I’ve been wondering for a while which way Japanese developers are going to jump in terms of his generation’s console race. Once upon a time, it was a foregone conclusion that the bulk of JRPGs would end up the PS3, and so would go my gaming dollar. But Sony hasn’t exactly done a good job of gaining traction, and Microsoft has done a good job of throwing money at publishers like Square-Enix, so I’ve been reluctant to commit either way.
And really, so have Japanese developers. Developing for the PS3 and Xbox 360 is still prohibitively expensive, and Japan has been generally slow to embrace HDTV and online multiplayer on consoles. So they’ve been biding their time with the PS2, Nintendo DS and PSP, hoping that Square-Enix will show them where to go. And now that Dragon Quest X has been announced for the Wii, I can almost hear the collective sigh of relieve in studios throughout Japan. They got the answer they wanted to hear.
And why not? The Wii has a huge install base, and developing for it is fairly cheap. It’ll buy developers a few more years to figure out how they’re going to get their act together and start developing for more powerful consoles. Until then, we’ll get Wii Monster Hunter, Wii Dragon Quest, and pretty much every shade of JRPG and licensed anime shovelware that developers can churn out in a two year period. It’ll be like PS2 2.0, except with a vestigial motion controller. And beyond that, they’ll be just fine with developing for the DS and the PSP for another year or two.
Personally, I’m not really surprised or upset by this. I like my Wii, PSP and DS just fine. But I do think that making a beeline for the Wii will only contribute to the notion out west that the Japanese development community is falling behind. That is, unless they decide to do something revolutionary with the motion controller. Personally, I wouldn’t bet on it.
So for all of you who were waiting for, say, Shin Megami Tensei on the PlayStation 3, I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to keep waiting. Unless their name is Capcom, Namco-Bandai or Square Enix, Japanese developers will be perfectly happy to toil away in their little rut until Square once again deigns to point the way for them. Say… around 2011. Just in time for Final Fantasy XIII.