Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and Mario 3D World Are Off to a Sluggish Start in Japan
When Final Fantasy XIII-2‘s release saw a sharp decline in first week sales, one was initially quite interested to see whether the decline signified a one-time drop-off as series fans who rejected the polarising Final Fantasy XIII‘s take on the series formula broke away from the XIII series fanbase, or whether subsequent entries would be met with a compounding accrual of series fatigue. One personally expected to see a similar decline in sales performance for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, and it appears that one was correct – at least in Japan – and it appears that one is not alone in this regard, as Square Enix shipped far fewer copies of the game to retailers for this week’s Japanese release.
The launch of Lightning Returns has seen the final chapter of the Final Fantasy XIII series secure top place in Japan’s weekly sales chart, yet it only managed to sell 277,082 copies to Final Fantasy XIII-2‘s 524,217 and Final Fantasy XIII‘s 1.5 million in first week sales. Lightning Returns does however appear to have sold to expectations, selling through 71.98% of the 385,000 copies of the game that were shipped to Japanese retailers. By contrast Final Fantasy XIII-2 only managed to sell through 62.06% of the 845,000 copies that were shipped to retailers. It does however appear that Square Enix need not have bothered releasing the Xbox 360 version of the game in Japan, as it only managed to sell a mere 4000 copies in contrast to the 10,000 copies of Final Fantasy XIII-2 that were sold on that platform.
It is anyone’s guess as to what is to blame for Final Fantasy XIII‘s decreasing commerciality, though over-familiarity might be a good bet; then again, perhaps series fans caught wind of the game’s gloriously awful ending. At any rate, it will be interesting to see how the game performs when it is released to Western markets on the eleventh of February, as overexposure is usually a recipe for increased sales in the West, rather than the diminishing returns that Lightning Returns has thus far encountered.
The other eye opening franchise debut on the Japanese charts this week was Super Mario 3D World, a debut that managed to sell a mere 99,588 copies, which is only a shade above the first week numbers for Pikmin 3, a game which months later has still not been able to crack 200,000 units in sales. This marks the lowest first week sales for the series in the Japanese market, dramatically undershooting the 166,572 copies sold that New Super Mario Bros. U saw in its launch week, perhaps indicating that Japanese Wii U owners have begun forgetting about their systems. At any rate, it goes without saying that Super Mario 3D World has done very little to boost the weekly sales of the Wii U in Japan.
Xbone News Round-Up
This week Microsoft has kindly offered a free digital copy of one of the four Microsoft-published Xbone launch titles to anyone experiencing the Xbone disc-grind failure that has been so widely reported on. The advantage to this that is being touted by Microsoft is that since player accounts and saves can be accessed from any Xbone console, then individuals who are sent a loaner Xbone through Microsoft’s ‘advance exchange program’ while their faulty console is away being repaired will be able to start playing their game immediately. One pertinent detail about Microsoft’s supposed largesse that is not being touted by the company is the fact that in order to receive one of these loaner Xbone units individuals must pay a bond of $500. Still, a free game is at least something.
Microsoft’s launch releases have come under heavy criticism following the release of the console, after it became apparent that they are all packed to the brim with microtransactions – the worst culprit among them has been singled out as Ryse, which takes the liberty of transferring players directly to the Xbone store if they attempt to purchase a skill while lacking sufficient in-game gold to make the transaction. As far as shameless gouging goes, this is clearly a cut above the in-game salesmanship exhibited by Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 3. In response to this negative press Microsoft’s Phil Spencer has spoken out to allay fears, and in true Microsoft fashion has come off as sounding monumentally out of touch, as Spencer is all about crafting better experiences for gamers by locking play options behind paywalls.
“I want to be able to learn from what we put in, so let’s make sure we are crafting the game and the analytics so we can see what the consumers — the gamers — like and don’t — if you assume buying habits are a reflection of what people like. So that we can craft the experience better for the gamer.
It’s easy to say something like, ‘I’ll never allow somebody to buy the win of the game, I won’t let them buy victory,’ but that’s kind of a trite answer. I’d say, ‘Yeah, I guess I have that line, that [we wouldn’t have] “Pay five bucks and get 1000 achievements” or something stupid like that.’ I’m always pushing against that. But, in reality, that’s not what the gamers are looking for. They’re usually looking for customization and their gameplay style opening up.”
This week it was also revealed that the materials cost of the Xbone console is $471, which is $90 more expensive than the PS4. This puts the console materials cost at $29 less than its RRP, though it may still end up selling at a slight loss after labour, distribution, advertising, and retail margins are taken into account. Interestingly, the Xbone’s APU costs $110, which is $10 more expensive than the vastly more powerful APU used in the PS4, and is largely attributable to the 32mb of eSRAM that the Xbone uses as a crutch to compensate for its slow DDR3 system RAM. Meanwhile, Kinect 2.0 accounts for $75 of the overall materials expense of the Xbone, saddling Xboners with an unwelcome and expensive albatross.
Xboners who value their ability to Skype [as accessed through the purchase of a Gold account] will want to refrain from saying any naughty words in the videos they upload to Microsoft’s Upload Studio, as any use of profanity will see users stripped of “some or all” of the privileges they have purchased with their XBL Gold account. What this means in practical terms is that invective-prone users have found themselves not only banned form uploading videos, but also from making Skype calls with friends. Thanks, Obama!
Finally, Last week Lusipurr.com reported on the fact that Europe was factored in as an afterthought with respect to the Xbone’s much touted ability to play TV after it became clear that the Xbone’s program guide did not work with Sky, the UKs largest cable TV operator. This week however it has become apparent that Europe is not even an afterthought, as the 60hz Xbone is not able to properly convert the 50hz television signal utilised throughout the PAL territories, which encompasses all of Europe along with New Zealand and Australia. This results in severe judder as the Xbone attempts to display the 50hz signal at a 60hz framerate.
Possible Benefits of Sega’s Buy-Out of Atlus
Up until now one has been very down on the possibilities inherent in Sega’s purchase of Atlus, most of which center around Sega’s terrible track record when it comes to localising and marketing their own games, yet this week Sega Sammy’s director of operations, Naoya Tsurumi, has raised the prospect that this union may actually carry some potential benefits as well. Tsurumi has stated that Atlus now has Sega’s blessing to utilise any of Sega’s dormant IPs in the manner of their choosing.
“Everything will remain the same. The people of Index will continue working thoroughly, and Sega have no plans to undertake any of their work. However, we’re at a point where Sega is offering Index to freely make use of any resources they may have, that Index does not. Index will be keeping many of their fine qualities, such as Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei IP, and many others.
While we have no intention of forcing this, we’d definitely love to have them utilize any of Sega’s dormant IPs.”
Sega has a vast catalog of brilliant IPs, yet in recent years have shown themselves unable to utilise them in a compelling fashion. The mind boggles with the possibilities of what might occur with a JRPG developer of the caliber of Atlus being put in charge of a potential Skies of Arcadia 2, Panzer Dragoon Saga 2, Shenmue 3 [the internets would explode], Shining Force, Valkyria Chronicles 4, or Phantasy Star 5. It is even exciting to think of some of the more mundane possibilities, such as Atlus being able to utilise Sega’s iconic IPs within the context of existing Atlus franchises [provided that Lusipurr’s Sonic predictions do not hold true]. That being said, it is far from certain to what degree Atlus was able to survive Index’s insolvency and subsequent purchase by Sega. All the IP in the world will matter little if Atlus is no longer the same solid developer responsible for some of the most consistently good JRPGs in gaming. Fans of both Atlus and Sega would do well to temper their expectations as to what may come from this opportunity, yet it is hard not to be a little excited.