Monday, January 14, 2013

The next three months of Japanese games for a PC gamer

PC gaming has never had the same kind of relevance consoles do in Japan. Publisher-funded games tend to lean toward Xbox 360 and locally developed PlayStation 3 titles, with PC versions of those games being far and few between. When a PC version does release, it usually releases months or years after the console counterparts, or arrives as port with questionable quality.

Sometimes the ports can turn out as good, if not better than the original console release, as in the case of Resident Evil 5 with DirectX 10 support, higher resolution, higher framerate, anti-aliasing, and Nvidia 3D support. On the other hand, ports can also be the equivalent of From Software’s Dark Souls with terrible keyboard and mouse support, a 1024x720 internal framebuffer, and capped at 30 fps. Fortunately, passionate fans dug into it and produced mods and fixes for the From Software game, who had little to no experience working on a PC title.

However, the next three months provides a good microcosm of the overall attitude of Japanese PC games from all three perspectives: Publishers, developers, and consumers.

The rebooted DmC: Devil May Cry, developed by Ninja Theory, releases to consoles tomorrow with the PC version, developed by polish studio QLOC, hitting almost two weeks later on January 25. This isn’t the first time QLOC worked on a Capcom title. They also worked on the PC versions of Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition and Street Fighter X Tekken. The PC version of Devil May Cry won’t differ much in terms of content, but it will achieve the standard higher resolution and fidelity most PC games have, in addition to reaching 60 fps. The console version, limited to 30 fps, will have the “the feel of 60 frames-per-second,” according to director Hideaki Itsuno.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a spin-off from the Metal Gear Solid series, is due to hit consoles on February 19. Currently, only Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions are in the works, with developer Platinum Games saying a PC version could still be on the table once the console version ships. “Right now, honestly, we are doing our best to complete at the same time the PlayStation 3 version and the Xbox 360 version,” said Kojima Productions creative producer Yuji Korekado. “For the PC version, we will contemplate making it or not once we reach this goal of completing the PS3 and 360 versions.” When initially announced as Metal Gear Solid: Rising, the title slated for all three platforms, but in 2011 during the transition to Platinum Games, the aim of Revengeance was slimmed down to just consoles.

However, a PC version may still yet be coming. Hideo Kojima tweeted the above picture before the end of last year, showing Metal Gear Rising: Revegeance played on a PC with an Xbox 360 controller. Lead programmer Korekado Yuji confirmed this was a test on a PC version. There’s yet to be word if a PC release is coming, but if so, it will probably be a few months after the console version ships.

The last major Japanese PC release to come in the next three months is Resident Evil 6. Releasing last year to a panned reception, the PC version is due on March 22. Also developed by QLOC, the release will include all console content in addition to future content through free title updates. While I’m still looking forward to it, I’m a little sad my first entry into the Resident Evil series will probably leave a sour taste in my mouth.

Beyond March, the scope of the Japanese PC game market diminishes. But it’s not alone, new consoles likely to be announced later this year are holding back the reveal of many games taking advantage of the hardware. At the moment, there are no games announced with a release date past April or May. Nonetheless, the Japanese PC market remains untapped. Platinum Games expressed interest, recognizing the opportunity to break into the PC with Valve’s Steam platform. When GameSpot asked why Japan doesn’t embrace the PC at the 2012 Tokyo Game Show, they came away with varied answers, but unfortunately, nothing substantial.

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