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Square Enix on why Dragon Quest hasn’t been as popular as Final Fantasy in the west, keeping the series fresh

Posted on January 1, 2017 by (@NE_Brian) in General Nintendo, News

Square Enix owns two big franchises: Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Yet even though Final Fantasy managed to make a big splash in the west, Dragon Quest has still been trying to attain the same sort of success.

Dragon Quest executive producer Yu Miyake touched on this topic in last month’s issue of EDGE. He said Final Fantasy’s western popularity in comparison to Dragon Quest is something Square Enix has “been thinking about a lot internally”.

Miyake brought up a few different reasons in the interview. For one thing, “the source of nostalgia is different” in Japan and the west – Dragon Quest on Famicom and Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation respectively. He also believes that Square Enix should have originally given a greater effort with Dragon Quest’s localization. Finally, Miyake said that the cartoon-like aesthetic of Dragon Quest may not immediately connect with western gamers.

Miyake left some encouraging words, saying that “the age of people who are playing is rising” and there’s a greater interest overall as well. Square Enix is also trying to “soften up the ground for Dragon Quest XI” with its spinoff titles.

Miyake’s full words:

“We’re still trying! [Laughs] It’s a topic we have been thinking about a lot internally: the question of why Final Fantasy is so much more popular than Dragon Quest in the west. One conclusion that we’ve reached is that it’s a question of historical timing. When the Famicom came out, Dragon Quest was the key game everyone was playing. But when the PlayStation came out, Final Fantasy VII was the game that everyone was playing. So the source of nostalgia is different for both groups: in Japan it’s Dragon Quest while overseas it’s Final Fantasy. The truth is that if we’d put a lot of effort into localising Dragon Quest at the time, we probably wouldn’t be facing this issue today. I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but we kind of messed up in that regard.

We put a lot of effort into Dragon Quest VIII. We put a lot of thought on how we could appeal outside of Japan. We used a lot more regional voice acting, for example. We put a lot of thought into the menu design. But we didn’t want to give up the core element that made the game Dragon Quest. The game did have some modest sales overseas, but it wasn’t anywhere close to the level of Final Fantasy sales.

One thing that does stand out: in Japan the target audience for Dragon Quest is vast. It ranges from primary school students to people in their 50s. Now, Akira Toriyama’s art style is cartoonish, and in Japan that doesn’t alienate anyone; it’s not seen as childish. But outside of Japan, I think there’s often a stigma attached to that kind of aesthetic. Now, when an adult tries the game, they will discover that the subject matter is actually quite mature. Nevertheless, players are still left with this disconnect between how the game looks and how it plays. That’s a tension that just doesn’t exist in Japan. What we’re seeing now is that the age of people who are playing is rising. Interest is also increasing. We’re trying to put a lot more effort into promoting overseas the spinoff titles we’ve been working on – Dragon Quest Builders and Dragon Quest Heroes – in order to soften up the ground for Dragon Quest XI.”

Continuing on the topic of Square Enix’s big RPG franchises, EDGE brought up how the design of Final Fantasy often changes and must deal with the risk of alienating fans whereas Dragon Quest’s challenge is maintaining a traditional experience while ensuring that players don’t become over-familiar with the formula.

Miyake had this to say in response:

“Instead of changing the game itself, we focus on changing the way it’s played in the world. For example, with Dragon Quest IX we made a handheld game, because that’s how people were playing games predominantly at that time. Dragon Quest X we made into an online game. So that’s how we try to keep the series fresh. In fact, we run the risk of alienating the fans when we moved from pixel-art to 3D with the move to Dragon Quest VIII. And when we made the tenth game, a lot of players complained, saying that Dragon Quest should never be an online game. But it turns out that, in each of these cases, when you start playing the game, you find that it still has the same feel. It’s still quintessentially Dragon Quest.”

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  • AquaBat

    “He also believes that Square Enix should have originally given a greater effort with Dragon Quest’s localization.”
    Really? You think?
    Happy 2017, folks, here’s to another year of Square Enix putting all their budget in Fujoshi Fantasy and leaving Dragon Quest to haplessly ride its coattails.

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    • hi v3.0

      Lmao

    • Hey Ooo

      thats a beautiful name for 15, cannot lie.

    • True FF Fan

      You need to learn this thing called Reading Comprehension, he was talking about the series when it first came out.

      • AquaBat

        You whine about reading comprehension yet you clearly don’t comprehend my post yourself.
        My point was that if he hadn’t neglected the series from the start, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
        Next time practice what you preach.

        • grimrook

          its like this kid knows nothing of the history of dragon quest and by kid i mean you aqua you tool

        • UVERs

          Well back then though square and enix were two separate companies

  • BeggingforNewChapters

    It’s really a shame. I love DQ to death as a franchise, best old bud in gaming that you can trust anyday and anytime. I hope that DQ XI will be the spark needed to help with the franchise.

    • Mohammed Allha

      With ff15 is out SE can now focus on DQ11 the game is already making a buzz

  • AJK

    I much prefer Dragon Quest to Final Fantasy. The Final Fantasy series hit it’s peak with 6 and 7 and hasn’t really had a good game since.

    • Guillermo Reyes

      IX is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played

    • Mohammed Allha

      8&9 where actually better in my opinion

  • YamiryuuZero

    Maybe if they release DQ games on the West, players could, you know, GET A CHANCE TO BUY THE GAMES!!!

    • AvanStrike

      they have for the past decade now. They released DQVIII on PS2 and released all DQIV-DQVI remakes on DS and released DQVII remake on 3DS and will release DQVIII remake on 3DS. Not to mention the Heroes and Builders games also release in the west. But I guess it’s just too late for DQ to attain Final Fantasy kind of popularity.

    • Mohammed Allha

      They already did that you have all the dragon quest games from 1 to 8 on the smartphones and I think all of them are playable on the 3ds and you have 2 DQ games on the ps4 ,1 on the vita and 1 on the pc

  • R.Z.

    I completely agree with his analysis.
    Only slight dissent I have with him is that I think Toriyama’s artwork has been doing the game a service overall in some places where Dragon Ball was pretty big.

    • hi v3.0

      A lot of Americans love Dragon Ball tho

  • Tlink7

    Never played a DQ game before, but I am interested in the Switch version…

    • Mohammed Allha

      I recommend you to try them they are a lot of fun and I highly recommend you to try DQheroes on the ps4&pc it’s a really great game and builders too

      • Tlink7

        Thanks ^^ I don’t really have the time to try them all though, which is why I’m hoping to give the series a go around the time the Switch graces our shores

        • Mohammed Allha

          I am new to the franchise my first DQ was 8 on ps2 but I played just 3~5 hours than I just stopped playing it but in 2015 I tried DQH on the ps4 and I was in love with DQ franchise so i re played 8 surprisingly I still have a ps2 and I still have my dq8 ps2 version and I just finished 7& builders I want to try the old DQ games but the 2d battle system is just not my favorite

  • thecrimsonbolt

    Did he just lowkey confirm Dragon Quest XI for the west?

  • M+

    Maybe if the West didn’t have to wait 5 years for every Dragon Quest game, there wouldn’t be a timing issue.

  • Kaine Morrison

    Maybe also cause it went through a name change in the US?

    • True FF Fan

      this

  • Kalkano

    Well, we’ve only had 3 mainline Dragon Quest games released in the west since the birth of the Playstation 1 (the one that was not released here, being the MMO, 10). Everything else has been spinoffs and remakes.

    But, reason #1:

    Production values, production values, production values.

    • towerofnix

      And Japan had four mainline releases. Countless arguments (production values, of course! 🙂 ) have been given as to why DQ X wasn’t released here so with every other main release coming here, you know, that’s kind of good?

      Also, excuse me if I’m wrong, but we’ve gotten most, if not all, larger DQ spinoff/remake games (Heroes, Heroes 2, Builders, DQVII/DQVIII 3DS – and of course the mobile remakes).

      I’m hopeful for DQ XI.

      • Shiro-Tsubasa

        yeah, i’m still kinda upset about not getting Terry’s Wonderland. I was so excited before when I first heard it was coming out. That was before I realized they weren’t going to bother with localization. This happened a few to many times.

      • Kalkano

        Localization was not my argument; lack of mainline titles was.

    • jimmy

      tThey’ve all been released on the gameboy, ds, and 3ds

  • nekoknight

    To say that Square Enix messed up early on would be an understatement. They never localized Dragon Quest V or Dragon Quest VI for the Super Nintendo, so western gamers got Final Fantasy II and VI instead. If they had localized the SNES games from the get go, then I truly believe that the series would have gained more traction and would be more popular today.

    • Mozendo

      >To say that Square Enix messed up early on would be an understatement.

      What? They translated the first four and hoped for success in the west and they never got it. Saying that Enix handled the situation poorly in ridiculous because they didn’t localize 2 out of 6 games.

      And actually both DQ5 and DQ6 were considered for localization but Enix Japan approve of the localization and they didn’t have time to certify the game for testing

      http://gaming.moe/?p=331

      • nekoknight

        Yes, I already know that they localized the first four games (and that Satoru Iwata actually was the one who re-programmed the first Dragon Warrior game for the NES.) They reason they didn’t succeed is because they were NES RPGs released later in the NES’s lifespan. By the time Dragon Warrior IV was released in America, Final Fantasy II (IV) was already out a year before, and on a better system with better graphics. Plus, the SNES era was when RPGs started to pick up steam. They missed out on a big opportunity by skipping DQ 5 and 6. So yes, I would say that they messed up early on. Heck, they could have done what Square did and skipped some of the older titles so they could focus on the new ones. Personally, I think that releasing the archaic 1986 Dragon Quest in 1989 as Dragon Warrior was foolish, despite the mild graphical updates. They should have released Dragon Warrior III in 1989, followed by IV, then V and VI for the SNES. It wasn’t all Enix’s fault though, Nintendo should have done more to get the games released stateside.

        • Mozendo

          >Plus, the SNES era was when RPGs started to pick up steam.
          Turn-based RPGs will still niche at the time, it wouldn’t have made a huge difference. Final Fantasy 7 was the RPG that made console RPGs go mainstream and we only got DQ7 and that was at the end of the PS1’s life cycle and it wasn’t as technologically impressive as FF7 and nowhere as near important in the west.

          >They missed out on a big opportunity by skipping DQ 5 and 6. So yes, I would say that they messed up early on

          If you read my post Enix Japan already said no to releasing DQ V when Enix North America wanted to. Not bringing over 2 games when RPGs were still niche at the time didn’t screw up the series because 7 completely missed the golden age of RPGs.

          >It wasn’t all Enix’s fault though, Nintendo should have done more to get the games released stateside.

          After DQ1 Nintendo wasn’t involved at all in North America. The only thing they could have done was hype up people via Nintendo Power

          • nekoknight

            Whatever, you’re just looking to start a fight. Let’s count our comment’s up votes and see who agrees with who the most, shall we?

          • Mozendo

            >you’re just looking to start a fight

            I’m not I’m telling you that Enix did the best they could with the situation. It seems you just skimmed my posts instead of reading them fully since you still suggested that Enix didn’t care about the super nintendo games and still suggested Dragon Quest V

            >Let’s count our comment’s up votes and see who agrees with who the most, shall we?

            I honestly don’t understand how/why you got offended and all of a sudden you think we’re on reddit.

  • DeltaPeng

    I haven’t played a ton of DQ games, I enjoyed the Dragon Quest monsters 1 and 2, and the DQ Swords particularly.

    I prefer classic Final Fantasy more (6-X), and generally feel like the characters and stories were more memorable / epic, and/or that I am able to connect/relate to the characters better. The scale and worlds tend to be more fantasy-based and unique.

    That said, I didn’t have DQ growing up, so less nostalgia and perhaps if I had the chance I would’ve gotten into the series more. Generally speaking, I like the feel/gameplay of classic FF better. I feel like FF has not been very good since FFX, though, so my faith in the series has dwindled quite a bit, but in spite of that I think they create a lot of memorable characters (I disliked the FFX13 gameplay, but I like some of the characters that came from it, which can later be used in spinoff titles or mashups like World of FF). DQ does have it’s own lore, but I’d prefer if they changed it up more often or tried to make it more distinct between games.

    That all said, I’ve been eye-ing DQ7 and DQ8 and my interest in someday checking them out has gone up as of late.

  • Hermione Granger

    to get the games to make a big splash in the west, you need to release the games on the ps4 and not the dead beat ninty.

  • halcyon

    maybe it’s time for a new artist

  • Mohammed Allha

    I think the DQ is getting a lot of attention the past 2 years they already released 3DQ games and there are 2 more in 2017 I really hope that people would try them they are really nice games

  • Note5

    The PS4 will make sure the Dragon Quest brand will be very successful in the west.
    100% guaranteed.
    That is the master plan of Sony and SEnix.

    • Hermione Granger

      to get the games to make a big splash in the west, you need to release the games on the ps4 and not the dead beat ninty.

  • Limit Break

    Hope they won’t Final Fantasy Dragon Quest up…
    I mean, at this point FF is just a name with certain gameplay and story elements which travel from game to game, changing as the trends dictate them.
    Dragon Quest, on the other hand, seems to posses a strong idea of what it is gameplay-wise and agrees to change this quality only when it comes to side-games like Builders and Warriors, but not the main series. And it is good, I hope this won’t change any time soon.
    Better death then change and subsequent betrayal of what you are.

  • I can’t seriously name a time I’ve seen an advertisement for a Dragon Quest game on television. I, however, am quite aware of the advertisements of Final Fantasy games.

    Dragon Quest has the same issue as Bamco’s Tales series: lack of marketing and loyalty. The Tales series popularity, however, seemed to grow in the absence of Final Fantasy games. Perhaps people looking for an RPG in the lacking of a Final Fantasy game. Now made aware, they’re aware that it’s a series that follows a trend and not just a one-off.

    Dragon Quest, however, doesn’t come out ever year on the dot and on the same platforms. It’s really hard to follow a series if it keeps jumping around on platform and you’re just seeing re-releases instead of new characters, new story, and new things. It’s still just the same thing…over and over. Dragon Quest should be on #15 or so by now, but it’s just now hitting #11….and it’s been 8 years since the last TRUE game; so it’s hard… REALLY hard to compare something you’ve thrown on the back-burner with something you’ve finally pulled to the front.