Alan Wen from Game Revolution put up an opinion piece that many gamers fear may have an adverse effect on the Japanese gaming industry because of its calls for censorship. The editorial states that it’s just criticizing the fandom and not calling for censorship, but we’ve seen these kind of tactics in the past and it has inevitably led to lots of censorship. In fact, it’s led to so much censorship that sexy female characters are no longer even featured in Western gaming media.
The piece was published on July 31st, 2018. It’s titled “Why Games Shouldn’t Pander to Fan Service and Toxic Fandoms”. It’s at the top of the general search on Google for “fan service”:
The piece is part of the hate-bait cavalcade that game journalists have been rolling on recently in order to rile up gamers and get them to further abandon games journalism.
The article starts by claiming that they enjoy Japanese games but then quickly transitions into calling out fan-service by claiming that it’s “conservative”, “boring” and “retrograde”. Wen also doesn’t withhold any qualms about gamers, calling them “toxic” for trying to fight against censorship and the subversion of the medium by Cultural Marxists, better known to most people as Social Justice Warriors.
Wen’s first main target is the four-year-old Shining Resonance Refrain and its fan-service DLC containing bikini and maid outfits. Wen writes…
“I can’t help but wonder why the creators put in this tired fanservice in the first place. Specifically, what does that say about what they think of their fans? Surely it’s time to consider that ‘fan’ isn’t just a byword for horny 14-year old boys?”
If 14-year-old boys are the target demographic and the game sells well in that niche, then that’s specifically who it’s for. If no one else is buying the game but the target demographic then why would you make content for a demographic who doesn’t exist as your consumer base?
We’ve seen what happens when companies like Marvel’s comic book division decided to abandon their main demographic: straight white males. They went on an absolute sales spiral with major declines across a number of comic brands, which eventually resulted in many of the SJW comics being cancelled.
Turns out that abandoning your core demographic in search of that mythical phantom audience results in poor sales.
As pointed out by YouTuber Appabend, the market decides the fate of the product and if the market wants to buy cheap skins, let them buy cheap skins.
Wen then goes on to praise Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo for “maturing” Dead or Alive 6, which has received almost universal disapproval and condemnation from the core demographic and longtime fans. Wen writes…
“When it comes to Dead or Alive, there’s only so far it can convince players that it’s a serious fighting game with deep mechanics without the breast physics and skimpy outfits getting in the way. It’s precisely why Team Ninja have dropped both elements in Dead or Alive 6 while marking a change of direction for more brutal realism, which in turn shows the series innovating and maturing.”
Actually, the series features zero innovations. Despite being seen as cheesecake, the Soft Engine was innovation. There were no other mainstream game engines on the market with the level of deformable mesh physics running in realtime at 60fps with the level of fidelity provided by the Soft Engine. Team Ninja has removed the Soft Engine from Dead or Alive 6 in favor of another engine that they felt had better lighting.
Team Ninja also removed the over-the-top stage transitions, they simplified the counters, and removed other technical parry features as well. They did so in hopes of attracting casuals to the game. They also shrunk the female fighters’ breasts because the producer felt that smaller breasts made the female fighters more human.
Wen doesn’t explain what’s exactly innovative about Dead Or Alive 6, nor does he say what makes the removal of features or the addition of blood and physical damage being added to the fighters make it particularly “mature”.
Wen then takes aim at another franchise, Persona 5: Dancing In Starlight, writing…
“Even the latest Persona dancing spin-offs include a VR viewing mode that allows upskirt angles. It’s not known how the Western localization will handle this, but considering the PS4 version has the equivalent of an M rating in Japan, imagine having to explain why that is. It’s enough to alienate fans who just want to either enjoy a good rhythm game or spend time with their favorite characters and not perv on them.”
The more pertinent question is: where is the data showing that gamers have specifically NOT purchased a game due to fan-service?
Is there any study showing that a game that was heavily fan-service oriented that removed the fan-service increased sales?
We’ve seen companies like Atlus and Nintendo attempt to censor and remove fan-service DLC from games like Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, and the game absolutely tanked in sales.
Where is the opposite of that happening? Where is the fan-service game that removed fan-service and sold more?
Wen makes a matter-of-fact statement but doesn’t provide a single example of the market positively reacting to a fan-service oriented game that sold better when the fan-service was removed. An argument could be made for Mortal Kombat X, which sold 5 million copies according to VideoGamer.com. The previous installment, Mortal Kombat 9, sold around 4 million units, according to Eventhubs. But if we’re not limiting fan-service to just scantily clad women (which Mortal Kombat X still had, just in reduced fashion compared to Mortal Kombat 9) and include gore and violence in the fan-service category, then Mortal Kombat X still had a heck of a lot more fan-service than Mortal Kombat 9.
You can see the difference between the fan-service in both games with the comparison below from Rob Cram.
Of course, a completely separate argument could be made about whether or not the majority of Mortal Kombat’s core demographic prefer gore over scantily-clad fighters.
However, Wen doesn’t really seem to make a compelling argument either way, and forfeits an opportunity to provide any statistical or market data to bake up his point.
Game Revolution’s Alan Wen then takes aim at gamers, claiming that they’re “self-appointed gatekeepers”. He uses the former Nintendo PR rep, Alison Rapp, as an example of gamers being a “toxic fandom”, writing…
“Take the instances when past Nintendo localisations removed or altered content from releases like Xenoblade Chronicles X and Fire Emblem Fates. Not only was there a cry of censorship, but it led to a female employee at Nintendo becoming the target of a harassment campaign, ultimately leading to her termination.”
All of this is false. Alison Rapp was fired for allegedly moonlighting as an escort, and using some Nintendo products in her side-gig.
The real reason for her firing was detailed by GameSkinny, something that was purposefully misreported by a number of other journalists from the GameJournoPros, earning it an entry in the Deep Freeze database.
That’s not to mention that Xenoblade Chronicles X’s censorship was another issue that led to the game having poor sales of just under a million copies according to VG Chartz. This is opposite of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which was uncensored and went on to move 1.3 million copies within the span of just two months.
Wen then tries to drag #ComicsGate into it, writing…
“It’s not just games where fandom can spiral down to a narrow retrograde definition. Just look to the subset of people behind #RemakeTheLastJedi or the supporters of ‘Comicsgate’. They would have you believe that they are the ‘real’ fans, protecting their hobbies from outside forces with political agendas”
Actually… #ComicsGate supporters are real fans. They’ve gone on to help fund the creation of brand new intellectual property like Jawbreakers, which was crowdfunded on IndieGoGo to the tune of $347,000. Even more than that, real comic fans went on to fund Cyberfrog on IndieGoGo to the irrefutable tune of $538,000.
Wen goes on to write…
“What’s really been happening is that times have changed and these franchises are loved by more people. And hey, guess what, they’re a diverse bunch. Is it too obvious to point out that a fan of anime, games, sci-fi or comics can be anyone, not just a straight white dude with serious insecurity issues?”
And what does that matter if those “diverse” people obviously don’t care enough about the product to go out and support it?
- This argument used to be paraded around a lot back in 2012 – 2014 with little resistance, but now that companies have been adopting the Diversity™ agenda we’ve seen how movies like Solo: A Star Wars Story bombed at the box office.
- We’ve seen how Diverse™ games like Battleborn and games with gender neutral bathrooms like Lawbreakers completely died in sales, resulting in studios like Boss Key Productions closing up shop.
- We’ve seen how Diverse™ games like Agents of Mayhem, featuring a crime-fighting female Muslim ninja, tanked so horribly that the higher-ups at Volition had to conduct a special investigation into how the game failed so miserably on the market.
Subverting established brands to cater toward the phantom audience of the Diversity™ agenda has almost always resulted in the product, game, or movie failing.
Wen rounds out his piece by claiming that fan-service doesn’t always mean giving fans the titillation that they desire, ignoring the fact that in the free market the titillation wouldn’t exist if it didn’t sell, as evident with the fact that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 broke Play-Asia records and sold nearly 200,000 copies within the span of a month because of titillation. And that’s not to mention all the free-to-play games selling sexy skins and costumes, like Fate/Grand Order, which racks up nearly $3 million a day via in-app purchases, as reported by ThinkGaming.
“If you want to create cool or sexy outfits, then why not go beyond the same tired tropes? Think of the very imaginative cosmetics in Overwatch, from the Bowie-inspired for Moira or the D.Va gremlin emote, referencing a fan-made meme (but maybe just don’t have them in loot boxes). Otherwise, consider that fans have a much more diverse definition than the same narrow vocal bunch would have you believe. As it stands, fanservice looks retrograde, conservative, and just plain boring.”
This is probably one of the only factual examples Wen cites to buff his argument.
He’s wrong that titillating fan-service doesn’t sell, given the fact that games like NEKOPARA are an absolute sales phenomenon on Steam, and the Dead or Alive 5: Last Round bikini sales have been huge movers and shakers both in Japan and in the West, according to an interview Team Ninja had with Famitsu.
He’s right about some of Overwatch skins selling well and making a lot of money without being sexy, though, such as the pink Mercy skin racking up more than $10 million for charity, according to GameRant.
However, we also don’t have any figures on what the sales data looks like for the other Overwatch skins, so we have no idea how well the non-sexy skins fare compared to the sexy skins in Overwatch. We also have no idea how much of an outlier the pink Mercy skin is compared to the other skins (assuming it is an outlier).
But what’s funny is that Wen calls the sexy Japanese fan-service “conservative”, when in fact his opinion is based on censuring developers for not being conservative enough with covering up the women and providing less sexy outfits.
In some ways, I can’t wait for the release of Dead or Alive 6, because if this is yet another game where fully covered females without sexy fan-service manages to tank in sales, it’s just another example on the notch to further prove that these game journalists hate gaming and are doing everything in their power to destroy the valuation of the industry from the inside out.
(Thanks for the news tip Soviet Union Good)