We who have read game news sites or found our ways onto game forums, keep hearing about a number of doomsays. According to the general consensus that roamed in the West a few years ago, home consoles no longer exist in Japan, mobile games are eating their minds, and their downtown apartments are too small to hold a TV bench of any decent size. You also very rarely see games without Japanese names on the weekly Top 10 sales lists.
But Western games are notcompletely non-existent there. It’s just extremely few Western franchises who has done it Big in Japan, which as you can imagine, is infinitely easier for rock artists than for video game producers, and only a handful of Western game series has accomplished this feat. In the Tour de France bicycle race, a white jersey is given to the best overall rider who is below age 25, which is a range of cyclists who rarely contend the yellow and red-dotted jerseys. So I say, let us make something similar… but for Western games in Japan, who find themselves at a heavy disadvantage. We will start at 2002.
Stats from 2002 to 2006 is handled through Video Game Sales Wiki, while 2007 to mid-2015 is handled through VGChartz.
☆ At 41st overall and 275,000 sales, Ratchet & Clank 1 won the first white jersey for 2002. It has after all been the first Western game to have been bundled with the PS2, and the duo even got a short manga at one point. No other Western game got close, or even in the top 90.
☆ Going into 2003, not unlike how Grand Theft Auto III started an open-world dynasty in the West, it also takes the white jersey for 2003, listing at 32nd overall and 308,000 sales. Ratchet & Clank 1 remains in a fighting distance at a 45th place.
☆ Not many people know this, but the Japanese love Grand Theft Auto, seemingly almost as much as Spelunker, which has traditionally been the biggest Western game franchise in Japan. 2004 was a hallmark year with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, which lands a pretty good 18th overall and 410,000 sales, taking home the white jersey by a vast distance.
☆ The 2005 white jersey was not fiercely contested, which makes Ratchet Gladiator’s white jersey win nearly sensational. It achieves a 70th place overall and 187,000 sales, outpacing GTA Vice City by 100,000 copies.
☆ Comparing to the old days of the PlayStation 2 era, Nintendo tightened its grip on the portable market, resulting in the highest Western game and the winner of the white jersey in 2006 being all the way down at a rather meager 180th place overall, and is Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, who wins its second white jersey and 81,000 sales.
☆ 2007 lacked many of the big players, and witnessed the Nintendo DS becoming the iPad of its time. Rather unpredictably even when considering this, was that the white jersey went to SimCity DS, at a 79th overall and 210,000 sales, achieving EA’s first jersey.
☆ In 2008, Rockstar and Take-Two got around to giving Grand Theft Auto IV a Japanese release, in which it promptly grabs the white jersey on the first attempt, landing a 61th overall and 214,000 sales.
☆ In 2007 and 2008, Call of Duty had grabbed the minds of many console players of all ages around the West, including those who were too young to play the game. In 2009, it was Japan’s turn to get in on it, as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 achieved a 64th overall and 179,000 sales, grabbing the first white jersey for Activision.
☆ 2010 rolls around, and by this point it’s pretty clear that Ratchet & Clank has completely fallen off the annual races, while Rockstar is busy making Red Dead Redemption, meaning that Call of Duty: Black Ops win a very easy win at 55th overall and 224,000 sales, winning the second jersey in a row for Call of Duty.
☆ It is purposely forgotten about by most people in the West, and probably for good reasons, but Just Dance was huge around 2011, often topping sales lists all over the place. This had even to some degree reached Japan, giving Just Dance Wii a huge victory at a very good 17th overall and 457,000 sales, the highest sales in the jersey’s history. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is playing catchup at 35th place, but has problems being the best of the West.
…★ You’re probably asking me silently, “Mario Kart 7 was made by the US-based Retro Studios, or…?”. Yes, they are American, but the property is a very Japanese one and there hasn’t been a full IP transfer. This is just as well for the jersey’s integrity, as Mario Kart 7 was 1st overall and won the yellow championship jersey anyway.
☆ In 2012, Call of Duty refuse to be denied a third jersey, eventually gaining it with Call of Duty: Black Ops II, harnessing a still-increasing 24th overall and 346,000 sales.
☆+☆ In 2013, Grand Theft Auto V may have been the industrialized world’s biggest game in history, garnering some 35 million sales worldwide in the first 6 months or so, and later going to sell more than 60 million in the following years. Even though only ~1.5% of the first six months’ sales were in Japan, it was still enough to prove that Grand Theft Auto V takes home the white jersey with a spectacular 8th place overall, even managing to become that year’s best-selling home console game whatsoever in Japan, since all the games above it overall were Nintendo 3DS games. Grand Theft Auto V gets a solid 652,000 sales as well, proving the arrival of both old and new times.
☆ The Western companies has big troubles repeating the feat, and Grand Theft Auto wins the white jersey again in 2014, getting a 32nd overall and 204,000 sales. But other games made the top 60 overall, including Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Diablo III, and Destiny, giving it a wide field to play on.
And there we have it, some solid game statistics for twelve years back.