Back when the first Gears of War was launched in 2006, so many Japanese gamers used to turn their noses up at Western games. Slowly, but surely, that's beginning to change.
While at this year's Tokyo Game Show, many members of the Japanese press I talked with expressed interest and excitement about Gears of War 3.
Sure, Halo has its hardcore Japanese fans. The mechanics of Gears of War always felt like they'd fare better in Japan than Halo.
With its loose similarities to Resident Evil 4, Gears always seemed to be the American game that could cross over in a big way. Just basic things like the game being in the third person point-of-view and being able to see the character made it a more conducive title for Japan.
A few years back, I remember talking to former Capcom producer Ben Judd, and he said that the first-person view is notorious in Japan for making people ill, adding that Japanese gamers like seeing their characters, instead of being them.
But Gears is unabashedly American. It looks and sounds American. A few years back, that might have put off some Japanese gamers—it still might put them off. But with more and more Japanese gamers complaining about when Western games get shit dubs or subtitles and about how content is editing, their Americana becomes part of the appeal.
Gears 2 sold around 37,000 in its first week. The biggest first week in Japan for a foreign game on the Xbox 360 was Halo 3's 61,000 copies. These aren't huge numbers for these games. They sell millions in the West. Bit by bit, they are selling more and more in Japan. They've got a fan base. It's small. But dammit, it's there.
Gears of War 3 goes on sale tomorrow in Japan.