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Farewell, Vita? Production of Physical Games To End in the West, Trouble Afoot in Japan

May 16, 2018 2:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

As Kotaku learned earlier today, Sony has decided to end production of physical games in Europe and North America for their portable console, the PlayStation Vita. But that decision is merely the reflection of numerous flaws in the console that have plagued its success from launch, which is now also coming to affect its performance in the traditionally supportive market of Japan.

Firstly, on launch there was a significant amount of confusion regarding the network capabilities of the device, as two models were available to buy, but with only one able to support a 4G SIM card. Many were also not aware that this SIM card was sold separately, and were unsatisfied, to say the least, when they learned that along with the device’s hefty initial price point of $300, they would have to pay for a 4G data plan. Considering that now, you can get a PlayStation 4 for around the same amount, it certainly put people off.

What further confounded the problem was the proprietary memory cards. Sony actually decided to manufacture them exclusively in-house, instead of allowing third-party companies to make them. In theory, this would allow them to make memory cards that worked better and faster with the firmware, but in reality, allowed Sony to operate a monopoly on the market as they were able to inflate the prices and exploit the fact that players had no choice but to buy the Sony-made memory cards. Even now, a 32GB Vita memory card will cost you around $60 (down from an initial price of $99), and you can easily get a regular 200GB micro SD card for the same price.

These problems, along with many more, meant that the Vita had a rocky start in the West following its launch in 2012, to say the least. It far undersold initial projections, and beyond a couple of first-party developers such as Naughty Dog, failed to get developers on board with the platform. Within a year, it was nearly devoid of exclusives, but it wouldn’t be until 2015 when Sony finally decided to bite the bullet and cease first-party development for the platform altogether.

Even with this dire situation in the West, the Vita actually continued to sell well in Japan, in fact being one of the only markets in which the device was turning a profit for some time. It’s predecessor, the PSP, also sold well in Japan, so it’s no surprise that Japanese consumers were equally eager to support the new device in Sony’s portable line-up.

Yet, the very same things that drew Japanese consumers to the console itself, mainly being great third-party support from Japanese developers and the market’s general preference for gaming on the go, have now come to adversely affect the device’s performance. With the rapid advance in smartphone technology, the PS Vita’s hardware specifications increasingly look and perform like a dinosaur in comparison to the mobile games of today. Furthermore, the accessibility of mobile games means that Japanese developers are far more likely to turn a better profit than if they developed for the Vita.

Confounding the problem even further was the launch of Nintendo’s hybrid console the Switch, which has a lot of the same points that attracted Japanese users to the Vita in the first place; portability and great games. It’s excellent technology that allows it to perform well despite its small form factor, and more and more developers are looking to develop for the Switch, many of whom previously developed for the Vita. Most notably in this list is Marvelous, developers of the Senran Kagura franchise. This, among other reasons, means that sales for the Vita have been consistently dropping while Switch sales have been consistently on the rise - one week in April saw the Switch selling nearly 50,000 units and the Vita merely 5000.

So while Sony seems to have completely given up on the Western market, it doesn’t exactly seem like they have much to expect in the Japanese market either - one can only expect the further downturn of Vita sales in Japan as the year goes on, and although it’s doing too well to expect them to announce stopping production of physical Vita game cartridges in Japan any time soon, it may come sooner than you think. 

That being said, the Vita is now entering into six years since it’s launch, so it’s no surprise that a newer, more advanced console in the Nintendo Switch has quickly overtaken it. Yet the catastrophic failure of the Vita in the West probably doesn’t give Sony much hope for their future portable consoles - meaning that the Vita could very well be their last. 

If you want to want to buy any physical games for the Vita, then you have until February 15 next year to order them, as Sony will stop stocking them after that. The online store will remain open, however. Although I’ve fallen out of using my Vita in recent years due to the excellence of Japanese mobile games, I definitely enjoyed my time with the flawed console. Here’s to you, PlayStation Vita.


Good Smile Company's Robo Tenga Is a Friend for Your Little Friend

August 17, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Announced earlier this week, Good Smile Company is teaming up with Japanese adult company Tenga to produce a new pair of posable figurines based on their most popular devices. Dubbed the TENGA Robo, the red and white-striped little fella comes in at a tiny 95 mm tall, about half the size of a real TENGA, and features various movable parts allowing him to disguise as either a TENGA or a more intuitive robot form. Set to release in December 2018, the robot will offer either a standard or "boom set" model at various price ranges.

Good Smile Company has long been known for their high-quality goods and figurines, including the long-running Nendoroid series for which they're most commonly known for in the West. They've made some pretty outlandish collaborations in the past, but this just about sits on top of anything else; something I'm completely all about. Currently available for order reservation up until September 19, the figure will release in Japan during December 2018 where I'll definitely be picking one up for myself.

Those interested in checking out further information on the upcoming Good Smile Company x TENGA release can head over to their official website.


Niantic Announces Introduction Of Mythical Pokemon Celebi In Pokemon Go

August 17, 2018 2:00pm
by Eddie Lehecka

Although the introduction of in-game Global Research missions is fairly new, Nitantic Labs is wasting no time cooking up new tasks for players of the popular Pokemon Go mobile game. After a surprise showing at Pokemon Go Fest in Chicago, IL, the generation 2 Mythical Pokemon Celebi is finally going to be available to players worldwide starting on August 20th. Similar to the quest to catch Mew in-game, players will need to complete a series of in-game tasks to reach the ability to catch Celebi in the game. Fear not though, if you still haven't caught Mew and don't want to waste any time, players who have reached at least the 3rd level of the Mew special research quests can start their journey toward Celebi.

In addition to the new Mythical Pokemon, more Pokemon from the Gold & Silver region of Jhoto will be coming to the game for players to catch. Since completing your Pokedex in the game is still one of the main tasks (Gotta Catch 'Em All!), this is going to be a very welcome addition for many players. New Style and accessory options for your avatar are going to be added as well.

With the upcoming Let's Go Pikachu & Let's Go Eevee version of Pokemon for Nintendo Switch featuring linking capabilities with Pokemon Go, this seems like a perfect time to drum up excitement around the game once more. I myself just started playing pretty heavily again last week after nearly 2 years of absence and I'm finding all of these new additions to be a very welcome surprise. Where I had originally written the game off as being a very passive experience (I'm a huge fan of the traditional handheld games), many of the additions made since the beginning of 2018 have really fleshed out the Pokemon Go experience for the better and drawn me back. If you haven't played it in a while, it might just be the perfect time to jump back in!


BEAMS Collaborates with Ziploc For New Fashion Line

August 17, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Harajuku-born fashion brand BEAMS Couture has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to both clothing design and curation, and their latest collaborative collection is by no means an exception. Following hot on the heels from their limited-run collaborative collection with McDonald's just last year, BEAMS earlier this week announced their upcoming Ziploc collection, and it absolutely rules. Set to launch later this month, the upcoming collaborative collection was teased via BEAMS Couture's official YouTube channel:

Releasing both in-store and online on August 20, the collection contains anything from umbrellas to hats and side bags, entirely branded and designed to match the aesthetics of a Ziploc bag. The design for each of the pieces is unbelievably wild, and I'm definitely eyeing-off the waist pouch as a must-cop once it drops. Having recently spent a bit of time at BEAMS in Harajuku, it's exciting to see that they're continuing to push the envelope with all of their designs and choice collaborations. 

Whether you love it or hate it, I'm extremely about the sheer madness of this look. Those interested in checking out the full collection, as well as prices and store locations, can check out BEAMS' official website.


Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Announces 4th Studio Album 'Japamyu'

August 17, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Announced via Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's official website earlier today, the massively-influential model-gone-musician is coming in hot with her fourth studio album, "Japamyu", which is set to release in just a few weeks on September 26, 2018. It's been over four years since the world was blessed with Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's incredible Pika Pika Fantajin, and we've felt just about every single day throughout that period of time. That wait isn't going to be lasting much longer, however, with Kyary additionally announcing a Japan-wide hall tour kicking off five days before the release of her album on September 21.

While a full tracklist has yet to be revealed for the album, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's management at Asobi System did share that the album would contain "Sai & Ko", "Harajuku Iyahoi", Kimi no Mikata", and a cover of Capsule's 2001 "Koi no Hana", adding to the total of 10 tracks. First editions of the album will include an additional photo book, as well as a bonus KPP JAPAN IYAHOI TOUR 2017 DVD which contains an additional 23 songs, and will be priced at 4,800 yen. The regular edition of the album will cost 3,000 yen, and will not include any bonus content.

Kicking off in Saitama and concluding in Kumamoto, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's Japan-wide hall tour, titled "JAPAMYU HALL TOUR 2018 - CHERRY MARTINI of Stardust", will start September 21 and will take place at a total of 19 stops before concluding on December 2, 2018. General ticket sales are set to begin from September 18 and will be priced from 5,940 yen. 

Those interested in checking out even more information on Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's upcoming album, "Japamyu", as well as her nationwide tour, be sure to check out KPP's official website.


tofubeats Shares Latest Single 'RIVER' M/V

August 16, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Kobe-based trackmaker tofubeats never fails to amaze with everything he puts out, and his latest release "RIVER" is by no means an exception. Taken from his forthcoming album "RUN" which is set to release October 3, "RIVER" exists as a gorgeous tofubeats-stylized ballad, as well as the theme song for the upcoming live-action film "Asako I & II" which is set to begin screening in Japan on September 1. Featuring excerpts of the upcoming film as its basis, the music video for "RIVER" can be streamed below:

With both "RUN" and "RIVER" from tofubeats' upcoming album now available for digital streaming, there's definitely a lot of confidence stacking up ahead of its release. While we've still got a couple of months standing between us and the release of "RUN" in Japan, I'm certainly excited to see what else he has up his sleeve in what will be his fourth major album. 

Those interested in checking out even more on tofubeats upcoming release, as well as his live schedule through the second half of 2018, be sure to head over to his official website.


Azur Lane Receives New English Trailer, Launches Open Beta on iOS/Android

August 16, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Announced earlier this week via Azur Lane's official SNS accounts, the massively-popular mobile title has launched in open beta on both iOS and Android today as a free download. Accompanying the release of Azur Lane's open beta, an all-new trailer was uploaded to the title's official YouTube channel and Twitter account, giving players a taste of what's to come before they jump into the game. Highlighting the game's story and characters, the trailer can be streamed below:

Available as of today, Azur Lane's open beta is possibly the best time to dive into this world of ships and carriers, especially with all data from the beta carrying over to the final release. There's a number of milestones that were met in regards to pre-registrations on the Azur Lane website too, meaning early adopters of the game can reap in the rewards of some pretty convenient benefits. 

It feels like every few years Japan's hyper-vibrant doujin scene heads towards an all-new trend to quench their thirst for fresh character designs, clean illustrations, and time-blowing gameplay. Over the years we saw titles such as Touhou and Kantai Collection exist at the forefront of the scene, but there's absolutely no name as big as Azur Lane right now in the doujin arena. With Azur Lane, we see a combination of these two frontrunners, offering slight bullet-hell elements mashed in with the characteristics of a title like Kantai Collection -- except developer Tencent is making strides to allow the game to be as accessible as possible.

Those interested in checking out further information on the open beta can head over to Azur Lane's official website.


McDonald's Japan is Bringing Back the McNugget Bucket

August 16, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

One of the best parts of the McDonald's Japan experience is making a grand comeback later this year, with the global fast-food chain announcing the return of their NGT48 collaborative 48-piece McNugget bucket from December 1, 2018, at select locations within Japan. If you've ever been craving a bucket of McNuggets and the substantially smaller 15-piece box doesn't cut it, you're in luck -- if you're anywhere near the idol group's home city of Niigata, that is. Set to launch at some 38 stores throughout the city of Niigata, the NGT48 bucket is about as large as they come.

This certainly isn't the first time McDonald's has teamed up with the Japanese idol group to bring forward the NGT48 bucket, with the first-time collaboration taking place in 2015, but that doesn't make its return any less exciting. Much like the original running, the return of the NGT48 bucket brings with it new trading cards which can only be collected in full should you eat roughly 1,200 chicken nuggets across 25 buckets in total. 

Priced at 1,800 yen per bucket, the collaboration is set to launch in the city of Niigata from December 1, 2018. Those interested in checking out further information can check out McDonald's Japan's official website.

Source: Nerdist