Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On My Mind: Digital Distribution for import games

Import games have always been a grey area that game companies don't want you to know about. It's a way for them to resolve licensing issues (songs, in game content), price discriminate (release at full price when game is at budget price elsewhere), delayed or even cancelled releases. Sometimes, it makes sense for certain games to not be released outside of particular regions (text heavy japanese dating sims, for example, would have 0 marketability outside of Japan), but other's have much less excuse.

Importing from other regions is usually an expensive preposition: Import sites like Play-Asia and YesAsia often charges double the price of the game to cover the cost of transportation and commission; eBay can be cheaper, but the quality of the seller may be questionable. I've had bought my share of import games, such as the Ouendan series, the DJ Max Portable series, the Donkey Konga series (music license/taste issue), Jump SuperStar series (license in North America split amount numerous companies), and the bit Generation series (experimental games, GBA was dead in NA, sidenote: the Wikipedia photo is from me :P ). With the advent of digital distribution, I was hoping this expensive habit could come to an end. Both Nintendo and Sony have been dabbling with releasing previously Japanese only releases for "older games" (games like Cho Aniki on the PSN, and Sin and Punishment on the Wii Virtual Console) but it's not the same.

Well Microsoft finally threw their hat in the ring, bringing DeathSmiles IIX to North America (after some delay for Canada and Mexico), IIRC, this marks the first current gen release of an "import" game. Cave has thrown most of it's support on the 360 in Japan, but have always had an issue with bringing their games to North America because of it's relatively niche titles and smaller sales base. A digital-only release for such titles is possibly the best outcome for Cave, but only until recently Microsoft required all "Games on Demand" (their digital distribution banner for retail games) requires a disk release. With this restriction out of the way, everyone benefits: Gamers are happy they can get the game without jumping absurd import loopholes; Cave can sell directly to the userbase with minimal distribution cost; Microsoft gets some extra money that they wouldn't have; Import compa... oh, right, they don't gain from this.

Long post short:
  1. Go get DeathSmiles IIX!
  2. Fans of niche companies and niche games? Go convince them to bring their titles over through digital distribution!

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