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A Plea for the Western Release of Sengoku Basara 4

by on October 25, 2013 2:00 PM 26

Capcom has gone on record stating that localizing games in the Sengoku Basara series – one that enjoys immense success in its homeland Japan – has not proved to be a particularly profitable endeavor for the company in the past. With the awesome looking PS3 exclusive next series installment Sengoku Basara 4 charging towards its January 2014 Japanese release date, I find it immediately important to try to appeal to Capcom, who despite being one of gaming’s oldest and most respected names is suffering on the financial front.

Sengoku Basara 4 looks very exciting and I’d like to express that there certainly is some sort of demand for this kind of title in the West.

I’m not nearly naïve enough to think that anything I write here will have a bigger impact on the company’s decision to bring (or not bring) Sengoku Basara 4 out of Japan than sales data regarding previously localized series entries. I’m not honestly informed enough to decisively say one way or the other, but I do find it hard to believe that it would be impossible for Capcom to find some success in localizing Sengoku Basara 4. There are a few points I’d like to at least be considered.

Sengoku Basara (12)

First and foremost, Capcom please check your expectations.

As a publisher Capcom has gained a reputation for being rather greedy these last couple of years. I’m sure those plans to sell even more DLC contributed to said reputation. The publisher also stated that despite breaking into the top 10 releases on March’s PSN charts, the fighting game re-release Darkstalkers Resurrection hadn’t performed well enough to be successful – while of course failing to mention the significant variety of other reasons that could have contributed to the title’s supposedly disappointing sales.

Games aren’t all fun and games and companies need to make money, I get that. However, if by some miracle Sengoku Basara 4 does make it to the west, Capcom shouldn’t expect record breaking sales. Observe the performance of titles in similar genres like the Dynasty Warriors games. Don’t expect a debut to rival those of Grand Theft Auto V or Pokemon X and Y. Be realistic, I don’t feel like this is a lot to ask. Obviously it’s important not to spend much more localizing the game than you presume you’ll make from international sales and we’ll talk more about costs in a moment.

However, to be frank, I really do get the impression that Capcom wants spectacular sales rather than pretty good sales or even just decent sales. Such an attitude will surely hinder the localization of several of their Japanese titles. It’s especially questionable when you consider that some developers and publishers like NISA, XSEED, and Aksys are able to survive almost exclusively on niche Japanese titles, without big names like Resident Evil to keep them afloat.

Sengoku Basara (6)

The next thing I want to point out is that there is clearly a market for the genre.

The Sengoku Basara series can be fairly compared to the Dynasty Warriors series. They both have pretty similar game-play and features, even though there are a number of noteworthy differences; I’d say that depth of combat is the most important of them. Unfortunately, Sengoku Basara doesn’t have a fraction of the brand power or popularity that the Dynasty Warriors series has amassed, nor should Capcom expect such laurels.

The series’ brief stint in North America hasn’t been one of clear consistence. The first game in the series, which hit the PS2 back in 2005, completely discarded the “Sengoku Basara” moniker and released in the States as Devil Kings. Instead of releasing under a revision of the Devil Kings moniker, the second game in the series to see a western release was released as Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes for the PS3 and Wii. Having a subtitle reminiscent of Koei’s Samurai Warriors may have helped the title, but continuing with the Devil Kings moniker could have at least made the game recognizable by name to fans of the first title. Furthering the potential for confusion here is the five year gap between the releases of the two games.

Dynasty Warriors on the other hand has always been clearly Dynasty Warriors, with numbered installments, re-releases and spin-offs all being released under the Dynasty Warriors flag.

Sengoku Basara 4 (7)

The success of Koei’s franchises should at least be an indication that there is indeed a market for these kinds of games outside of Japan. Sure, no Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors title that I know of has rocketed to the top of the sales charts, but they’ve all been at least successful enough to warrant continued international releases. Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors and Warriors Orochi continue to be released outside of Japan, proving that the audience for the genre, while niche, is still viable enough to make a profit off of.

The Sengoku Basara series surely has some catching up to do before it can be compared to any of Koei’s franchises, but releasing two niche games with two dramatically different titles and five years between them certainly isn’t helping.

Let’s talk some more about costs or money. That’s the bottom line anyways right, the almighty dollar? I think there are some vital avenues in place to help Capcom get this game on western PS3s for minimal costs.

Sengoku Basara 4 (4)

Firstly, a digital only release should be considered. Resources can be spared by opting out of physical retail releases. I’m aware that many gamers aren’t too keen on digitally purchasing games, but I’d rather have the option to buy it digitally than to have no option to play it at all (save for importing, which can get very expensive). Although it did have a playable demo, Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes is not available on either the PSN store or Nintendo’s eShop. Capcom also failed to bring over all of the PSN avatars for the game, even though this could have been another source of profit.

Something that Capcom got right with Samurai Heroes was the reduced price and perhaps they could afford to sell Sengoku Basara 4 for $40 as well if they can save money in other areas.

Another thing that could be done to reduce costs would be to opt for English subtitles instead of paying for full English voicing. This is especially noteworthy when you consider the fact that many people feel very passionately about Japanese voice acting. Japanophiles swear by Japanese voicing. It’s believable that anyone who would be a fan of a relatively obscure Japanese series like Sengoku Basara would prefer Japanese voicing to English anyways, so Capcom could save money and please fans in one swoop. Give me English menus and subtitles and I’m as happy as a clam.

Sengoku Basara (15)

More money could probably be made from SB4 with the DLC Capcom loves so much. In North America we got absolutely no DLC for Samurai Heroes, barring the incomplete batch of PSN avatars. A few costumes or even playable characters (this seems fairly reasonable when you consider the Japan exclusive Utage expansion) would have been a great way to keep those who bought Samurai Heroes happy and make more money for Capcom.

Many niche Japanese games have a wide variety of DLC content available. Examples that come to mind include games in the Disgaea series, the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, the Blazblue series and several more. Maybe this helps contribute to their longevity.

Finally, there are ways that Capcom can cut costs and simultaneously do something that they really didn’t for Samurai Heroes: promote the game. I can imagine that the budget for a game like Samurai Heroes left very little wiggle room for things like TV commercials or spreads in the biggest gaming magazines. However, in this day and age the free social media tools available to us could help create some sort of buzz for the game for pennies on the dollar. How much would it cost to do a few live streams or Twitter giveaways? Release a few trailers to YouTube or offer some petty pre-order bonus? Take the game to anime and manga conventions and get it in front of the people who are most likely to care about it.

Capcom’s Chris Svensson said: “Media wasn’t thrilled, preorders were weak, word of mouth was weak which in turn drives the forecasts and resultant marketing budgets”. I can only speak for myself, but I remember seeing very little media coverage for the game (outside of our own) leading up to and even after the release of Samurai Heroes. I have a relative who is easily the single biggest Dynasty Warriors fan I know and he had no clue what Samurai Heroes was.

Weak word of mouth buzz is probably a byproduct of weak media coverage, but I also don’t recall any sort of pre-order bonus being offered for the title. I’ve heard that pre-order bonuses help convince people to pre-order games.

Sengoku-Basara-4_2

Regarding the reception, please consider that these kinds of games are simply not for everyone. Samurai Heroes’ critical reception was actually about on par with the general critical reception of Dynasty Warriors 8 and Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper. It was even more warmly received than other niche Japanese games like Hyperdimension Neptunia, which is interesting since new Hyperdimension titles are still being released internationally. On a broader scale, lots of Japanese franchises don’t fare well critically in the west, but this has never kept fans from enjoying them.

Sengoku Basara 4 is far from the only game of its kind. It has good company in the genre with Koei’s titles and on another note there are smaller companies than Capcom that make due with equally obscure Japanese titles and with even smaller budgets. I believe that by checking their expectations, cutting corners where necessary and creating some sort of buzz behind it, Capcom can profit from releasing it in the west.

This year has been full of surprises. It’s okay to be hopeful since we’re already getting games like Drakengard 3, Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi and Tales of Symphonia Chronicles. Who would have thought we’d get the Mugen Souls sequel? It wouldn’t be shocking at all if Sengoku Basara 4 came over to help keep the PS3 going strong.

 

Join the Discussion

  • PrinceHeir

    glad you made this article :D

    you know instead of funding those shitty games like Lost Planet 3, Remember Me, Bionic Commando, DmC, Dark Void(do love the concept, but it didn’t work out as plan, has potential though)

    we could have gotten the HD Collection as well as this one.

    also they could have localized Miles Edgeworth 2 as well.

    i think Capcom just realize how much they screwed up this gen.

    tons of talent leaving, losing alot of money despite achieving 5 million+ sales on Resident Evil 6.

    another game i would hope someone would localize is Onechanbara Z Kagura, Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus(definitely buying Burst), Valkyria Chronicles 3, Yakuza 5/HD Collection/Kenzan, FF Type-0(still no news Square? wtf!?!?!)

    why is it that we lost alot of games towards an end of a generation :(

    and i’m pretty sure Koei will be bringing Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper which i’ll definitely buy day 1!

    • Kenneth Richardson

      Thanks, I fully agree with you. Yeah, Japan is keeping a lot of their games to themselves ;_;

  • Boerewors

    I realize this doesn’t concern capcom, but how about Yakuza 5?? If a game with a scale that big even isn’t localized, what will?
    And the point made in the article about not narrating the games is an excellent one. It will save a tremendous amount of money and subtitles will do for most of the gamers in this niche market.
    Sony just recently opened a studio where Japanese developers can get help with localizations. Sony will get a cut of the sales, or developers can pay them a fixed price, but if this studio is a success, it’ll be an easy expansion of Sony’s game library and good news for all of us who like Japanese games.

    • Kenneth Richardson

      Lots of Yakuza games have been localized, so I think your chances are fairly good.

  • KuchikiSentou

    The thing is, I think from Capcom’s perspective, the Western market does not necessarily like these types of games. I’ve heard even recently editors on some sites speak with unfettered, unbridled derision at Dynasty Warriors et al. The fact that the sentiment has never been challenged – not in the least from what I’ve seen – leads me to believe that this side of the world can’t readily appreciate what Sengoku Basara brings.

    I just got the HD Collection and Utage, having discovered this game through the anime and movie.

    ["Importation is your friend" is what I'd humbly suggest to the people who want to play these games. The very fact that we are surprised by the amount of titles to be localised, thanks mostly to NIS, means that the market clearly isn't as favourable as it used to be. It just isn't in their interest to keep bringing these games over, with the rigours of certification among others. People like Sega are not taking any chances. Localisation is now strictly for the big boys.]

    Plus, in Japan, Ishida Mitsunari has a Vergil costume for preorder from certain stores. It’s awesome.

    http://www.siliconera.com/2013/10/25/get-vergils-costume-devil-may-cry-3-sengoku-basara-4-preorders/

    I think the best chance is for Sony to step in. That line of action would help bring these games to the PS3, and VITA for related titles.

    • Kenneth Richardson

      I think it would be great if Sony stepped in, and Giuseppe actually went into exactly that in an article a while back. Importation is certainly a great option if you can afford it, but it’s more of an issue if you lack fluency in written Japanese because a lot of players like to understand what’s going on in the games but otherwise I agree with you here.

      But I wanna go back to what you first said about people not liking these games. These series have almost never been consistently praised for their quality. However, Koei couldn’t continue to localize and release them if people were not buying them. Critics and fans have never agreed on the Dynasty Warriors series. I am aware of the attitude that you’re addressing though and I think it’s a problem but it really doesn’t seem to matter. DW has thrived and I think Sengoku Basara can thrive too.

      But when you come out with this game and you rename it from something English to Japanese for the two releases that you ever bother to bring stateside, while doing almost no promotion for latter game or doing anything to help demonstrate how the game was unique even in comparison to games in the same genre (and then top that off with skyscraper sales projections), it might wind up looking like people don’t like it, but the critics weren’t going to anyway.

      Critics hate a lot of Japanese games that fans like but the fans still like them enough to keep them alive. SB would be no different if Capcom played their cards right.

      • KuchikiSentou

        What I have noticed of recent is that the market is getting increasingly polarised. I’m not sure I heard the term “JRPG” used so rampantly until relatively recently; other terms with thinly veiled disdain. I am certain there was a time when there were no such distinctions as to the origin of these games. Needless to say that the current attitude of critics towards some of these games does have an effect on the gamers outside the specific game’s core audience. I doubt Sengoku Basara has any substantive audience in comparison to the likes of Dynasty. Even games like Kessen and Warriors Orochi I believe.

        It’s become a very recent struggle to decide which games to bring over; even for a company as big as Capcom. Sega have clearly made their distinction: Sonic. Even the Tales team recently admitted to being understaffed for consistently being able to localise Tales games, despite being backed by such a big company as BandaiNamco. I think each case is better looked at on its own merits. Eg the general outlook of the company, the history of the game and the success of the title in question.

        So when DragOn Dragoon 3 is announced for the West even before its Japanese release it comes as a surprise, but Toukiden isn’t as Toukiden exceeded KT’s expectations. Jojo’s Adventure falls into this category as well.

        I think Capcom will take a similar approach to KT with Toukiden. If it’s resoundingly successful and exceeds their expectations – which Capcom has only gotten right recently with Monster Hunter 4 – then a western release becomes more plausible. PS3 gamers post 2014 will devour any new software – to my understanding at least – more so quality titles as Sengoku Basara.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/Bobobranden Asura Drago

      by “these games” do you mean hack n slash? they are actually very popular!

      • KuchikiSentou

        I know that.

        • Budgiecat

          so why are you saying stupid stuff. Dynasty Warriors has had success in the West for years so why not SB. SB’s downfall is only due to Capcom’s crap inability to market it properly

  • Ryumoau

    I’m not a fan of these companies throwing their games on psn without any effort put into dubbing the game in english, yet still charge near full price for it. If you can’t be bothered with that, only charge $30 at most for it.

    That seems like a reasonable price compared to what Koei has been overcharging for the more recent psn-only released Warriors games like One Piece and Kens Rage 2

    • Kenneth Richardson

      Subs may not be preferred for some players, but I’d still rather have that than nothing at all, wouldn’t you? One Piece and Ken’s Rage are both based on Japanese manga franchises. Beyond meaning that the fans are probably no stranger to Japanese voicing, it probably means that you won’t be crazy about those titles unless you are fans of the other stuff.

      I am curious as to which other companies/titles you’re referring to though.

  • Panzerdrako

    i still remember how i loved sengoku basara artwork on the ps2….and how capcom westernirize (or wherever that word is) the story killing their charm in the process…

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/Bobobranden Asura Drago

    I hope this game gets released in the US dubbed, the anime was popular with Funimation and samurai heroes was awesome! capcom has to understand and level with us on this.

    • KuchikiSentou

      Dubs are unnecessary and expensive. Subs are fine.

      • http://www.youtube.com/user/Bobobranden Asura Drago

        Dubs are quite necessary. There’s no point in playing a game where you have to constantly look at the bottom of the screen to understand dialogue. The whole point of a dub is translation of a specific language.

        • Budgiecat

          Works fine with Yakuza

          I can’t stand Liam O’Brien’s voicework anyway..sounds too stuffy theatrical overbearing….

        • Ryan Chiang

          i don’t really mind sub because that the game look so cool and I want it so badly, I really are praying for this game to come out during the holiday so that I can at least play a bit of it. But due to the article this kind of make me very sad because I was such a fan to the sengoku basara, dynasty warrior and sengoku musou series. I literally have every single game from all three series above but most of them are sub because they are released early by maybe a week to the most. So I don’t care if it is dub or sub as long as the game is released oversea and thats my opinion

      • Alexander Marquis Starkey

        Digital release is gonna piss people off, the lack of a dub is going to mean less interest as the “Japanophiles” are out numbered by those who like prefer English. And don’t say they don’t, because they do.

        • KuchikiSentou

          All these words people come up with to denigrate others. Whatever…

          If they have to hire voice actors for all 20+ characters, more time = more money and chances are it is done terrible. Example Tales of Xillia. The Japanese voices are original; therefore authentic. Text translation worked very well for One Piece and a host of other titles.

          The ideal situation is to have both options.

  • David T.

    I kinda have to agree with all the points in the article. I think something else also has to be pointed out though: The dub for Samurai Heroes was top notch, with many big name dub voice actors being involved. While I don’t think this contributed to the title’s downfall (I will say I prefer Laura Bailey’s Oichi to Mamiko Noto’s, which is saying something as Mamiko-san is an amazing seiyuu), I do find it another sign that Capcom really expected too much for the series’ first foray into the western market.

    While I would ADORE a dub, I can forgo it if it means we get the game translated at all. I’m already importing the collector’s edition, and I’d willingly buy a standard or even collector’s copy of the game in an English format, whether subbed or dubbed.

  • Justin James Christianson

    i for one agree that we need a localized version of sengoku basara 4, i prefer to keep the same voices, changing voice actors of popular main characters really ruins the mood, especially if you fell in love with that character. however, if you cant afford the original voice actors, then the Japanese voice acting would be better. if we can get a subbed local version of SB4 on psn, i would be more than satisfied, even though i love the english voices and a nice shiny case, i would choose subbed psn over nothing any day, and i doubt im alone in these thoughts.not everyone wants to play call of duty for the rest of their lives here in the good ol usa. we love the niche games, like SB4, Drakengard 3, and the tales franchise etc. it would be a dark day in gaming if japan decided the west was unworthy of their attention. so please, for all the fans of rpgs, and hack n slashes, and other good japanese games. localize as much as you can, even if it means you forego english dubbing and a hard case, for the fans.

  • Budgiecat

    Crapcom is dead to voices of reason and common sense.

    Surprised this isn’t even a mobile phone browser app game at this point….

  • Lord Ackercocke

    Superb article. I’d take a subtitled PSN copy just to play the bloody thing in english. I’ll be getting it regardless whether it be a localised or Japanese copy. I prefer the former. I just signed an online petition. U all should too. Let Capcom know we want this game.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/capcom-usa-bring-sengoku-basara-4-to-the-west-english-dubbed

  • Lena

    I would like to see this, subbed, I love the original voices !!

  • David Gromer

    I would not have cared if this game was only released here in the West in Japanese with English subs like with the One Piece Pirate Warriors series and the Fist of the North Star Ken’s Rage series, but it seems with over 5 months passing since the release, I may have to get it on the Japanese PSN, my first Japanese PS3 game.

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