Square Enix has two major franchises in Japan — Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Now the former has become a household name even outside of the country. Many consider it as one of the most famous RPG franchises in the world. The latter on the other hand, perhaps not so much.
So why has Dragon Quest not made a major impact in the West? Well, an interview with executive producer Yu Miyake (via Nintendo Everything) reveals three major factors.
The first is that there’s a historical dissonance between the East and the West with the two franchises. Next, is the lack of any real effort Square Enix placed into localizing the older Dragon Quest titles. And finally, Miyake believes that the series’ art style has a stigma in the West.
Dragon Quest Producer Talks Popularity in the West
With regards to the first factor, Miyake comments that both series had different historical timings in the East and West.
He talks about how Final Fantasy VII is often regarded as the RPG for the Western audience because of the impact it had on the original PlayStation, one of the highest selling consoles during that the time.
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.
Another major factor is the lack of localization support for some of the later games in the series. While the Western audience did get the original games on the NES, it never saw the release of the next two titles on the SNES.
After the release of the fourth game on the NES in 1992, no other game came out of Japan until the seventh installment in 2001 which might have been far too late for the franchise to get a solid audience.
The truth is that if we’d put a lot of effort into localizing Dragon Quest at the time, we probably wouldn’t be facing this issue today.
Cartoonish Aesthetic a Barrier for Entry?
Finally, Miyake thinks that the cartoonish aesthetic of the franchise is a turn-off to most Western players.
He states that in Japan the audience of the series ranges from primary school students to people in their 50s.
Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball, has been with the series since the very beginning and set the tone of the art of the characters.
In Japan, the cartoonish style isn’t necessarily seen as childish or immature. But to Miyake, he believes that this mentality does exist in the West and acts as a barrier to the entry for many players.
However, he believes that this stigma is slowly going away and that the interest for the series has steadily increased in the West.
They’ve also been working on promoting the series more outside of Japan perhaps as an effort to fix their mistakes in the past.
Dragon Quest XI comes out in Japan in 2017 for the PlayStation 4, 3DS, and Nintendo Switch. So far there’s been no confirmation of a Western release.