Nanashi No Game Was Considered For North America, Focus Groups Killed It

By Spencer . March 28, 2011 . 1:11pm

image Before Takashi Tokita created the jovial world in Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, he worked on a Nintendo DS horror game called Nanashi no Game (Nameless Game). Perhaps inspired a bit by the Japanese horror film The Ring, the story centers around a cursed RPG you were foolish enough to play.


"At GDC 2006, I saw a presentation on a horror FPS game. When I saw this I thought the first person format was a great fit for horror," Tokita said as he reminisced about the creation of Nanashi no Game. "I wanted to do it on the DS because even though it was small we could deliver something high quality and also very scary. If I didn’t come to GDC, the idea would have never come to pass."


With only days left to live, you have to solve the mystery in the real world and the eerie 8-bit RPG. Similar to a point and click adventure game, actions, like inspecting an object in the real world, may open a path in the video game world. Since Asian horror movies (well, at least remakes) are popular in North America, I asked Tokita if he considered releasing Nanashi no Game overseas.


image"We talked to a focus group and they thought it wasn’t good for the market, so we didn’t do it," Tokita replied. "Maybe as a downloadable title it’s possible." I was surprised since Japanese and Korean horror movies were on the rise, so I asked Tokita to elaborate. "The opinion was you couldn’t shoot anything. Maybe we shouldn’t have been too concerned about it."


Outside of the NES style RPG, players walked around in first person mode with the Nintendo DS held like a book. I suppose that made Nanashi no Game seem like a FPS even though it was really an adventure game.

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  • Are you kidding me? “You couldn’t shoot anything?” What kind of focus group were they asking?!

    • Guest

      Call of Duty/Halo Fratboys

  • Note to developers, focus groups are idiots, if your game is good people will flock to it, maybe not enough to make it a hit, but at least enough to make it worthwhile.

  • Guest

    “The opinion was you couldn’t shoot anything. Maybe we shouldn’t have been too concerned about it.”

    All of my hate.

    • Phlo

      I don’t think all of my hate is enough.

    • My love, my hate, and all of my sorrow!

      • lightningrook


  • Zero_Destiny

    “You couldn’t shoot anything” This, this line just shows me that we need better focus groups. :( It sounded so cool. Hold the DS sideways like Hotel Dusk, first-person exploration like MegaTen(sans the fighting). Kinda like a point and click game controls. *sigh* I guess I’ll just have to let it go. Here’s hoping that the 3DS or Wii will get it on the VC and they’ll translate it.

  • Focus groups have never done anything good for anyone.

  • ::punches wall::

    Man, I have both games, even the downloadable mini games on DSiWare based off the second title, and…I really can’t elaborate on how unique these games are. SE managed to create a horror game on a portable system, that’s all I’ll say.

    Nuts to focus groups, just send them to the Siliconera community! We know the score, right?!

    • malek86

      Well, if japanese companies made questions to Siliconera, it probably wouldn’t help their bottom line that much.

      Atlus: ok guys, which of our games do you think we should localize?
      Us: ALL OF THEM!

      Not exactly the best way to make money.

      Anyway, in this case, I’m just going to chalk it down to it being their fault. They just chose the wrong people for the focus group. I mean, they should at least ask somebody who might like the genre. Not saying they should be fans (or they’ll just greenlight everything), but at least have some understanding of the genre. There are some successful adventure games on the DS, right?

      • Nah, there are people here who’ll tell you what worked and didn’t work for them in a game (I know you’ve seen ’em ;-). Having played the game myself I mentioned what holds the game down a bit in an earlier article about the game, iirc. It’s not perfect, but I believe it accomplished what it set out to do, hands down.

        You have a point, though. Get people who understand the system and the games on it. I could imagine what they would say if this same group came across something like Dark Spire or Korg-DS. Shooting? For one thing they’re ghosts, so not much help there. The other aspect of the game is in a 8-bit RPG setting. Uh…
        I understand making things appealing to a wide audience, but what about what makes appealing on its own merits, especially when it’s already done so well? If change was necessary to bring this over, alright. I’ll throw my hands up. I’m not that stubborn.
        Maybe I’m out of step as I don’t bode well with matters that hold things back in games, but there are a lot of other things out of step here.

  • Interface23


    • Seeing how focus groups influence localization is an interesting story and I’d doubt anyone else would have asked about it.

      No need to shout….

      • Interface23

        I’m just disappointed*. wtf phone. I got my hopes up reading your FFIV article. I apologize.

  • Chances are the focus group was comprised of people who said yes when asked “do you like first-person games?”

    So really, it’s both the group’s fault and the marketing team behind it. First-person game =/= first-person shooting game.

  • Yesshua

    “You couldn’t shoot anything”. Well, unfortunately that focus group was probably right. I mean, we all feel sad about it here (I certainly do) but that isn’t an unreasonable decision to make based on the market.

    Rather than accuse the focus group of making a poor decision, try changing the market. Buy 999, or an Ace Attorney game, or Fragile. Find some niche game out of Japan that looked good, but you couldn’t justify buying at the time. Find it, and buy it new. That’s how you’ll get this game localized. That’s the only way.

    • This here I wholeheartedly agree with.

      That said, it’s a shame that gaming outside of the currently popular genres is not something self sustainable.

    • Joanna

      I’ve been trying, but I’m only one person! T____________T

      I own all those games you listed (every single Ace Attorney game released on DS). I hardly ever buy anything mainstream because I know it will get the sales it needs and I pick it up later down the road and give preference to niche games. I also try and pick up as many as I can on the first week of release for full price, but I sadly can’t support all the games I feel need it. Just too many for my poor poor wallet. :(

      Anyways, I think a lot of us here do try and support the niche genres, but sadly we are but a tiny drop in an ocean of gaming consumers. Even among RPG fans that I know in real life, there are a lot that don’t move beyond their favourite few series (mostly because they game casually and don’t have time for more so they stick to what they know they will like).

  • Yeah, can’t shoot anything, how terrible. Do they not realize these kinds of games already have a following in North America? Of course not all adventure games do as well as Halo, but they definitely have a market… one that’s been around since the 80s. Look at all the LucasArts PC adventures and tell me those don’t have cult followings. So yeah, they’d have to settle for a small crowd, but it WOULD sell. I wish Aksys would’ve published this game, they had the balls to give us Theresia and 999.

    • Just to add a point…

      During Swery’s GDC talk he mentioned that they added shooting into the game because they thought it wouldn’t sell in the West without it.

      • I remember hearing that… That’s ridiculous. It isn’t just adding in what actually sells, it’s adding in what they THINK will sell. A lot of Japanese developers have this preconception as to what the West “wants” and it turns out we’ve always enjoyed Japanese games for what they are and Western games for what they are. (I know that’s been discussed on this site in detail before) That said, Deadly Premonition was still brilliant, even if the shooting segments were mediocre.


        • Well, to be clear, Swery was asked by the publisher to add it. It wasn’t something he volunteered to do.

  • Is that the mainstream HALOtard focus group? Seriously, focus groups in game industry is like putting monkeys as CEO on a big company.

  • Guest

    “The opinion was you couldn’t shoot anything.”

    *slams head on the table repeatedly*

    • Man, is that what we’ve become? Is gaming just shooting/hitting/slamming/hadokening things repeatedly now?

      • malek86

        Actually, those four actions do represent about 99% of the games out there (and not just today, but in the past too), so it’s normal.

        • Ha, yeah I guess. But I guess what I’m saying is people should be a little more open minded about the definition of gaming.

          • FireCouch

            They should, but they won’t. Gaming to almost everyone is Mario and Call of Duty. Try to convince them otherwise and they scoff at you.

          • You have to vote with your wallets. And these days, games like CoD simply have the most votes. The best selling games in the western market are mindless, bloody FPSs that big companies keep pumping out because they cost little to develop, and are almost assuredly going to sell well.

            Cod 4 through 6 are basically the same game, using the same game engine, with very little tweaks in between. Plus, generic voice clips/textures/models can just be recycled for the next game. That, combined with the fact that big time publishers like EA have plenty of money to burn on advertising and filling the pockets of critics makes for a franchise that JUST WON’T DIE.

            Western reviewers complain that Japanese games like Dynasty Warriors are too repetitive and should retire gracefully. What they don’t realize is that they heap praises on similar games all the time, and those games are developed much closer to home.

          • @yengk Cost little to develop? Im quite sure that both Black Ops, Modern Warfare 2, Medal of Honor, and other popular series, did not cost little develop. If anything it is also more proof that those willing to shell out more for marketing win. Generic Voice Clips? The games had award winning actors in the cast! Lastly, they didnt pay out critics, take Black Ops for example, it doesnt seem to be the highest rated and if anything was rather criticized for not going beyond much of MW2 or even being a genre defining experience; exceptional options for multiplayer though.

            FPS are not assuredly going to sell well, only a few, a handful of FPS have managed to survive and do well. I think the picture you are trying to paint isnt that accurate.

          • @Tsuna Allow me to correct myself – they cost comparatively less to develop. I will not deny that a truckload of money and hundreds of hours went into developing whatever engine every CoD game uses. But that’s the point – they build the engine, and just reuse it for every single sequel. You have to admit, there is next to zero significant gameplay change between CoD 5 and 6. The two are basically the EXACT SAME GAME, except with different settings, and perhaps a minor graphics update. Hell, you could almost call the CoD “sequels” mods – the “genre defining experience” you experienced in MW1 is hardly any different from the same experience in MW2. And I guarantee you that MW3 will bring you more of the same. You’re basically paying the full price of a game for something which is more akin to an expansion pack.

            “If it isn’t broke, why fix it?” some might ask. It is that exact attitude that makes game devs lazy. “Hey, the fans will never get bored of this stuff – keep making ’em!”. Please, just stop a minute and consider this. There was a CoD game in 2005. And another in 2006. TWO of them were released in ’08 (World at War, Modern Warfare). Followed closely by MW2 in 2009, Black Ops in 2010. And MW3 is slated for sometime this year.

            Count them. That’s 7 games in the space of only 6 years. Can you imagine how many more there’ll be in a decade’s time? And this wouldn’t even be so bad if the games actually, you know, did anything different. If they bothered to add meaningful gameplay elements, maybe the 20 odd sequels we’ll see down the road might even be worth it. But no. Apparently, the only sufficient change needed for the next CoD sequel is MOAR GRAFIX.

          • malek86

            @yengk: small correction, MW1 was released in 2007. Until now they have always released exactly one game per year, always in the same time frame (early November).

            I’d also argue about moar grafix. Those games don’t look substantially better than each other, and they sure don’t do that much to advance the technological boundary, unlike games such as, let’s say, Crysis 2 or Killzone 3.

    • Look at the charts from 2010 and the best selling games of all time. You can see where the trend is and what the majority of gamers want now a days. I agree it’s an idiotic thing for a focus group to reject a game but I can see why the focus group reached that descion.

      • 1. Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision Blizzard) – Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS – more than 12 million
        2. Madden NFL 11 (Electronic Arts) – Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP
        3. Halo: Reach (Microsoft) – Xbox 360
        4. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Nintendo) – Wii
        5. Red Dead Redemption (Take-Two Interactive) – Xbox 360, PS3
        6. Wii Fit Plus (Nintendo) – Wii
        7. Just Dance 2 (Ubisoft) – Wii
        8. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Activision Blizzard) – Xbox 360, PS3, PC
        9. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Ubisoft) – Xbox 360, PS3
        10. NBA 2K11 (Take-Two Interactive) – Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, PC

        Hm what trend? 3 shooters, 2 sports games, 2 dance games, a Platformer, and 2 action adventure games?

        • gatotsu911

          Holy crap Sawada, I think that’s the most productive and insightful post you’ve ever made.

        • Do you see horror games? Do you see RPG’s? What about niche titles? Because I certainly don’t.

          The trend is that gamers don’t want those kind of games. They want accessible titles that have some kind of action or seen as exciting, as well as follow-ups to franchises or brands they have a huge loayalty to.

          Tsuna, give me a link to where you got that info so I can take a deeper look :D

          • What horror games are even released these days? Why would a “niche” title be up there, wouldnt that in essence counter the definition of a game being “niche”?! (Niche market: a relatively small and specialist, yet profitable, market). RPGS, well Pokemon fills that market and FF XIII did if I remember on top selling PS3 software lists.

            If anything, if one does the internet search for the years then I dont ever think there has been a trend. Most gamers have been the same today as they have been in 2006, if anything, the market, in the US, has been the same.

            1. Madden NFL 07 (PlayStation 2; 1.8 million+ sold)
            2. New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo DS; 1.5 million+ sold)
            3. Kingdom Hearts II (PS2; 1.5 million+ sold)
            4. Gears of War (Xbox 360; 1 million+ sold)
            5. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360; 913,000+ sold)
            6. Final Fantasy XII (PS2; 895,000+ sold)
            7. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PS2; 860,000+ sold)
            8. NCAA Football 07 (PS2; 849,000+ sold)
            9. Madden NFL 07 (Xbox 360; 826,000+ sold)
            10. Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!/ April (Nintendo DS; 792,000+ sold)

            Best Selling Software of 2007
            1. Halo 3 (Xbox 360) — 4.82 million
            2. Wii Play w/ remote (Wii) — 4.12 million
            3. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Xbox 360) — 3.04 million
            4. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (PlayStation 2) — 2.72 million
            5. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) — 2.52 million
            6. Pokemon Diamond (Nintendo DS) — 2.48 million
            7. Madden NFL 08 (PlayStation 2) — 1.90 million
            8. Guitar Hero 2 (PlayStation 2) — 1.89 million
            9. Assassin’s Creed (Xbox 360) — 1.87 million
            10. Mario Party 8 (Wii) — 1.82 million

            01. Wii Play (Wii) – 5,280,000
            02. Mario Kart Wii (Wii) – 5,000,000
            03. Wii Fit (Wii) – 4,530,000
            04. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) – 4,170,000
            05. Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360) – 3,290,000
            06. Call of Duty: World at War (Xbox 360) – 2,750,000
            07. Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360) – 2,310,000
            08. Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3) – 1,890,000
            09. Madden NFL 09 (XBox 360) – 1,870,000
            10. Mario Kart DS (DS) – 1,650,000

            01. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Activision, Xbox 360)
            02. Wii Sports Resort (Nintendo, Wii)
            03. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Nintendo, Wii)
            04. Wii Fit (Nintendo, Wii)
            05. Wii Fit Plus (Nintendo, Wii)
            06. Mario Kart Wii (Nintendo, Wii)
            07. Wii Play (Nintendo, Wii)
            08. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Activision, PS3)
            09. Halo 3: ODST (Microsoft, Xbox 360)
            10. Pokemon Platinum (Nintendo, DS)


          • When I talk about niche I go by genre not by the amount of people. So to me a mystery horror is a niche genre since there aren’t many games (at least in the west) that cover it.

            See I do see a trend. But whatever if this subject ever comes up again I’ll argue about it more in-depth.

    • Roses4Aria

      Lol! What’s really sad is that I was actually momentarily shocked by that statement. Thinking about it, though, that’s probably the opinion of half the gamers I know. I think about games like 999 and sadly shake my head because they all have no clue what they are missing out on with that attitude.

  • Thiefofhearts

    Focus groups CAN be helpful. However taking their word for everything like “oh, you can’t shoot stuff. I hate it.” is the wrong way to go here. Many focus groups will work in things they thought was really cool in games they just played. You need to ignore most of those statements.

    This almost sounds like they wheeled in anyone, not people who played horror games.

  • Asian horror film remakes are on the rise? What movies are these? I guess that is interesting though, as I dont really see, or think that I can find enjoyment in a game in which there is no response to interact with the surroundings in a meaningful way to cause a response.

    • I’m guessing The Ring, the Grudge and all their little sequels. :/

    • Not just the Ring and The Grudge. One Missed Call & Pulse were originally Japanese movies.

      A number of other Western horror movies are actually remakes of Asian horror movies. The Eye was from Hong Kong. The Uninvited was “A Tale of Two Sisters” in Korea. Mirrors was another Korean film. Shutter is actually a Thai movie. Etc.

  • Such a shame that we never got this game. Makes me question how the focus group was set up. Not being able to shoot things, that comment made me go ugh.

  • MrRobbyM

    *inflicts self-harm while laughing hysterically*

  • Fuckus groups

  • Argh, stupid focus groups. Sounds like they are at least considering some kind of downloadable release…here’s hoping.

  • Phoenix_Apollo

    Why would you trust shoddy reasoning like that, SE? Just…why?

  • Ladius

    Can’t express what I’m feeling right now without being insta-banned for a combo of horrifying insults :(

  • Icon

    I find the term ‘focus’ group ironic…

  • amagidyne

    Gah, that’s a terrible reason to kill a localization. I haven’t played it, but this could easily have become a cult hit in a market with so few horror games.

  • kroufonz

    notto disu shitto agen!

    looks like this focus group japanese dev often ask for opinion usually far from their game main focus/ target audience

    isn’t FFXIII-2 will also ask “focus group” opinion???

  • exhume

    Rather bothered by this news. First SE comment that they didn’t use focus groups when developing FFXIII, and were blasted by the gaming community for it. Now they use one, and it results in the game not getting a release at all. What’s the answer?

  • Happy Gamer

    you know what is unfortunate is that people like us are actually a very small minority in the consumer world of video games. The reason why “stupid” games sell so much is because people who enjoy mindless games are well, the majority at least now. The gaming market has changed where it was if you gamed, u knew pretty much all the games your friends played, to everyone owning owning a wii/ps3 move/xbox kintect, etc with mainstream games. The “hardcore” gamer now would be someone who plays the popular FPS titles. As difficult it has gotten for more niche titles, I would actually argue against this because of the smaller titles available for downloads and handheld popularity, I think we saw a pretty high rise in niche titles this generation than the past. I felt ps2/xbox/cube era had it worst for niche developers.

    This game looks so creepy in a strange way and if the story is great I’d love to play it.

    You know how most games are horror “Games?” this game seems like the game itself is a horror object which makes it so freaky. Kindda like watching the “ring” scene on an old TV vs in theatres…

    nothing more freakier than complete immersion.

    • Joanna

      Oh I definitely agree with you on the freaky factor and that’s actually the reason I was so interested in this game in the first place. Such an interesting way of breaking the fourth wall. :3

  • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

    There was a CHANCE here.
    It’s gone now.

  • maxchain

    So what’s your next move, focus groups? On your way to plague some village or burn some crops somewhere?

    • Actually, burning crops tested badly, when compared to firing squads.

  • Bloody hell. That’s why we never got it? I researched it a bit for an ill-fated article, and despite the obvious popularity of the genre it seemed crazy it had never been released on a platform that shares the same populist demographic.

    And for such a shitty goddamn reason it turns out.

  • four_black_hearts

    God Damn It!

  • Time to name names! The tag “focus group” is rather #Orwellian, thanks to this type of censorship.

  • And I rest my case.

  • Hraesvelgr

    I was never really interested in this game, personally, but…

    “Maybe we shouldn’t have been too concerned about it.”

    You’re right, you shouldn’t have been. But hey, they’re past the PlayStation-era Square, where they actually took risks. Now they just play it safe and publish Final Fantasy games, while ruining their other franchises by either making really bad games or handing them off to mediocre Western developers.

  • JustaGenericUser

    You’ve gotten be frickin me!

  • NetscapePizza

    Focus groups are clueless, joe public doesn’t know what he wants and with a title like this it would never have been a mainstream hit anyway so why bother listening to a focus group.

    You can’t shoot anything in Amnesia either, didn’t stop that game being a runaway success.

    • malek86

      It should be pointed out, though, that Amnesia didn’t become a success (in fact initial sales were a bit disappointing, the creators said) until it was put on sale on Steam. After that, word spread, sales picked up even after the offer ended, it became a success, and they even made enough money to get a lot of profit off the game.

      So there was at least an initial pricing issue there, and don’t forget we’re talking about a $15 game here, while Nanashi would have been at least $30. Amnesia also had a bit of help from the success of the previous Penumbra series, while this one wouldn’t even have that luxury.

      That might explain why that focus group wanted it to be a downloadable game, because they thought at full price it would have failed. Maybe Squenix should have released this Nanashi as a budget game, but I’ve never seen a budget game from them, so maybe they didn’t even consider it an option.

      • This comment is pretty well-thought out.

        It’s worth noting that Amnesia’s “runaway success” was 36000 units in the first month, and over half of their current sales have been at a discounted price. The 200,000 figure Frictional mentioned in January is still less than, say…the Chrono Trigger DS port. In contrast, DQV sold something like 60000 copies first-month, and S-E was apparently so impressed that DQVI got passed off to Nintendo.

        It’s hard to say, because Square-Enix typically publishes DS titles with a much higher localization cost than I’m assuming Nanashi would have. But I doubt very much that S-E would consider figures like Amnesia’s a sales success, even for a title with only niche appeal. It seems like they have the same attitude as NB had (still has?) with Tales.

        …The bigger question to me is why we didn’t see it from anyone else—a niche publisher who could have run with the cult hit thing. Natsume got Lufia and Nintendo got DQ, so it’s not like they’re completely averse to third-party licensing. Did S-E keep the licensing price obstructively high even after it tested poorly with their focus groups? Or was it that no one else felt the game could succeed after seeing the failure of titles like theresia, Moon and Dementium?

  • How disappointing. Maybe if SQEX ever re-releases it, we’ll have a shot…

  • Ren

    Oh, I was just reading Nanashi no Game’s Let’s Play some minutes before. Coincidence?

    What about Eyes? Can’t they bring that one?

  • Tom_Phoenix

    This news post reminds me of the time Arakawa (former president of Nintendo of America) intended to introduce the Famicom to the North American market. He had focus groups test out some of the games for the system (such as Super Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda). The result: they thought they were crap. Arakawa almost gave up, but decided to go through with it anyway and released the console under the name Nintendo Entertainment System.

    The rest, as they say, is history…

  • Whenever I think of focus groups, I think of the Terry Gilliam movie, Brazil, which tested very poorly with focus groups, so much so that the studio actually re-edited the movie against Gilliam’s wishes to create a version of the movie that was about an hour shorter, lost all the surreal fantasy sequences, and had an upbeat ending. There’s a whole documentary about “The Battle of Brazil” included in the Criterion Boxset. Focus groups are the enemy of creativity.

  • z_merquise

    Higher-ups, execs, focus groups or whatever: We can’t bring it to the Western audience because this game had no shooting and we thought Western people likes guns and shooting while riding their horses.

    [insert Nolan North’s Deadpool voice]

    Seriously though, such misconception that non-Japanese gamers only love blood, violence, guns and anything that goes boom really hurt the Japanese game publishers, their fans and the gaming industry as a whole. They should realize that video games, like comic books, animation and movies, won’t last long if it only stayed in the same or usual genre. There should always be variety for everyone.

    It’s really like what the guy named Massimo Guarini, a non-Japanese Grasshopper Manufacture staff and director of Shadows of the Damned, said in an interview that Western and Eastern game developers may have this “the grass is always greener on the other side” mentality.

  • AoiKaze

    “The opinion was you couldn’t shoot anything.” …This is WHY we can’t have NICE THINGS. -.-;

  • man i hope this comes out over here…

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