By Spencer . April 18, 2007 . 6:29pm
So I’m starting this new internet roundtable discussion gig where editors, writers and passionate fans chat about their thoughts on everything gaming. For our first “from around the interweb” session we’re discussing DS Style. No not the jewel encrusted fashionable DS Lites. We’re talking about Square-Enix’s Touch Generations-like DS Style series. In this roundtable discussion we have:
Brandon Sheffield, editor of Game Developer Magazine and the mastermind of insert credit.
Jeriaska an editor of Square-Haven, a home for Square-Enix fans.
One of our very own RPG experts and avid importer, Roli. O.
And I’ll chime in with a few thoughts at the end.
Different minds, different thoughts and different perspectives on DS Style are past the break.
Brandon Sheffield from insert credit says,
“The DS Style games are very interesting to me. This is Square-Enix’s entry for a demographic that Nintendo lured into games for the first time. That being non-traditional gamers, the likes of the elderly, housewives, and people of that nature. I don’t like to call these ‘non-games’, because that that doesn’t describe what they are, it described what they’re not. These dry roasted peanuts I have on my desk are also non-games. So anyway, the software itself covers topics that, on paper, might be appealing to that demographic. I think these will sell pretty well if they’re made available in the right places, and if the packaging (apologies if it’s already been revealed, haven’t seen it) is clear in its indication that this is utilitarian software, not a game. So this shouldn’t be sold just game stores, but more in convenience stores, book stores, and places like that. Personally I think the map titles are the least interesting, as without GPS, they’re less useful as a tool. But more useful than nothing, I suppose!
I don’t see any reason for these to be localized in the U.S. certainly, because NOA has done quite a poor job of getting people into brain training and the like (though they’ve done a bit better with the Wii – but personally I think this is more word of mouth from gamers to parents and those who don’t play games). NOE has been far more successful in this regard, but I’m not confident that the titles would do well either. This seems very much a japan-centric thing, and I believe that westerners would still expect more game-like applications. Interestingly, for a while it didn’t really make as much sense to make japan-centric titles, because games and software were in a pretty serious slump. Nintendo’s ridiculously high sell-through in its native country has changed that dramatically, to where if you succeed in Japan, you can actually call yourself a success and be done with it, without having to look to foreign markets.
I also don’t see any reason for Square-Enix to include its signature characters or anything like that. This is really not software for gamers, and including any game easter eggs or things like that would only detract from the seriousness of the final products. This is very interesting because these are some of the first ‘serious games’ on console, and will be an interesting test for that sort of product.”
Jeriaska from Square-Haven says,
“From what I understand, Square Enix’s participation in the DS Style series speaks to the company’s commitment to developing what’s being called "serious games." At the Game Developers Conference in March, chief strategist Ichiro Otobe noted that in Japan software catering to educational markets is garnering sales on par with Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. These niche products include the Brain Age series, English training titles, even quirky concepts like virtual cooking. The impressive sales of these idiosyncratic games have given Japanese developers something to think about in terms of the diversity of applications a portable console like the Nintendo DS can handle.
Currently, Square is working on a series of travel guides for the DS based on the Chikyuu no Arukikata book series in Japan. These are basically the equivalent of Lonely Planet guidebooks. The DS Style series will potentially make the handheld gaming device into a mini tour guide—a role outside of what’s generally expected of videogames. Whether Square Enix and the Nintendo hardware can pull it off, we’ll have to wait and see. But I believe the company’s collaboration with publisher Gakken at least suggests the game developer is making a concerted effort to branch out into the comics and textbook market. As for DS Style, when you consider that various Japanese travelers spending their summer vacations in Italy, Paris, or Hawaii will be able to hook up and share impressions through WiFi, the advantages over printed material is rather apparent. Now, whether DS yoga or flower arrangement will have the same impact, your guess is as good as mine.”
Roli. O from Siliconera says,
"I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit skeptical of the Square-Enix DS Style games when I heard about them; but after realizing how much of a success the DS is in Japan with both adults and kids, I started to believe that these Square-Enix DS Style games would be as much of a success as Brain Age and the other DS games that improve your Kanji and Kana and even the English language. As with some games on the DS, these Square-Enix DS Style titles would add something more to what the DS already offers in terms of unique gaming experiences. As for whether or not they’d sell, it’s pretty obvious that they would sell. After all, Brain Age is still selling like hot cakes; and these new games from Square-Enix wouldn’t be so different. If the games do manage to sell and do offer something different, I see no reason why Square-Enix shouldn’t localize the games for the West; but as with most games in Japan, some games are just not suitable or even planned for Western release for various reasons. One of those reasons is more than likely reception. Maybe girls and women would prefer Cloud being the Yoga instructor to get them to buy the Yoga program; but in all seriousness, I prefer Ashe. Yes. I said Ashe. Not Aeris."
Like everyone else I think these are going to sell well in Japan too. I’m really not sure how a DS travel guide would sell in North America, but Square-Enix’s classical music program might be worth localizing. Maybe Square-Enix could team up with a University and use it as a supplementary learning aid. Either way I want to see it come over since Inis is behind it. The games really don’t need to have Square-Enix mascots for them to sell, but I don’t think it would hurt if mascots were hidden in the game. Remember how neat it was to find Game & Watch titles buried in Nintendo’s Kanji Dictionary? I might actually buy a travel guide if there is a chocobo guiding me through Times Square. I also wonder if the Yoga instruction game would sell more copies of Cloud or Squall were the instructors. Sure the group who of DS owners who only buy Brain Age and English Training might be unfamiliar with their "instructor", but Square-Enix could capitalize on their fanbase with easter egg additions. Personally I want a Slime to teach Yoga only because it would be ridiculous, but I know that’s not going to happen. Now that we’ve shared our thoughts what do you think about DS Style? How would you sell it? Will you buy it? Also special thanks to Brandon, Jerisaka and Roli. O for participating!
If you’re a writer/editor/webmaster/passionate fan/ninja who would like to participate in future “around the interweb” discussions send an e-mail to email@example.com. I’ll be getting in touch with interested parties for our next one. Also if you have ideas for topics you want to discuss please send them over to the same e-mail address.