Bad reviews from Japan may have lead to developers prioritizing other countries first.
A few months back when Pokémon GO was first released to the world, it was initially only available in the U.S. It took over two weeks for Japan to finally get its release of the game, after it had already been made available in many other countries and after it was already a huge hit.
The reasons for the delay given were mostly nonexistent, with some vague references to “servers,” but no real details were made available.
But now there is a theory going around that the delayed release in Japan may have been planned and intentional due to Japan being much harsher than other countries when it comes to video game reviews.
The theory was first posed by Japanese Twitter user and game blogger @yokotaro who had this to say: (translation below)
(@yokotaro) December 20, 2016
“I heard this idea and I think I agree with it. Japanese gamers tend to give games the lowest rating possible if there’s just something small they don’t like about it. This brings down the score of the game and poorly influences sales in other countries. But if the ratings are high in other countries, then the ratings in Japan also go up. So that’s why overseas releases are made a priority.”
Now you might be thinking that giving games the lowest rating because of small things is something gamers all over the world have in common. Doesn’t every country have snot-dripping, angst-ridden gamers who gleefully type away how much they hate a game because a few pixels were out of place?
While there are certainly excessively harsh reviewers all over the world, comparing Amazon reviews between countries shows that there is a significantly higher percent of them in Japan. Just take a look at this chart comparing reviews for Final Fantasy XV and Pokémon Sun.
▼ Japan has a lot more 1s and a lot less 5s than other countries.
しるこ (@Siruker) December 04, 2016
Here’s how Japanese netizens reacted to this theory:
“It’s true. I see so many mobile games with Japanese reviews like ‘It’s not free 1 star’ or ‘It’s boring 1 star.'”
“Well that explains Pokémon GO’s delayed release. They wanted other countries to make it a hit first before releasing it to cynical Japan.”
“That was actually probably a smart move. It probably would’ve never been as popular if it’d been released in Japan first.”
“Maybe Japanese people and foreigners are looking for different things in games?”
“It’s a vicious cycle of: Game is released first overseas > “Hey that’s a Japanese game! Release it here first!” > Japanese people leave bad reviews > Repeat.”
“So basically you can’t trust low Japanese reviews or high foreign reviews. You have to decide for yourself.”
I think that last comment hits the nail on the head. While reading reviews can be helpful, there’s no better way to decide if you like something than trying it out for yourself.
Although to be fair, there are some differences between what different countries are willing to spend money on in mobile games, so maybe there is something else going on here that’s worth looking into.