On August the 18th, on the iconic Alta Vision mega screen in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Sega will make a “surprise announcement” related to the Yakuza franchise after unveiling the winner of a popularity contest between the saga’s characters.
But what is the announcement about?
First of all, just put that idea about the English localization of Yakuza 5 back into your closet. That’s not going to be announced right in the middle of Tokyo where the only ones that might be interested in said announcement would be a few tourists passing by chance and doing some windows shopping.
The announcement is most probably the reveal of Yakuza 6 (or Ryu ga Gotoku 6, if you prefer). How do I know? First of all, the timeframe of the announcement matches the pattern for the unveiling of the previous home console titles of the series.
- Yakuza 3 – July the 2nd 2008
- Yakuza 4 – July the 24st 2009
- Yakuza Dead Souls – September the 9th 2011. Teaser picture shown on August the 25th.
- Yakuza 5 – August the 31st 2012
As you can see they were all unveiled between July and September. An announcement on August the 16th would match the pattern perfectly. But let’s take a deeper look at the release dates of all the home console titles of the series in Japan.
- Yakuza – December the 8th, 2005
- Yakuza 2 – December the 7th, 2006
- Yakuza Kenzan! – March the 6th, 2008
- Yakuza 3 – February the 26th, 2009
- Yakuza 4 – March the 18th, 2010
- Yakuza Dead Souls – June the 9th, 2012
- Yakuza 5 – December the 6th, 2012
If you check the list above for a pattern, you’ll notice that there has never been a gap between Yakuza games bigger than two years and three months, and most of the times we’re looking at a time lapse nearer to a year. Considering the timing, I would say it’s very logical to assume that we’ll see Yakuza 6 announced for a release set between December 2013 and December 2014.
But what platform would Yakuza 6 be on? What we know for sure is that it won’t be on a current generation platform. Toshihiro Nagoshi, the creator of the series and head of the Yakuza Studio said quite clearly that Yakuza 5 is the last Yakuza game on current generation consoles, as he talked about the next chapter (pretty much confirming that it is indeed in production) as part of an interview on Dengeki Playstation back in February.
We can pretty much go ahead and assume that the game will definitely be on PS4. The Yakuza series is deeply linked to the PlayStation brand, and having a mainline chapter missing Sony’s top-of-the-line console would pretty much be a commercial suicide, at least in Japan (and Sega is definitely focused on Japan).
But the big question is, will it be exclusive? It’s very possible that it won’t be.
Most of Sega’s titles in the past few years have been multiplatform, and the company pretty much shown that for most of its games it’ll look for sales on any platform available. Nagoshi’s own team developed Binary Domain on PS3 and Xbox 360 (the PC version was developed by another team).
Xbox One is a possibility. Nagoshi himself had praise to share for the console around E3, even before Microsoft’s policy reversal (found and translated by Kotaku).
To be honest, with the rising cost of making games, Microsoft’s strategy is something that developers will be happy about.
Of course the title could see a release on PC as well. Sega has been exploring the PC market quite extensively lately, even with titles that one would probably expect to be console only, like Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. After all the next generation of consoles will make porting games to PC (or better, porting them from PC to consoles) easier and cheaper than ever.
What about the Wii U? Sega has shown a quite solid relationship with Nintendo lately, including a number of exclusive games for Nintendo consoles, like the upcoming Sonic Lost World. Of course a possible version of Yakuza 6 for the Wii U would depend on whether Nagoshi considers the console a current generation one or a next generation one.
Let’s not forget that the Yakuza series actually just went multiplatform in a way, with Yakuza 1 & 2 HD for Wii U, that has been released yesterday in Japan, marking the Wii U as a front runner as the alternate host for a future multiplatform title.
Of course porting a PS4 title to the Wii U does have a considerable cost, as compromises would probably have to be made with the graphics, and features would have to be created for the GamePad, so everything depends on how much profit the bigwigs at Sega think they could make off said port.
Ultimately next generation development is a costly affair, very costly…especially for games with rich assets like those belonging to the Yakuza franchise. In addition to that, the PS4 isn’t going to have an enormous installed base for a while. In that light, widening the possible market would make sense, commercially.
I’m sure many would decry the “great betrayal” if something like this were to happen, but think of it this way: more platforms to sell the game on, especially if the western-centric Xbox One was involved, would probably encourage Sega to localize the game in English.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that Yakuza 6 should be multiplatform. From what I see it could easily go one way or the other, and the game would probably be very successful (at least in Japan) whether it’d be exclusive or multiplatform.
That said, a multiplatform Yakuza 6 is a solid possibility, so we definitely should not exclude it, at least until August the 18th. An old adage says “the more the merrier”, but I’m quite confident that many will disagree with that.