A Japanese (Cultural) Invasion

As long as I'm thinking about games, I suppose I might take a moment to wonder how many other people on this side of the Pacific share my particular gaming preferences. Or to put it differently: is there anyone else in the entire state of Maryland (or Massachusetts) that actually owns a copy of either Weiss Schwarz Portable or Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny? Does the number of people with those games in the entire U.S. break into four digits? Or even three?

Normally, it's safe to say that out of a sufficiently large sample, the odds are that the answer to any question of that type is "yes". I can't be the only one to take an interest in the Weiss Schwarz card game, after all, and I'm certainly not the only one to be interested in Nanoha. But what actually are the odds that I'll meet another such person? Even when I was in Japan, I met pretty much no one who shared my interests. That was, of course, partially my fault, as I failed to seek out Doshisha's anime club. And there's a lesson that could perhaps be discussed about making your dreams happen. But that's for another time and another post.

What is certain is that the normal "well, plenty of other people are out there" is not necessarily as reliable. I know that I like to think - or perhaps "hope" is a better term - that it would be possible for Japanese media to do well in American markets. That if the Nanoha movie was a region 1 DVD rather than a region 2, it could sell as it is (it has English subtitles); if Weiss Schwarz was translated, it could find its own following here.

This necessarily assumes that there are a sufficiently large number of others like me who would buy these things, of course. Is that a valid assumption...? I don't actually know. Of course, some companies are finding out already. Fate/extra is one of those American PSP games I have, and pretty much all that was done to it was a straight translation of the dialogue before it received an American release. (As far as I can tell, anyway.)

Part of the problem is the fan base. We descend now into my rampant speculation... but I would suspect that Weiss Schwarz gets by on fans of each individual anime and game that see their characters in trading card form. Likewise, this new Nanoha PSP game has its own story and even some unique characters, but it's quite obviously directed pretty much entirely at someone who has played the prior PSP game and seen most if not all of the anime series plus the movie.

I'm not going to say that those people don't exist in the U.S., because I'm clearly a counterexample to that. But to bring the card game, or either of the aforementioned PSP games, over to the U.S., they would first have to be translated, and that costs money. So the question is, is there enough of a fan base to make enough money back in return for that investment?

Fans try to make up for the lack of demand by creating fan translations of works. Even I might do that for the Gears of Destiny game... I don't have the skill to create a patch for the game (or the desire, for that matter), but I damn well might translate at least the story. But then, what need is there to create a localized version? The fans have their translations, and can buy the original version. No one else will even notice that the game exists.

In short, if I want to see these kinds of games sold in American stores (as they manifestly deserve to be, in my most likely highly biased opinion), all I can do is ensure that Japanese media gains wider exposure and wider mainstream acceptance in American society. So that's what I'll do.

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