Few things in the world of gaming are as disappointing as hearing that a game we are looking forward to won’t be published in a language that we can easily understand. Unfortunately this has been the case multiple times with Sega in the past and probably it will happen again in the future.
A couple months ago, a user of the PSO-world forums asked the Sega West community manager Aaron “RubyEclipse” Webber if Phantasy Star Portable 2: Infinity would ever see a release in the west. The answer, as was reported, was rather disconcerting.
As much as I would love to see an English release of Infinity, SEGA West is currently not looking at further PSP development. Games like PSPo2 and Valkyria Chronicles 2 did not sell nearly as well as we had hoped that they would. Also, we all have to take into account the heavy amount of piracy that plagues the West. It may happen at some point, but there are currently no plans for it.
Now, I take this unconfirmed report with a grain of salt, but it’s a painful fact that high quality games like Valkyria Chronicles III are lost in limbo, with no announcement or hints about a possible Western localization in sight. The Sega West official twitter for the Valkyria Chronicles franchise has been tragically silent since May.
Of course Valkyria Chronicles III is not the only game that seems to be going the way of the Dodo in the West, but since it has a dedicated fanbase and it’s a personal favorite of mine, I’ll use it as an example to explain my point. The same reasoning applies to other games, like Ryu Ga Gotoku: Kenzan, and to other publishers that have prominent IPs in Japan that often don’t manage to cross the Pacific Ocean (Namco Bandai is a good example), despite the fact that a fan base for them clearly exists, as niche as it can be.
I do understand that business on the PSP is not so good in the west, so I can’t condemn Sega for not looking into publishing Valkyria Chronicles III stateside, even if I have to note that blaming the game or the platform for low sales isn’t exactly the best idea when a product doesn’t nearly receive sufficient advertisement and promotion in a competitive market.
Expecting a game or franchise to attract customers outside its specific fan base if those customers don’t even know that that game exists is a little far-fetched, but I digress.
Marketing dictates that original Intellectual Properties have to be cultivated, and they lose value when they are neglected. Valkyria Chronicles III is on the PSP, but since the console is near the end of its active life cycle, the possible future installments of the franchise will most probably be on other platforms, that could easily be much more successful than the PSP in the west.
Let’s give a look at the future: the IP is very popular in Japan, so popular that, in addition the games, it counts six manga adaptations, a TV series and an OVA series. It’s safe to assume that we’ll see a Valkyria Chronicles 4. Maybe it’ll be on the PS3, or maybe on the PS Vita. It could even be multiplatform for all we know. If the game will be released on a console popular in the US and Europe, Sega West might be interested in publishing it, but that’s when not releasing Valkyria III will come and bite them in the back.
First of all, a franchise that has not received media attention for a long while loses in popularity and visibility. Not releasing Valkyria III means that when Valkyria 4 will come, publishing it in the west will entail almost the same degree of risk than publishing a new and unproven franchise.
Secondly, when gamers cannot play a chapter of a franchise, they often decide to skip on the whole franchise altogether, as they missed on what is perceive as an important part of the story. To put it down simply, given that original IPs are a precious asset to publishers, by keeping Valkyria III out of the Western market, Sega West is impoverishing the value of it’s asset, and ultimately damaging itself.
Of course this doesn’t solve the main problem: the fact that Valkyria Chronicles III probably wouldn’t sell in the US and Europe as much as Sega would like, especially without proper promotion. But to protect the value of the IP, they don’t really need to publish it themselves.
The smart move for Sega would be to put their licensing department at work to find a licensee that would publish the game (and other unreleased games) in the US and Europe in their stead. It’s not the first time it happens with a Sega game, as NIS America allowed us to enjoy Sakura Taisen V ~Saraba, Itoshiki Hito yo~, published in the west as Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love. Incidentally the game is lovely, and has a lot of points in common with Valkyria Chronicles.
There are a lot of smaller publishers in the west that aim for a more focused, niche playerbase. NIS America, Atlus USA, XSEED Games and Aksys Games are just a few examples. They are very good at promoting their smaller-scale business to the right people (gamers that are also fans of Manga and Anime for instance), they know their market well, show love for their product with high quality localizations and rich editions and, despite smaller sales figures, they know how to turn a profit.
I’m willing to bet that at the very least one of the companies I named (but more probably most if not all of them) would be interested in this kind of licensing deal.
Publishers like those would be the perfect choice for publishing Valkyria III (and similar games) in the west. By licensing the game to one of them, Sega would grant it media attention and availability in the US and Europe, preserving the value of the franchise and keeping it alive in the eyes of the player base in anticipation of future releases. In addition to that they would earn some risk-free money to invest in their own projects, while we could happily play a great game. Everyone would win.
In alternative to the above suggestion Sega caould release the game as a HD remaster on the PS3. Sony has created the PSP Engine exactly for that purpose and I can’t see many better candidates for it’s application than Valkyria Chronicles III, maybe in a collection with Valkyria Chronicles II (since HD collections are all the rage nowadays). Other publishers are doing this successfully and the fans of the franchise have been starving to play more Valkyria games on the PS3.
Sega wouldn’t even need to splurge in order to add Voice Acting. Japanese voices with subtitles like they did with Yakuza 3 and 4 would definitely do nicely.
Again, this reasoning applies to many games, and not only to Sega, but Valkyria Chroncles III is the perfect example of an absolutely beautiful and critically acclaimed game, with stylish graphics, top-notch character and mecha design, some of the best anime cutscenes on the market (give a look at the trailer below if you don’t believe me), awesome gameplay, lovely music, tons of content and some solid replayability value to add on top of it. At the moment we’re missing on this gem, while Sega is risking to jeopardize the value of the franchise and future revenue based on it.
This cannot be allowed to stand, and if by chance anyone wants to start another Operation Rainfall about Valkyria III, I have a message for him: you have my axe.
Tens of thousands of lucky Japanese gamers will get the Valkyria Chronicles III Extra Edition on November the 23rd. What about giving us some good news as well, Sega? Pretty Please?
With Love, and just a little bit of though love,