The strange imbalance of movies and games with regard to Japan

I have two impressions which seem to be at odds:

  1. When it comes to movies, the Japanese are a lot more fond of Western media than Westerners are of Japanese media. There is the possible exception of porn, I’m not sure how popular Western porn is in Japan.

  2. When it comes to games, it’s the other way around. Japanese games and gaming systems are a lot more popular n the West than Western games and gaming systems are in Japan.

Are those two premises true?

If so, why is that?

The majority of Japanese understand English; very few Americans understand Japanese. So for movies we are talking subtitles or dubbing for Japanese movies to American viewers–which is not too enjoyable for most people.

I am not too familiar with games, but it I expect it is easier to set up different versions for different languages.

Part of it is the budget. There are Western movies with insane budgets high enough to get attention anywhere. Video games are more balanced (or at least, have been for most of their run).

Wikipedia lists 65 movies that cost more than $150 million. The most expensive single movie ever made in Japan is Ponyo, at $34 million. Ponyo did come out here, but is not a high budget movie by Western standards.

I suspect movies like Titanic, Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Harry Potter (which have no equivalent in Japan) get attention in Japan for their pure blockbuster status. And if there was ever a $200 million plus Japanese movie, it would likely get attention here.

On the other hand, prior to 2007 Japan had 8 out of 12 of the most expensive games ever made. In 2006 Japan had all 4 of the most expensive games ever, including 3 from the Final Fantasy series. Those 3 Final Fantasy games are, to this day, more expensive than any movie made in Japan.

They do? Study != understand. It’s not Scandinavia.

Japanophilia in movies is a little niche (=nerdy), but not nonexistent. I’m not sure what the biggest budget film with Japanese influence is, but I’d guess Kill Bill(s) has got to be up there. And Hollywood movies are famous everywhere, so that skews the stats unless you correct, as Carmady says.

I haven’t played a made-for-Japan-market-game recently, but some I played were completely voice acted in English; just the text was Japanese.

Video games: In the West, JRPGs and uhh… ERPGs are both popular. In Japan, JPRGs are way more popular last I checked.

Japanese porn needs the mosaic. I’d imagine that US/Europe porn companies don’t make much for the Japan market then. But some Western pornstars work in Japan.

One reason Japanese games are so popular in the west is that Japanese game *systems *are so popular. The Japanese game software industry grew up around the Japanese game hardware industry, and wherever Sony and Nintendo went, Japanese games followed. As there was no major Western gaming system between Atari and Xbox, the Japanese game industry could set roots around the world.

Note that PC gamers don’t play many Japanese games.

This is pretty much the long and short of it. The American video game industry more or less collapsed upon itself in 1983 as the result of a number of factors, and the NES was the first console to come out in America for several years by the time of its North American release. Nintendo and Sega ended up dominating the American console market more or less by default for the next decade, because all the serious game developers ended up making games for PCs, and the American consoles that did come out (e.g. CDI, 3DO, Atari Jaguar, etc.) were overpriced in comparison and had mediocre game libraries as a consequence of the previously-described issue of talent working towards the PC.

CD-i is technically Dutch, although I don’t know where it was specifically manufactured. But say Western instead of American, and it’s good.

This is something of a catch-22, though. Due to the popularity of the local console hardware, Japanese game developers have traditionally ignored the PC, so there aren’t many Japanese games to play on the PC except for the experimental / indie fare.

This may be in the process of shifting, though. Due to cost benefits, PC hardware has been making serious inroads into the Japanese arcade market, at the same time that several studios have been testing the western PC waters with console ports and seeing non-negligible success.

Now, back to my Steam version of Ikaruga…

Japanese gamers do have a noted preference for Japanese systems/games. Evidence the “success” of the Xbox/Xbox 360 in Japan. It basically doesn’t exist. Japan has very good record keeping on system sales, and you get numbers like this:

Week of Feb 24-March 2 (Syntax is System: Number sold this week [Whether that number is up or down from last week] Change). So you’ll see the PS4 sold a lot fewer items this week than it did during its lauch week. Go figure. And yes, they sold 13k PS3s and 257 Xbox 360s.

PS4: 65,685 [DOWN] 243,469
3DS LL: 26,027 [UP] 3,774
Vita: 21,581 [UP] 4,724
PS3: 13,155 [UP] 3,172
3DS: 11,986 [UP] 2,088
Wii U: 8,204 [DOWN] 203
PSP: 3,652 [UP] 481
Vita TV: 1,543 [UP] 160
Xbox 360: 257 [UP] 16