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 Tokyo Jungle : Europeans loved it, but Americans... not so much
Tokyo Jungle: Europeans loved it, but Americans... not so much
May 2, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

May 2, 2014 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC, Indie, Design, Business/Marketing

"Europe loved it, and we got a lot of great feedback from that audience, but [in] America... that simply wasn’t the case. We received a lot of negative feedback for the game."
- Yohei Kataoka, director, Tokyo Jungle, in a new Siliconera interview

Tokyo Jungle made a splash among the gaming intelligentsia when it was released -- after it was brought to the West on the back of unanticipated success in Japan. The game, published by Sony for the PlayStation 3, is a survival sim where you play as various animals in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo.

Odd as it may sound, the game captured the imagination of a lot of players -- Leigh Alexander even wrote a piece for Gamasutra trying to get to the bottom of why they seemed to love it so much, because it generated so much buzz.

Turns out that any plaudits from Americans represent a vocal minority. In a new interview with Siliconera, director Yohei Kataoka reveals that American players, by and large, weren't taken with the game, but that it did well in Europe.

That was not his expectation at the time: "Although the scene is local in Tokyo, we felt that the 'animal survival concept in an abandoned world' would be a universal theme which would be accepted globally," Kataoka told Gamasutra in 2012 -- a bit ironically, in retrospect.

Kataoka's next game is also a PlayStation 3 download title: Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day is already out in Japan and Europe, and is soon headed to North America, courtesy of Bandai Namco. It's a collaboration with Grasshopper Manufacture (No More Heroes).

Kataoka went in-depth into the development of Tokyo Jungle at GDC 2013, and you can watch his talk -- newly available for free -- on GDC Vault.

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John Szczepaniak
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This is a significant point regarding Japan trying to appeal to "the West". Markets outsides of Japan are very different from each other. This also reminds me of the fact that during the 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit eras, Japanese games released in Europe were usually (but not always) those first approved for release in the US. Even then we missed out on a lot of great titles which made it to the US. It makes me wonder which Japan exclusive titles would have been able to find a viable niche back in the day.

Dave Hoskins
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American gaming cliche room 101 --- "Me want guns, bigger guns, more guns than before. Boom! Where's my caffeine drink and corn based snacks?! Wipe them out, wipe them ALL out...aarrgh!"
:p :D
I thought that Japanese target markets are aimed at a younger crowd than Western countries.

Ben Sly
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In the interest of random speculation, I can't help but wonder how much of this is due to the Tokyo setting. It lifts a lot of places from that city, and there may be some resonance with a Japanese audience from that.

Crazy Japanese games can do well over here - see Katamari Damacy - but perhaps Tokyo Jungle's relatively realistic art style failed to sell it as such.

In any case, the survival mode was excellent (unlike the story mode), so I don't think it was an issue of game quality. The press seemed interested, and reviews were not bad. Anyone else have their own pet theories on the differences in audience reception?

Theresa Catalano
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Tokyo Jungle was a wonderful game, and deserved a lot more success than it got! I don't think the problem is that Americans didn't like it... I think they didn't know about it. Everyone I've shown the game to has loved it, but it seems like a lot of people have never heard about the game.

I blame the gaming press. Tokyo Jungle is a game that should have been given more attention. For example, Journey seemed to do pretty well (despite not being a very good game,) and I think that's largely to do with how much attention it received from the gaming press. Honestly, we are being let down by the gaming press. It's like they have tunnel vision for only a few high profile games, and ignore all the really cool niche stuff.