Three years after announcing the game, Square Enix finally revealed Dragon Quest X in full. Contrary to popular debate and discussion, Quest is still coming to Wii as an online RPG, and it’s being developed in parallel to a Wii U version that will feature upgraded graphics. No doubt many will scoff at Dragon Quest coming to Wii and additionally to Nintendo’s new platform. Yet this one title will likely have a huge impact on how Wii U is received in Japan, and therefore across the globe. Simply put, you should care that Dragon Quest X is on the way.
Dragon Quest is a big deal in Japan. It moves systems. It sells millions. It is one of the few franchises (including Pokemon and Monster Hunter) that still draws an incredible amount of interest. Dragon Quest IX for the DS sold over four million copies in Japan alone. Its predecessor sold about the same, and is the best-selling PlayStation 2 game of all time in Japan. Dragon Quest’s appeal overseas is vast compared to any interest it draws elsewhere in the world, and it’s important to understand the type of ripple effect such a significant release can have. For whatever reason, the United States has seen franchises a decade younger, like Pokemon, take the world by storm. The Dragon Quest phenomenon seems clearly localized to its home country. But in a sense, that’s all it needs to do. In Japan, the game’s success feels inevitable. It is about as sure a thing as a release of Call of Duty is here in America.
That DQX is headed to Wii is, strictly in a business sense, irrelevant. Wii has already made its mark. Its best days are behind it, after one remarkable life. In fact it’s reasonable to question whether the title will see release for that platform outside of Japan at all. If Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi can’t get his epic Wii RPG, The Last Story, published in North America, will a Dragon Quest title stand much of a chance at least a year later? Probably not. To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t really matter. By the time 2012 rolls around, all eyes and energy will be on Wii U – the future of Nintendo’s endeavors. A title for Wii next year is certainly a pleasant thought for those fully exploring the system’s admittedly strong library, but it’s clear Nintendo and Square will be watching what happens with its upgraded version. At this point a Wii version feels almost like a pre-launch marketing campaign for another title, and a symbolic gesture those who bought the system for DQX.
Nintendo’s next console is another story entirely. A Wii U system with Dragon Quest X on the way is a very, very different sales proposition in Japan. Few titles can make a difference, and this is one of them. Dragon Quest games create momentum. That sounds like marketing speak, but the fact remains that it’s true. Systems live and die by the content that exists, the content that is coming and how gamers and publishers view both of those things. Software must also not only drive interest for itself but for the system as a whole. DQX does both of those things at once, and in this case, it also drives an online community. It even ties to Nintendo’s 3DS, creating a network between past and present, portable and console. Somehow it is everything Nintendo could want from a single game, potentially addressing some key weaknesses in the publisher’s strategy along the way.
Momentum, through sales or reputation, is critical thing in this industry. Dragon Quest X coming to Wii U immediately creates a killer app for the fledgling system, one that will convince gamers to buy, even if the game doesn’t arrive at launch. It simultaneously convinces publishers to invest their time in developing for the console, since they know the Dragon Quest series will drive sales. Consumers and publishers/developers want to know their investments will pay off – that the software and hardware will be where it needs to be, when it needs to be. DQX protects that investment.