The Japanese RPG genre has been in a sticky spot for almost a decade now. The popularity of the genre has been declining as of late, and if people aren’t playing them these days then the genre is bound to disappear down the road. Though Nintendo, Atlus, NIS and MonolithSoft has been doing their best to keep the genre alive, it’s not enough and it’s going to take a lot more than those four developers to keep the genre going. Though this issue is easily fixable, it’s still somewhat complex and cannot be explained in a simple sentence. The JRPG genre has been declining for many reasons.
It’s NOT due to fanservice, J-pop idols, cute anime girls or any other form of “otaku pandering.” The people making these complaints either didn’t play JRPGs, or were already jaded and needed an excuse to stop playing. Fanservice, cute anime girls and other forms of “otaku pandering” have been a part of JRPGs for a long time and it’s not exactly a new thing (Check out the Langrisser and Growlanser franchises, for an example. Tales of Phantasia as well.).
#1 – Lack of Exposure and Game Length
The first reason is due to a lack of mass exposure. You don’t really see that the genre get as much exposure in the media as other genres like Platformers, Sandbox games, and 1st and 3rd person shooters. A lot of other popular game genres, like 2D shooters, and light gun games, have either faded away or dropped down to niche statue because of the rising popularity of the above genres, and JRPGs could be next if this problem isn’t solved correctly. Many great RPG franchises have disappeared as of late, some notable ones are Front Mission, Growlanser, etc., and Fire Emblem would have suffered the same fate if not for Awakening. However, smaller developers aren’t able to fix this problem, and if your company is not named Nintendo, Atlus, MonolithSoft, Square Enix, or Capcom, you have next to no chance of your game getting any media attention let alone selling at least 500K units. For many small developers, this is a wound that cannot be healed by traditional methods.
It also doesn’t help the many RPGs still take a long time to complete, and it’s why gamers have been going towards games with somewhat shorter lengths like platformers, 1st/3rd person shooters, and even visual novels. For some people, they play the RPGs a little at a time, but for others, with all the other obstacles they have to get through in their lives (Work, bills, etc.), they just aren’t able to dedicate the time to complete RPGs anymore. Time is money anymore.
#2 – Releasing games for the WRONG platforms
The second reason is due to publishers putting out games for the wrong consoles. And when I say wrong, I say the gaming platforms where the audience may or may not give a damn about JRPGs. A great example being Xbox. Though all 3 Xbox consoles have found success in North America and Europe, they have BOMBED hard in Japan. And yet the Japanese publishers still keep putting out games for the system.
For example, look at how the Xbox One version of Final Fantasy XV did compared to the PS4 version:
Look at how poorly Panzer Dragoon Orta performed on the original Xbox:
And even though RPGs have proven, time and time again to not sell on Xbox platforms, Japanese publishers are still throwing money down the drain because reasons. They would be better off developing for Nintendo platforms, or hell, even PlayStation to an extent. RPGs have sold very well on the 3DS, and even the Wii U, and it’s looking to be the case for the Switch as well.
#3 – Decline of Quality
There’s also the fact that the overall quality of many RPGs have become absolutely terrible as of late. Some of this is due to a lack of content, DLC, and glitches, but the overall quality has been awful. I’ve been quite disappointed with the games that have come out in the 8th generation outside of Nintendo and Atlus. Final Fantasy XV, though it did well with critics, fans have been complaining about the gameplay quality, open world elements, linearity, clunky battle system, and the story being just 20 hours long.
Star Ocean 5 has also shown itself to be another disaster as well, and considering all the negative critic reviews that it got, it’ll go down as the worst game in the series, even worse than Star Ocean 4.
If the developer of the game you’re interested in is not Nintendo, Atlus, NIS or MonolithSoft, it is likely to be uninspired and mediocre like many of the games that have come out in the 8th gen.
#4 – Fan anger towards actions of Publishers
And lastly, I just think that the fans are tired of the bullshit. They’re tired of the poor and stupid profit-driven decisions by the publishers who have revealed themselves to be nothing more than greedy rats who don’t give a flying fuck about the fans and the developers who are it’s driving force.
Look at how greedy executives and owners have completely threatened their dedicated audiences to buying their games or cutting them off completely, or have completely fucked them over for new audiences. Look at how said owners and executives have run their respective companies into the ground so much that they are in massive debt and on the verge of bankruptcy.
Fuck this guy.
Double fuck this jackass.
And when it comes to dedicated audiences, JRPG developers have all but lost Xbox. And considering how the Tsujimotos royally threw Nintendo fans under the bus by delaying Monster Hunter XX and made Monster Hunter: World PS4 exclusive, Capcom has lost that fanbase as well. And I only expect this problem to get worse, especially with all the underhanded marketing/exclusivity deals from Sony. The fans have responded by not buying their games and have decided to check out different genres.
However, this decline isn’t entirely their fault. Even if the quality was the best we’ve seen since the 90s, even if they weren’t throwing their fans under the bus for the sake of profit, the JRPG genre would still be declining in popularity. Again, many former fans just don’t have the time to play RPGs anymore. But don’t expect the genre to be dying off anytime soon. There is still a large-enough audience of dedicated fans, and the genre should stay around for at most another decade. But this is still a major concern.
Your move, big wigs.