The ongoing controversy surrounding Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 has been commented on by Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida, in a recent interview with 4Gamer (translated by Claude Smith of Niche Gamer and Twitter user @mombot).
Yoshida had been talking about the Japanese gaming market reaching adulthood, which prompted the interviewer to ask about DOAX3 not being released in the West due to Western issues of female depictions in video games. His response was interesting:
“It’s due to cultural differences. The West has it’s own thinking about how to depict women in games media which is different from Japan […] Speaking personally, if it is a representation acceptable to the general people in Japan, I wouldn’t be concerned about it in Japan. It’s a difficult problem.”
Yoshida also brought up Dragon’s Crown, an RPG released in 2013 on PS3 and PS Vita:
“I loved Dragon’s Crown, but that title got some criticism. And it got extremely low points in reviews.”
Yoshida later clarified this sentence on Twitter, as Dragon’s Crown currently sits at a healthy 82 on Metacritic with 52 positive reviews:
He was referring to several outfits (the usual suspects) reviewing the game in a positive manner, but docking it points for its depictions of women, with one outfit calling it “alienating and gross.”
This was all started by a comment on the official Dead or Alive Facebook page, in which a community manager responded to a fan asking if DOAX3 would be localised and released in the West by saying that it wouldn’t. When pressed for a reason why, the response was:
“Do you know many issues happening in video game industry with regard to how to treat female in video game industry? We do not want to talk those things here. But certainly we have gone through in last year or two to come to our decision. Thank you.”
These comments were later disputed in an official statement from Koei Tecmo, publishers of the Dead or Alive series, who said that the comments only reflected the “individual’s opinion and not the opinion or business strategy of Koei Tecmo Games.”
It has left many to wonder what could possibly be holding Koei Tecmo back from releasing the game in the West. The most obvious, most repeated answer seems to be sales, but this is an argument that falls apart when broken down.
The Dead or Alive Xtreme series is not a big seller. The previous entry in the series, Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 for Xbox 360, sold 250,000 units worldwide. In Japan the game sold 60,000 units, whereas in North America it sold 140,000 (with 30,000 sales in Europe).
The North American and European sales represent just over 67% of the total sales of the game. The game is a better seller in the West than it is in Japan, making the decision not to localise and sell it there a baffling business decision, especially as sales of the franchise are historically so low to begin with.
Even the original game in the series, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, sold vastly better in the West than in Japan. The Xbox exclusive sold 590,000 units worldwide, with 360,000 coming from North America, 80,000 from Europe, and 140,000 from Japan. 74% of that games sales came from the West, as opposed to 23% in Japan.
While the series saw a dramatic downward trend in sales between the first and second iterations, this is an argument for cancelling the series altogether, not refusing to release the series in territories that contain between 67% to 74% of your audience.
There is an argument to be made that DOAX3 will sell better in Japan simply because it’s launching on PS4 and PS Vita. Lifetime Xbox 360 sales in Japan totalled 1.6 million, as opposed to the PS4, which has just broken 2 million as of November this year, with Sony consoles typically being a lot more popular in Japan than Microsoft ones.
Even so, PS4 is the fastest selling console in history, breaking the 30 million sales barrier worldwide earlier this year. That’s a fairly healthy customer base, and Koei Tecmo don’t seem to care that there are another 28 million potential customers being left on the table.
The second argument against releasing DOAX3 in the West comes to localisation. Perhaps the cost of localising the game is too prohibitive and just not worth bothering with for such low sales numbers.
A lot of the work, however, already seems to be done. DOAX3 can currently be pre-ordered via Play Asia, for the purposes of importing. The PS4 is region free, so a game made in Japan can be played in the West no problem. As for the language barrier, DOAX3 actually already comes with English subtitles.
It’s already localised, at least as much as DOAX2 was, minus English voice acting. If the cost of releasing the game at retail is prohibitive, release the game digitally. I hear digital downloads are all the rage these days. And regardless of the cost of actually releasing the game in the West, Koei Tecmo are still leaving more than a third of their fanbase out in the cold.
And so we come back to the point of cultural differences. It’s the only argument for not releasing the game in the West that actually makes sense. After all, the games media at large have been openly critical and downright hostile towards Japanese games for years now.
I don’t really have a horse in this race. I’m not a fan of the Dead or Alive Xtreme series (I suppose I could be, I’ve never played it) and if a Japanese publisher makes a business decision not to release a game in the West, that’s their business.
However, if a Japanese publisher decides not to release a game in the West because of a potential backlash from hypersensitive busy bodies, that I do have a problem with. One of the best things about modern gaming is in its diversity. We see games released from all over the world, with a huge variety of different cultural viewpoints (This War of Mine and The Witcher 3 spring immediately to mind). It’s awesome
However it seems that these releases are almost always met with an outcry from people who apparently champion”social justice”. Whether it’s the “toxic masculinity” or “racism” of The Witcher 3, or whether it’s changes to Xenoblade Chronicles X, Street Fighter V, Fatal Frame V, Blade & Soul or boobs in DOAX3.
Because as we all know, boobs are not something to be enjoyed.
There seems to be a movement within the games industry that is culturally tone deaf, seeming to want to hammer every game into a shape that fits their own view of what is acceptable, without taking into account the history or culture the game came from, or of the people who make them.
As Shuhei Yoshida said: “The West has it’s own thinking about how to depict women in games media which is different from Japan.” I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that in the slightest. Our cultures are very different, and it’s these differences that make Japanese games unique. There is room for both Western and Japanese games in this world, and all the cultural idiosyncrasies that came with them.
There’s nothing inherently damaging about the way women are depicted in Japanese games, and people really need to stop saying there is. Anyone who says that the characters in DOAX3 represent an unrealistic depiction of the female body are right, of course. But no-one actually believes this is how women do or should look, and anyone that does has bigger problems than being able to see gravity-defying boobies in a video game.
Anyone who says that the way women are depicted in DOAX3 is exploitative should probably remember that we’re discussing 2-dimensional images created from pixels on a screen. As the mainstream media has been trying to remind gamers for years, they’re not real. And anyone who says that it’s gross, well, okay then. That’s your personal opinion and I respect that. Other people are allowed to have different opinions. Neither is wrong.
If you find that there is content in a game (Japanese or otherwise) that you find personally objectionable, no-one is forcing you to play it. You could even tell people that X game offends you while still acknowledging its right to exist. Just because you’re intolerant of another culture, doesn’t mean the rest of us are. And being tolerant of, or even enjoying, the way women are depicted in Japanese games doesn’t make us somehow bad people. It makes us different. And I’d thank you to stop diminishing my thoughts and opinions just because you think yours are better.
As I mentioned earlier, I have not played any of the Dead or Alive Xtreme games. However I have been researching them extensively for the past week as this controversy has rumbled on. As far as I can tell they’re games where a group of women in bikini’s enjoy playing volleyball with each other in a sunkissed resort.
They’re harmless. While they don’t appeal to me personally, fair play to you if you’re a fan. Anyone who is offended by these games perhaps needs to take a long look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves which part offends them. Boobs? Bikinis? Volleyballs?
As for DOAX3 itself, Shu probably hit the nail on the head as far as this particular controversy goes (and many others, come to think of it). I hope that we don’t see too much more of this, although recent trends say we probably will. Personally I’d rather we all just play what we enjoy, and ignore what we don’t, and be tolerant of other cultures.
Rather than attempt to erase the cultural differences present between your culture and another in a petulant display of xenophobia.
Sales figures obtained via VGChartz
“There seems to be a movement within the games industry that is culturally tone deaf, seeming to want to hammer every game into a shape that fits their own view of what is acceptable, without taking into account the history or culture the game came from, or of the people who make them.”
yup, sounds like GamerGate alright.
As much as I hate the Boobs are bad sex negative “femenists” GG sure seem to be trying their hardest to come out as the bigger shitbags of the two sides. Though if I could burn down both sides that’d be the ideal solution.
While there are definitely faults on both extreme sides of the issue, there is only one side that is constantly attacking the output of the Japanese video game industry. And these attacks are not even just limited to Japanese games. They need to stop. We need to encourage creativity in the industry, not attempt to stifle it for supposed “moral” reasons.
Both sides also make valid points, but those points are constantly being drowned out by personal attacks and vitriol. Conversation and an exchange of ideas is the best way forward, but I fear it’s not going to happen any time soon, which is unfortunate.