Before I even decided to get a PlayStation 3, I would check the various recommendation threads and other such things on this and other forums to see what games were seen as the “killer apps” that I should definitely play. One game, more than any other, was constantly touted as being not only one of the most underrated games on the PS3, but one of the best RPGs out there on any system. That game was the first Valkyria Chronicles. I was taken aback by how mature the game was, and no I don’t mean “blood and guts and boobs” mature like the many games that misuse the term today, but an honest mature game done in such a way that most folks of the teenage persuasion, except maybe anime fans, would probably scoff at it. Yes the game deals with war, but in concentrates on the heroics and struggles with fighting rather than the bleak horrors of any battlefield.
For those that haven’t heard of the series, all of the games follow a fictitious war that somewhat closely resembles World War II if you squint really hard and drop some pixie dust on it. In this fantasy world a small country called Gallia suddenly comes under attack from a huge land grabbing conglomerate of nations dubbed the East Europan Imperial Alliance. This is a shock because these Nazi analogues (if you equate them to our terms) are at war with another federation of countries that dub themselves the Atlantic Federation, and there is no real reason for such an invasion to occur (EDIT: other than energy reserves to fuel the war). The game places you in the shoes of a rag-tag group of militia members that are suddenly forced to repel the most powerful army on earth on the verge of world conquest. This is of course the stage for a game that breathed an icy breath of fresh air into a somewhat played out genre – the strategy RPG.
The immediate thing that struck me about both games in the series that I’ve played is that they have some huge balls, and exist as a true asset to the RPG genre, especially in how they portray war. For years we have been playing hundreds of World War II games, and very few of them have actually managed to mention the holocaust or the Jewish people for fear of getting the game banned in some random countries. Here, however, we have a game that revolves around a group of people called the Darcsens that have literally been blamed for just about every bad thing in the world for hundreds of years, and are the targets of ethnic cleansing campaigns (in Valkyria Chronicles 2 most notably) and even forced to work in labor camps. The fact that any series had the cajones to even attempt to have a storyline closely mirroring this sort of world event makes SEGA go up in my books quite a bit.
Flash forward just a few years and it seems that a series with such promise, critical acclaim, big sales in Japan, and a cult following in America should be running strong; sadly this is not the case. Valkyria Chronicles may already be dead, especially in the west. Earlier this week news rang out about the possible release of the third Valkyria Chronicles game in America specifically. SEGA West had been pretty tight lipped about it, and its no-show at E3 was amongst about a dozen or so games that seemed absent from localization plans. Someone apparently talked to one of the SEGA reps at E3 and asked if the new Valkyria Chronicles and Phantasy Star games (both for PSP) would be heading to the west and the news wasn’t good:
As much as I would love to see an English release of Infinity, SEGA West is currently not looking at further PSP development. Games like PSPo2 and Valkyria Chronicles 2 did not sell nearly as well as we had hoped that they would. Also, we all have to take into account the heavy amount of piracy that plagues the West. It may happen at some point, but there are currently no plans for it.
The above rumor was taken from a Phantasy Star message board called PSO World by a user named “DoubleJG”. If true (and to be honest it most likely is) we can assume that the series is basically dead in the U.S. and SEGA basically has itself to blame for it.
The first mistake involved them trying to make a quick buck by churning the games out far too quickly on a completely other system as before. Granted, at the time the PSP had a userbase of more than 50 million users (a lot more than the PS3), but how many outside of Japan would buy it? How many had the first game? Series Producer Shuntaro Tanaka told Famitsu that the second game was being developed for the PSP instead of the PS3, in order "to allow a broader spectrum of users to discover and enjoy what makes Valkyria special." Tanaka added that the series could return to consoles in the future, though.
SEGA decided to release the games on the PSP in order to capitalize on the TV anime that was running and a host of toys and such that were hot on the market and make a bit of cash with the franchise. Moving a flagship title for any series across platforms is a tough decision, and especially ludicrous when we have to realize that Valkyria Chronicles II was, not shockingly, only the second game in the series. While it did decently well in Japan, the sales were still under that of the first game, but the real story is the American Market. VGchartz has the game listed at an estimated 80k for the American Market. That’s basically an estimated eight times less than what the first game obtained in the same region. Here are the graphs to speak for themselves:
Please note the scaling difference between the two graphs.
I’m not going to jump on the anti-piracy bandwagon, but when you have a system that is cheap and easy to develop for, but is plagued with piracy and doesn’t perform well in all areas versus a system that does a bit better in all areas, and isn’t hit hard (until recently) by any sort of hackers, I wonder why you’d choose the former. SEGA obviously wanted a quick buck rather than letting a franchise grow a bit more naturally, and it’s hurt the series pretty bad. Since its release the third game in series had barely cracked 160k units in sales, a far cry from the previous games.
I wish more of these big Japanese companies with American publishing arms would look at companies like Atlus and XSeed for how to treat localizations. XSeed, for example, has released a few games in the Record of Agarest War series digitally, that way they could obtain a cheap license and keep costs down. These smaller publishers also set realistic goals for sales of these games, instead of assuming that a niche strategy RPG will be a huge blockbuster, NIS and Atlus both learned a ton about the market, and learned how to market, publicize, and keep costs down on a ton of games like La Pucelle Tactics, Disgaea, and even Phantom Brave. They don't always sell crazily well, but they have rabid followings that keep buying the games, and keeping them going.
So there we go, Western gamers most likely won’t be able to legally play the third Valkyria Chronicles game, and it makes me pretty cranky. I guess there is always hope that they could do a PSP Remake edition for the PS3, but if they think the game won’t sell well, where is the incentive? Even a digital release with original dialog would be good, but I’m not holding my breath. Sorry SEGA, but you guys ruined your own franchise.
Disclaimer: This article is the work of one writer, and does not necessarily reflect the views of gamrFeed or VGChartz.