Monster Hunter Frontier, Capcom's massively multiplayer online role-playing game, is currently only available in Asia on the Xbox 360 and the PC. But Japanese people cannot play with people in other countries. Here's why.
"We intentionally made 'MHF' only available to people in Japan," says Yoshinori Ono, Capcom's online gaming manager. "While it may seem that vast number of potential players outside Japan would lead to greater profits, each nation has its own culture, which can create friction between individuals from different countries."
The game is out in Taiwan and South Korea, and it is slated to come to China.
Sure, there might be cultural issues, but the reluctance to allow Japanese players to play with folks in other countries seems to be due to the language barrier. Of course, there are people in Japan who can speak Korean and Chinese as there are people abroad who can speak Japanese. There might not be enough to allow for cross-cultural play.
According to Ono, "We don't want to give players a stressful experience when they are supposed to be having fun." Ono thinks it is rather "simplistic" to take a global approach to all online games.
"It's important to consider the different environments and culture of each respective country," Ono says. "For example fighting games like Street Fighter, in which there are fixed rules set by a vendor, players can go online and battle it out with anybody around the world. Monster Hunter, on the other hand, is more complex."
A common lingo is required. "Players need to establish a strategy and rules, which means that they need to have close communication with one another," Ono adds. "This type of communication is easiest for people of the same nationality." Maybe "nationality" isn't the best choice of words. It is easiest for people who speak the same language. Here, they just happen to be divided by nationalities.
Granted, that doesn't mean it is impossible for players who speak different languages to have rewarding online experiences. It is easier if they can communicate in a common language. At the moment, those languages do not include Western ones.
Back in January, Capcom told Kotaku that Monster Hunter Frontier is "not confirmed" for the West. The online game still has not been given a release outside Asia. The game originally launched in Japan back in 2007.