Why Sony needs to invest in Japanese studios

  • Posted January 8th, 2013 at 09:33 EDT by

Sony’s first-party studios provide some of the best games available on any given platform. With the likes of Naughty Dog, Media Molecule, Sony Santa Monica, Guerilla and Polyphony Digital under its belt, these studios provide a reason for buying a PlayStation console more than pretty much anything else. One thing you may notice however, is that only one of those aforementioned developers - namely Polyphony Digital - is Japanese. The rest of them are either European or North American and for a Japanese publisher this must be a worry.

It's a worry because there’s a lack of content that caters for the Japanese market. That's fine here but in Japan it gives little reason to buy the consoles and it means relying on third-party publishers to fill the gaps. The most high profile third-party PlayStation game in Japan is Monster Hunter, developed and published by Capcom. The Monster Hunter series was a saviour for the PlayStation Portable and kept it from fading from extinction in the East. Portable consoles are more popular than home consoles in Japan and making sure you have the content to support it should be paramount.

Sony has always had good third-party support for their home consoles. Every major publisher has got behind the PlayStation name and provided some of the best games of all time on PlayStation consoles. With the PSP, this was the case too but as time went on support began to drop as did Sony's support too. It was only because Capcom had struck gold with Monster Hunter that the PSP continued to get support in Japan.

            

A Monster Hunter PSP Sony made just for that one series. It has a larger battery and more durable analogue nub. 

This should have been a warning sign right there to Sony that it needs to invest in Japanese studios but it hasn't. Instead, when having a successor to the PSP in development it just assumed that the support was there, like it has with every previous console Sony has made. This wasn't the case and Capcom announced that the next Monster Hunter would be on the 3DS. That's where the problems with PlayStation Vita began.

It's no secret that Vita, arguably the best piece of hardware Sony has made in a while, is doing abysmally in Japan; it isn't just getting outsold by the 3DS but by the PSP as well. It's a nightmare situation which Sony has to fix and only it can change things around. Should it kill off the PSP and threaten to lose the third-party support it still has? Sony has to take a risk somewhere, but annoying the developers that still support it is suicide. I do think that getting more first-party Japanese developers should be Sony’s number one priority because while the PS3 is still doing well in the western territories and a new potential console is on the horizon, it's going to be hard to spread the developers across multiple platforms, especially when some of those developers don't want to make games on a handheld. Naughty Dog, one of Sony’s best developers, has also said that this is a big problem for Vita.

There is support from others though, including Media Molecule who announced Tearaway back at Gamescom. The LittleBigPlanet creator is looking to produce a really unique game on the Vita, something that the handheld is crying out for. There's also Killzone Mercenary coming from Guerilla Cambridge, which could prove to be a proper high quality FPS on the Vita, something which both Resistance: Burning Skies and Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified should have been. Meanwhile, hopes in Japan are pinned on Soul Sacrifice, a co-op action game which is one of the most gruesome games I have ever seen. That is just one game though; there needs to be lot more.

The only other notable Vita exclusive Japan Studio that Sony has had a hand in is Gravity Rush, which is a fantastic game, one of the best on Vita. If Soul Sacrifice is the only game this year, in 2013, then Vita sales in that terrirtotry simply aren’t going to improve. Japan Studio itself has had numerous problems, which led to Allan Becker, who was at Sony Santa Monica, to head over to Japan to sort out the mess. ... (continued on next page) ----

Paul Kelly, a PSU editorial assistant, has been an avid PlayStation fan for more than 15 years. You can follow him on Twitter
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