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The first issue of Gaming Life in Japan for 2004 offers our (and, in some ways, Famitsu's) look back at the year 2003 in Japan.
Lots of stuff happened in the year, from Sony's announcement and release of the PSX to Sega and Sammy's back and forthing on partnerships. Square Enix released its first direct sequel in the Final Fantasy and showed off Final Fantasy XII for the first time. Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance SP and managed to get the likes of Hudson Soft and Namco to bring many of their games over to the GameCube. The first titles of the notorious Capcom Five failed to make much of an impact over the year, but Capcom countered with an impressive unveiling of Onimusha 3 and a surprising Resident Evil Outbreak. All this in a year that should be small beans compared to 2004.
Below, you'll find sales information for the entire year, a Famitsu survey with Japan's biggest publishers and the third annual IGN Japan awards.
FAMITSU JOUHOU GO!
Aside from the few pages towards the back of the magazine featuring pictures of Boa, this week's issue has a couple of game announcements. Let's explore:Winning Eleven 7 International: Winning Eleven 7 was one of 2003's million sellers, just as Winning Eleven 6 was to 2002. As it did with Winning Eleven 6: Final Evolution, Konami is bringing back Winning Eleven 7 under a new name, Winning Eleven 7 International.
New features to the game include an option for six different languages and new clubs like Juventus and Feyenoord operating under their real names. The Japanese national team has increased to 45 players. You can now edit your goal keeper uniform and even stadiums. On top of this are new animations, new uniforms and 129 faces added to the face edit mode. This is the first Winning Eleven game to ship on a DVD-ROM, suggesting that the volume should be huge.
Just as over 600,000 people bought into Final Evolution, we don't doubt that International will be a huge hit. A release is set for 2/19.Bomberman Kart DX: Hudson brings a sequel to 2001's Bomberman Kart to the PS2. The numbers of courses and characters have increased, and the graphics have been improved. It also looks like Hudson will be including a mode of traditional Bomberman delights -- sure to be a reason many people pick up the game in the first place. A release is set for 4/29.
Following weeks and weeks of massive weekly review lists, the Famitsu review crew was apparently able to take a break, as this week's issue has just two games reviewed. Next week should see a return to normal.
We'll of course have to pick up Island of the Kaijuu, as it's made by Ancient, the company run by Mr. Yuzo Koshiro!
FAMITSU SALES MATOME
Before we get to the 2003 IGN Japanese Game Awards, let's take a look at every hardcore fanboy's favorite thing in the whole wide world: game sales.
The latest issue of Famitsu contains Japanese sales totals for hardware and software in the year 2003. First, the software. If you can remember far back enough, this year's winners should come as no surprise. Here's the top ten, listed as game name, publisher, platform, sales in 2003 and release date:
YEAR 2003 TOP 100 (1 - 10)
There's no stopping Square Enix! But don't discount Pokemon Ruby & Saphire which came in second despite having seen release last November. The totals for the Nintendo game were 4,902,220 until the end of 2003, and have since topped the five million mark. Koei comes in with Shin Sangokushi Musou at number 3 and Konami with World Soccer Winning Eleven 7 at number 4.
Interestingly, 2004 has a similar list of games that could end up forming the top four. Will next year's list see Final Fantasy XII at the top followed by Pokemon Red and Green, Sengoku Musou and Winning Eleven 8? Of course, Gran Turismo 4 should end up somewhere in there as well.
The remainder of the list is as follows:
YEAR 2003 TOP 100 (11 - 100)
This year, Nintendo takes top honors amongst software developers, with 22 titles on the list (26 if you include the Nintendo subsidiary Pokemon which handles Pokemon titles). But check out Square Enix! The company, in its first year of merged operations, managed 14 titles, vaulting it above the rest of the 3rd parties. The year 2003 and 2002 company rankings, which depict how many games the companies had in the top 100, are as follows:
YEAR 2003 COMPANY RANKINGS
Nintendo - 22
Square Enix - 14
Bandai - 8
Capcom - 7
Sony Computer Entertainment - 7
Namco - 7
Konami - 6
Sega - 4
Banpresto - 4
Pokemon - 4
YEAR 2002 COMPANY RANKINGS
Nintendo - 17
Konami - 9
Bandai - 9
Capcom - 8
Sony Computer Entertainment - 8
Square - 6
Namco - 6
Enix - 5
Koei - 5
Banpresto - 5
Much of this year's software ended up for the PS2, with Sony attaining a 57.2% software share, totalling 19,007,243 titles. Nintendo platforms account for the bulk of the remainder, with GBA getting a 29.3% share on 9,618,796 pieces of software and GameCube managing a 14.5% share on 4,619,029 pieces of software.
In all, 1079 titles made their way into the Japanese retail scene throughout the course of the year. In terms of specific numbers of games per platform:
YEAR 2003 SOFTWARE/PLATFORM
PlayStation 2: 556
Game Boy Advance: 153
PlayStation: 142 titles
Swan Crystal: 11
Game Boy: 2
Neo Geo: 2
Hardware sales matched up with software quite closely over the year. Here's a look at the number of hardware units sold over the year and some trends
YEAR 2003 HARDWARE SALES
PlayStation 2: 2,994,000
Game Boy Advance SP: 2,433,000
Game Boy Advance: 1,180,000
Swan Crystal: 47000
Game Boy Advance SP was released on 2/14 alongside Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. The system managed sales of over 200,000 units in its first month, limited largely by supply shortages. Further 'advances' in hardware units sold came at the release of Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu on 8/29 and during the Christmas rush.
The standard GBA, meanwhile, had sales upwards of 500,000 units in its first month of sales for 2003, but dropped off considerably with the release of the SP. Its sales curve matches that of the GBA-SP, although down a few notches in numbers.
Cube had a bumpy year. The release of the Game Boy Player on 3/21 saw a jump to nearly 50,000 pieces of hardware in March, following a drop to 30,000 in February. The Enjoy Plus Pack in June followed by Crystal Chronicle's release on 8/8 took the hardware to 100,000 units sold for August. The price drop to 14000 yen didn't see immediate effect on 10/17, but the system shot up towards the end of the year.
PlayStation 2 actually saw a sales drop between January and February, with a rebound to 300,000 units sold in March to coincide with the 3/13 release of Final Fantasy X-2. The PlyaStation BB Unit package, released on 6/12 brought about a slight sales increase, but the big surge happened at the end of the year when SCE lowered the system's price down to 19800 yen and released its popular racing pack.
Xbox sales are low-scale here in Japan, so sales 'surges' amount to just a few additional thousand units sold in a given month. The Cash Back campaign on 5/29 and the release of Dino Crisis 3 on 6/26 saw one such surge, with a similar surge following the 11/20 price drop to 16800 yen and the release of the 19800 yen Platinum Pack.
Overall, according to numbers provided by Enterbrain, Famitsu's parent company, 2003 saw a shrinking of the videogame market by 7.7%. Most of this is accounted for by a 25% drop in hardware sales, with software sales having risen 1.2% from year 2002.
FAMITSU ANKETTO GET!
And, just to make you wait a little bit longer before you see what IGN Japan thought of this year's batch of Japanese titles, here's a survey found on the pages of Famitsu. This survey was conducted with videogame companies, most of whom chose to remain anonymous in their responses to the magazine.
Q: What kind of year was 2003 for games?
Good: 27 compaines
Bad: 41 companies
Normal: 24 companies
For companies responding 'Good,' companies F and T point to lots of smash hits and big titles. Company A mentions that Online titles have come into fruition. A company called GN Software cites the fact that it was able to start off in the game biz.
Amongst companies responding 'Bad,' Company B points to the bankruptcy of Digicube while developer Arika points to a lack of hits and big titles.
Only one interesting response from companies responding 'Normal.' Company P states that while there was a slowdown, they were able to push software of the 'Boys Love' genre. Hmm... what company could this 'Company P' be?
Q: What will happen to the year 2004 game market?
Grow stronger: 25 companies
Can't expect much: 19 companies
Won't change: 32 companies
Other: 10 companies
Amongst those who believe a stronger market awaits, company S points to the EyeToy and PSP release while company M points to network-ready games becoming more abundant and big titles like GT4 and FFXII. NEC Interchannel suggests that it will be able to open up titles aimed at girls, including 'Boys Love' genre titles (ah ha!).
Among the less favorable responses, company A states that for everyone except the big makers the year will be tough, while company S believes that there's nothing but sequels down the road and that getting acceptance for new titles should be tough.
Q: What companies caught your attention in 2003?
Square Enix: 21 companies
Nintendo: 12 companies
Konami: 9 companies
Capcom: 7 companies
Koei: 5 companies
Company M gives Konami credit for its excellent character business. For Capcom, company S points to the release of GTAIII and other overseas titles and the KDDI network business. Koei gets attention from company O due to its fanbase.
Q: What companies are you watching for 2004?
Square Enix: 17
Sony Computer Entertainment: 14
Square Enix gets notice from company G for the release of FFXII's while company B believes the fruits of the merger will finally show. SCE gets attention from company A for the PSP and from company S for the PSX. Company R believes Nintendo's mysterious new E3 product will bring the company back from the dead. For Sega, company E is interested in the relations with Sammy while company K is interested in hearing the company's new battle plan.
Q: Are you developing for the next generation of hardware?
Currently in development: 4 companies
Not in development: 37 companies
Have plans for development: 32 companies
Q: Into what hardware will you place your resources for 2004?
(Responses: 77, multiple responses okay)
PlayStation 2: 52
Cell phone: 20
Game Boy Advance: 19
Game Cube: 11
Q: Do you have plans to work with other companies on game development?
Already doing so: 25
Plans to do so: 14
No plans: 9
Q: Do you have plans for a merger?
Currently Investigating: 3
Outside of these responses, the various companies surveyed provided promises to users. Company S promised that it will make lots of interesting games. Meanwhile, Company N promised to offer new games whose doors are wide and whose center runs deep (as deep as their promise?). Company E promised to reduce delays in its software. Electronic Arts revealed its full name and stated that it aims to get awards in the Famitsu Croww Review. Company G promised to make games that have high originality.
Special props to NEC Interchannel who promised to continue to work hard, even on the Dreamcast. Go NEC!
Turn the page for the year 2003 IGN Japan game awards: