  5. Scrambled1

    Mar 27th, 2004

    lol, I doubt it will make it that far RB!

  6. Nicolas DeVitti

    Mar 27th, 2004

    I do not know how many of you have been in Japan or know any details about the country’s social and cultural structure, but all I can say is that Japan is no conventional country; and those of you who have been here will understand exactly what I mean.

    First of all, Japanese teenagers never play computer games. I would not be amazed if the stats are less than 1%. When I first came here, I was amazed! In my home country most computers come from Japan, and naturally one would expect that Japan should consequently be infested with PC game fanatics. Quite the opposite, these kids know almost nothing about computers…!

    What are the reasons?
    1. Japan is the land of TV/video games! Everyone owns at least a N64! Even the poorest kid. The middle-class kids have either PS1 or PS2. I was the only one in school here who knew nothing about TV games and everything about computer games.
    2. Teens do not have time for long hours online play. When they get into 7th grade, they have school until 4 pm, and then sports Monday to Friday until 7 or 8 pm. On Saturdays most clubs practice 5 hours – Baseball Clubs practice from 7 am to 7 pm. On Sundays the entire day is dedicated to sport matches.
    After students come home from school, they have extra classes from 8 to 11 pm. Then many students continue studying until 1 or 2 am.
    This pattern of life persists throughout their school careers.
    I do not know how intensive university life is, but I can imagine…!
    When the Japanese enter their job careers, things become even more hectic. The Japs are known to work loooooooong hours, working straight through the night on occasion. Most of the time if you visit a house, the husband is no where to be seen.
    3. There are, however, quite a few Japanese that I know of who engage in chat room conversations. Yet, this is normally done via their high-tech cell phones.
    4. Japanese are monolingual. Even if their TSO version support Japanese characters, finding their compatriots will not be an easy task in a large city dominated by English-speakers.

    There are so many more things I can say, but I think you guys get the point. This country is not built outwards to the globe….but rather inwards to itself and its own “world.” These people are hard hard hard working people, underpinned by a culture unlike anywhere in the world. If they do play games, yes it would normally be Japanese games. If they chat online, it would be Japanese sites.

    If TSO ever catches on in Japan, I shall truly be amazed…

  7. trailblazer

    Mar 27th, 2004

    South Korea is the big computer gaming center in Asia, Koreans rejected the PS2 and Nintendo because it came from Japan, mainly because they have long memories of Japanese occupation in WW2, a news story I saw said that Sony and Nintendo stopped even trying to sell their consoles in South Korea.

    There computer games rule, and has the biggest subscriber base for online games I believe anywhere, I couldn’t believe EA would release TSO in Japan before Europe,if anything if they wanted an Asian release they should have done South Korea first.

  8. urizenus

    Mar 27th, 2004

    really good comments all. So many things went wrong in EA’s decision it is hard to keep track of them all, but here are some…

    1)not expanding in Europe first
    2) thinking anyone in asia would bite on this game. That is, what does TSO have to offer that makes it better than Ragnarok — 17 million customers for Ragnarok vs 80K for TSO suggests that, ahem, they might have a better product.
    3) stupidly picking Japan instead of Korea or some other asian county. All the reasons given above, including the fact that Japan is more into consoles than PC based MMORPGs, time issues, etc. etc.

    This just scratches the surface. The whole thing is just sad.

  9. Simon

    Mar 28th, 2004

    whats funny is what is made in japan, like the TV shows, are million dollar industries here, take “Pokemon” for example, you cant say they made at least 5 million dollars, with “Yu-Gi-Oh” on E-Bay there were bids for cards for more than $100. a classmate went to japan and said there the cards are not as expensive here. it seems to work the opposite when things Go to japan.

  10. Banshee

    Mar 28th, 2004

    I have been told that three words sum up Japanese culture: adopt, adapt, adept. Adopt things from outside Japan (be it buddhism, calligraphy or personal electronics), adapt it to Japanese partciularities (as in Zen, kanji or Toshiba) and become extremely adept, in the end, at what was originally adopted from outside Japan. The Japanese love to adopt from outside their home culture, but only if they can “japanify” the adoption, making it japanese in a way, and making it, arguably, better than what they had adopted. I think that a game like TSO was a stretch for Japan. Perhaps it may attract some gamers there (seems unlikely given the great points made above about how the Japanese prefer their own home-grown console games and online phone games to PCs), but it doesn’t seem very likely. As for South Korea, yes the country is completely hardwired and loves online games … but think, these are generally hack-and-slash RPG type games like Lineage, not a Sims-type game. Does anyone know how well The Sims offline sold in Asia? Let’s face it, the game does reflect primarily North American sensibilities, designs, styles and the like … and perhaps that can be more or less successfully broadened to include Western Europe and parts of Latin America, but does the gaming environment of TSO really reflect Asian culture meaningfully? The more that one reflects on this decision, the more it looks like a desparation play on the part of EA.

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