Omakuni, a peculiarity of the Japanese PC game market, explained à la Wikipedia

In the online sale of computer games, the Japanese word omakuni (おま国) means the custom such that game titles that are originally developed in Japan for home consoles are later released for PC in download distribution, and that this PC version is not sold to residents of Japan.

There are variants of omakuni like omago (おま語) and omane (おま値). The former means deletion of the Japanese language in the PC version, as in the user interface or character voices. In the latter the price for Japan is significantly higher than that for other countries.[1]

Omakuni is a common phenomenon and well known to Steam users in Japan. Omakuni affects most significantly Japanese speakers in Japan, but Japanese learners or residents in Japan that are not Japanese speakers are also relevant.

The word omakuni is sometimes used, or confused, to simply mean regional restrictions or geo-blocking in general, too [2], but in this article we focus on the custom special to the video game market in Japan.

The term omakuni first appeared around year 2010 as a slang in the user community of Steam, a gaming platform. It is an abbreviation of "おまえのには売ってやらない" or so. ("Omae no kuni niwa utte yaranai", which can for example be translated as: "We ain't sel t'yer country, fool.") It is now also used in media, starting from c. year 2019.[3][2]

Forms

It is not rare for video games by Japanese publishers to be sold first for home consoles in Japan, and later for PC by download distribution to the worldwide market. In that case it is natural to expect that the game can be played in Japan and in the Japanese language. However it is often not the case, the play of games receiving restriction in some forms.

Before proceeding, we note that regional restrictions and/or geo-blocking are widely observed in download sales in general, and it is not limited to omakuni. They can be done for example by assigning differenet product keys to several regions of the world, where each key can be activated in a specific region. Another method is possible, where online stores limit the sales of each key to some regions. The entire aspect of geo-blocking is complexified by combination of various limitations.

The same applies to omakuni. Some stores do not ship omakuni titles to Japan. Or some keys can not be activated in Japan. Yet sometimes games that are not sold to Japan at some stores can indeed be purchased at other shops..

Background

There is an explanation of the reason of omakuni that the worldwide trading itself is already complex enough.[4] One case in 2010 looked like omakuni, but that was not intended by Square-Enix, the publisher of those games, and they later became purchasable in Japan, following fans requests.[5]

In Japan the ratio of PCs for gaming devices is exceptionally low compared to other conutries.[6] Some cite this fact as the reason of omakuni. In a similar vein some game manufacturers attribute omakuni to the costs of Japanese voices and fonts.[4][1]

Such explanations are however questionable, as indicated by the case of 真・三國無双8 (Dynasty Warriors 9). Its Steam version was initially announced not to contain Japanese and Chinese subtitles. But after its release, users discovered these subtitle data existed, and by modifying the registry they could be displayed during the gameplay. The publisher Koei Tecmo responded by deleting these subtitle data in an update. (This decision raised extreme rage among fans, and in the end Koei Tecmo was forced to provide these subtitles in a later update.) In addition, in the Xbox One version of 真・三國無双8, which was not released in Japan, Japanese subtitle was available.[7]

One commonly believed cause of omakuni practice is that game software companies do it for the two game console makers, Nintendo and Sony Computer Entertainment, which possess big power in the Japanese game industry, so that the sale of consoles is not reduced.

There still exists a game developer that clearly denies omakuni, saying "there is no choice for us that we dare not to sell to Japanese gamers."[8]

Example of Dragon Quest series

Actual degree of omakuni is not uniform — here we see the example of the Dragon Quest franchise, a JRPG series extremely popular in Japan[9][10][11][note 1]. It is seen that each title has its own case of omakuni. (Or not at all for Dragon Quest Builders 2.) As of Jan 2020, 4 installments are released for Steam.[12]

Comparison of omakuni statuses for Dragon Quest titles
Title Steam Store page Original release date Steam version release date Can be played in Japan? Does Steam Store sell to Japan? Japanese language support
Dragon Quest Heroes Link 2015-02 2015-12 Yes[ref] Yes[ref] Limited (Voice only)
Dragon Quest Heroes II Link 2016-05 2017-04 Yes[ref] No[ref] Limited (Voice only)
Dragon Quest XI Link 2017-07 2018-09 Yes[ref] No[ref] None
Dragon Quest Builders 2 Link 2018-12 2019-12 Yes[ref] Yes[ref] Fully supported

For how to check the Omakuni status of each game, see this article.

Footnotes

Notes

  1. ^ These references are copied from the article Dragon Quest (series), Dragon Quest Wiki, 2020-01-22, retrieved 2020-01-24

References

  1. ^ a b なぜ日本製ゲームで”おま語”が起きるのか?―CD PROJEKT本間氏がTwitterで語る【UPDATE】 (in Japanese), GameSpark, 2017-06-29, retrieved 2019-11-03
  2. ^ a b 購入したゲームが特定国ではSteamでプレイできなくなる措置に独占禁止法違反の指摘 (in Japanese), Gigazine, 2019-04-08, retrieved 2019-11-03
  3. ^ STADIA発表で殺到した「おま国」とは何か 日本ゲーマーたちの悲痛な叫び (in Japanese), J-CASTニュース, 2019-03-20, retrieved 2019-11-03
  4. ^ a b 【ゲームの企画書】激動のゲーム業界を“変わらないこと”で生き抜いてきた日本ファルコムのスゴさとは?【業界初、加藤会長×近藤社長対談】 (in Japanese), 電ファミニコゲーマー, 2018-07-24, retrieved 2019-11-03
  5. ^ 「Steam」の一部作品で日本からの購入ブロックが解除。きっかけはスクウェア・エニックス和田社長とユーザーとのTwitter上でのやりとり (in Japanese), 4gamer, 2010-06-30, retrieved 2019-11-03
  6. ^ 西田宗千佳 (2018-01-15), 米欧日の家庭用ゲームソフト市場は5:4:1の比──なぜ日本のゲームメーカーは世界で戦えなくなったのか, ニコニコニュース, retrieved 2019-11-03
  7. ^ Steam版「真・三國無双8」が“日本語UI”に正式対応へ。今後の無料アップデートにて, 2018-02-01
  8. ^ 日本向けタイトルのSteam展開って,どうなんですか? 日本一ソフトウェアの新川社長に聞く,英語版配信の成果, 4gamer, 2017-02-22, retrieved 2019-11-03
  9. ^ Reviews Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, GameSpy, 2005-11-22, retrieved 2020-01-24.
  10. ^ Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies - Preview, Nintendo World Report, 2007-05-15, retrieved 2020-01-24.
  11. ^ Dragon Quest 9 Set for DS, IGN, 2006-12-12, retrieved 2020-01-24.
  12. ^ Steam Curator: DRAGON QUEST, Steam Store, , retrieved 2020-01-22.

See also