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Historical origin of "make the game easier in Japan, harder in the West"?

Oct 27, 2017
This is something I have been unable to understand despite the amount of examples. Many games of the 80's-90's were harder in the US and Europe.

I can understand this happening for arcade games, because of the need to get a lot of money by pushing people to put coins. However, this remains a mystery regarding console games. Did developers assume that this was what people wanted, that they would sell more units? There are very notorious examples like Streets of Rage which does not only make enemies tougher, but taunts you with a noncomplete experience if you play in very easy.
I don't know if publishers made secret studies proving western players were more skilled.

Some say that Japanese players like games to be not too hard, but that does not explain the big rise on the difficulty in the Was it because developers lacked experience and did not know how to balance games?

In my mind I associate Japan to strong will and super hard work, so the idea of making games easier would be because Japanese customers need to relax?
Oct 25, 2017
I always assumed it was to counter the rental games market. If you can beat a game in a day or two because it's super easy, you won't buy a copy.

Did Japan have that kind of market?
Oct 25, 2017
Has to be rentals. Make it harder so users will keep renting it
Yep, this is the story I've always heard and it's been generally corroborated in some interviews I've read with people who worked at U.S. branches of game companies back in those days. Game rentals are illegal in Japan and U.S. companies didn't want people beating the game in a single rental so they made many of them much harder to encourage purchases. Even games as late as the Working Designs era are notorious for this.
Oct 25, 2017
american game culture is rooted in bars and gambling with coin vending machines, with a bit of cheap carny mixed in. bilking people out of their quarter for some quick amusement was all part of the game. they were seen as a social vice even.
Oct 26, 2017

But it’s not exclusively this way. Many games were harder in Japan. It’s more like there were trends in both directions at different times. When Japanese devs caught word of the rental market though, yeah, they made them harder here.
May 24, 2018
Here's Louis Castle, who worked on The Lion King at Westwood, on how they extended that game's infamous monkey puzzle because of the economics of rentals. Disney believed that if players could make it through a significant amount of a game during a rental, they'd be less likely to buy the game. It wasn't direct pressure from Blockbuster in this case, as has been reported, but the end result was the same. I imagine many publishers made similar calculations when localizing Japanese games in the 90s. (If the timestamp doesn't work, seek to around 18:36.)

Aug 22, 2018
Quite a few Capcom games had lower difficulty for their Japan releases. From the earliest Resident Evils to the last Onimusha. DMC3 had all the difficulty levels taken down one step so US Easy = JPN Normal, and JPN Easy was a mode we never got.
Nov 20, 2017
Here's Louis Castle, who worked on The Lion King at Westwood, on how they extended that game's infamous monkey puzzle because of the economics of rentals
That was supposed to be a puzzle? Good grief, 12 year old me feels robbed. I think I made it past the monkeys like once. I rented the game maybe a dozen times.

L Thammy

Oct 25, 2017
Weird, I've only heard of the reverse like Super Mario Bros 2 and Mega Man 2.
It was both. Besides the rental things, sometimes the developers were just under the impression that Americans weren't as good at games or that they liked their games to be more difficult.
Jan 30, 2018
Konami was infamous for this, and it was due to rentals. The localized version of Contra: Hard Corps is maddeningly difficult for example because they didn't want players to be able to get through their games in a weekend rental.
Oct 24, 2018
Weird, I've only heard of the reverse like Super Mario Bros 2 and Mega Man 2.
Easier in Japan/Harder in US due to rentals is a relatively more recent development. Originally, when the global video game market first happened, American licensees would go to Japan to look for games to license in the US. In the early days, video games were legit designed to be "kids toys" and there really was virtually no such thing as hardcore adult gamers. I mean obviously a few of them existed, but by and large the people running video game companies never actually played them themselves, they were just typical business degree fucks who didn't know jack shit about games because they never played them. They'd go over to Japan and look at games, and if anything they saw was remotely complex, they'd automatically say, "This is WAY too complicated for our market. Don't you have anything like Pac- Man? Our kids can handle Pac-Man." The people in the Japanese gaming industry heard that over and over and over for years, and they believed it.

Things changed when the rental market exploded. Japan doesn't allow rentals, instead they have a huge used game market. So their gaming market model relies on most games being easy to finished quickly so they can be sold back to shops, and the customers then spend that sell-back money on another new game.

L Thammy

Oct 25, 2017
all that candy and pink bubbles were sure to make them gay without an angry pretext.
Every Kirby game should start with King Dedede explaining to the audience how pink is the colour of cherry trees in the fall, and therefore associated with death, and the young men that fall in battle, and also how until a hundred years ago or so it was considered a shade of red which is a boy's colour because it's the colour of blood.