Retailers are usually expected to place their orders for games well in advance of the shelf date, so the publisher has some inkling of how many copies to print. With The Legend of Heroes: Ao no Kiseki for PSP set to arrive in Japanese shops on September 29th, most retailers have put in their orders, and even Sony shares Falcom’s astonishment at the figures. Some 200,000 copies have been ordered — to be clear, that’s not pre-orders by gamers, just orders for on-shelf copies by the stores themselves. Still, it’s quite a number, indicative of the popularity of The Legend of Heroes in Japan. Internationally, the game would be extremely lucky to reach half that amount, which puts localization house XSeed Games right smack between a rock and a hard place.
XSeed localized Falcom’s The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky in North America and was rewarded with respectable sales and critical acclaim. Thing is, it was a big project. Not only is that game as long as most console RPGs (which tend to sell better than handhelds in North America), but it has a truckload of text. These other LoH games? They get even bigger. Trails in the Sky is the first part of a trilogy whose second part is a two-UMD megamonster of a game. Beyond the sheer amount of text to be translated is that fact that the Japanese in these games tends to be hard — really hard. A localization squad is going to have a much harder time with The Legend of Heroes than most other games, which might be why the earlier PSP games had such terrible, terrible scripts. XSeed actually put time and effort into making a quality product, so it took more time and resources.
So what does XSeed do here? Skip the other games in the trilogy and cut right to the new stuff? You can’t very well do that, given the obvious “get ready for a sequel” ending to the first Trails in the Sky. Fans might feel a little bit lost to see such a jarring leap from one to the other, when perhaps the common fan might have been expecting Trails in the Sky to be more closely linked to Trails of Blue. Does the company try and power through it? Doing so might risk a lot of financial loss, as selling a PSP game in North America is a heck of a lot harder than in Japan. These games have such a massive size, they’re even too big to be release on the PSP’s PlayStation Network, so that’s even less money XSeed could possibly make off the deal. God bless these boys for surely wanting to go for it, but dang if this task doesn’t just keep getting more and more daunting.
A company occasionally taking a small loss to please fans is admirable, but making a habit of doing so in grand fashion is just stupid, especially for a small group like XSeed. No one can really blame the lads, no matter what course of action they take on this one.
Whatever XSeed does, I do think series developer Falcom owes something to XSeed for what it has done for their games on the international level. The Japanese developer was something of an unknown before XSeed came along and started bringing over Ys and Legend of Heroes games. Oh yes, they’d certainly come over before, but were often the subject of sloppy localizations and half-assed marketing campaigns that did hardly anything to boost Falcom’s name or image abroad. XSeed, on the other hand, has done a fantastic job with the Falcom games it’s given the English audience. I think it’s time for Falcom to do start thinking outside the box and lend a hand to its international partner. There have got to be things the developer can do that would make localization easier. Furthermore, it’s a situation where everyone can win: Falcom can win by getting more sales and a bigger name abroad, XSeed can win by pleasing its fans and actually getting paid for the hard work of translating and publishing, and gamers can win by actually being able to play the rest of the trilogy they’ve become attached to.
What do you think XSeed should do? Risk bankruptcy by bringing a resource-draining game to a near-dead system? Skip the rest of the series altogether because the sales can’t justify the workload and possible losses? Try something else entirely? And what is Falcom’s role in all this, if any at all? Fire your ideas into the comments.
Meanwhile, here’s a trailer of Ao no Kiseki (Trails of Blue) via Falcom: