In Japan, the biggest Shonen manga around is from Jump Comics. Shonen Jump, a weekly magazine, has birthed legendary manga such as Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, and Dragon Ball. The characters from these manga all combine in a fighting game developed by Namco Bandai called J-Stars Victory Vs. which has gained huge popularity. Even in the United States (US), a person would have to have been living under a rock to not have heard at least of the Dragon Ball franchise. One-Piece had a full-page advertisement in popular New York papers earlier in the year as well, and is growing in notoriety. With the growing popularity of J-Stars characters in the US market, it would seem obvious that a game combining all of the popular Shonen Jump brands would be coming straight to take advantage of that market, but that is not happening. The Game, J-Stars Victory Vs. is staying at the magazine’s home in Japan. This potentially short-sighted decision will likely cause the company to miss the potential money to be made by opening up to the US market.
The game features far more characters than just those from the most popular anime in the US. Some of the more obscure J-Stars titles from a US perspective may only ring a bell for many Americans. Gintama, Assassination classroom, Katekyo Hitman Reborn, and Kuroko no Basket are all names known well in Japan, but which are known to only the most dedicated of anime fans; of otaku, in the US. Due to the lack of support for its other anime, developers have made the decision to stay at home. On the surface, it may appear to be a wise business decision, but it grossly underestimates the American otaku market, and might just be a massive mistake.
The fact is, in the case of many of the manga represented in the J-Stars Victory Vs. game, there is already a large US following. Many people plan on importing the game from Japan just to experience battles between favorite characters from even just a small number of the anime featured. Those who do so would be introduced to the other anime, opening up possibilities for profit. If the game stays in limited release, acquiring the game would be more of a hassle for all but the most devoted of fans. Without an American or European release, that will not happen in large enough numbers to capitalize, and that money will be left on the table.
There are precedents to suggest the merits of a more expansive release. Looking at the character of Roy appearing in Super Smash Bros Melee caused the series to come out worldwide,simple extrapolation makes it easy to see the potential for bringing these stories to American and European audiences. People would buy this game. From Otaku to Weeaboo, casual fans to hard-core, from anime watchers to people who just like fighting games, there is an audience. It is difficult to fathom how this market which is desperate for favorite anime content could be missed. There have been many games that have shut out the foreign, the American and European, fan base with missed sales opportunities. It seems an unfortunate lack of insight to pass up the chance to give fans of Shonen Jump all over the world the chance to experience their dream battles, while raking in a nice profit.
Other similar games such as Jump Ultimate Stars have been released before, also in japan only, but none have been on this massive scale. With an expanding Japanese market, it appears ridiculous that the potential for financial windfall from an international release has not been recognized. The J-Stars game has been hailed as a great concept, and the product it known to be well made. With this going for the franchise, an underestimated fan base should not be the cause of its lack of larger-scale distribution. People in the American and European otaku community have screamed out for its release through petitions, and those unaware of its existence jump at the knowledge that such a game exists.
It may be possible that it is already planned to be released overseas, though nothing is confirmed. Namco Bandai already trademarked a possible domestic name, “Awakened Legends Vs.”, but there have been no announcements. As long as J-stars exists, there will be a demand for it, so to not fill the demand looks like a move that is counter-intuitive as well as counter-productive. The J-Stars Victory Vs. fighting game will be releasing on March 19 for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita in Japan. If it stays there only, Namco Bandai may be missing out on a lot of money to be made from a game featuring so many popular anime characters to a starving American market.
By Jim Malone