I’ve played a lot of games over the years. I’m proud to say that I’ve held a controller in these hands for three decades straight, with no sign of ever putting them down. In that span of time, I’ve sampled genres, tasted franchises, and become a lifelong fan of a few key series that speak to me on a deep, meaningful level. I can say the exact same thing about my love of anime; I’ve watched a few series that resonate with my soul in ways that other shows could never hope to accomplish.
Three years ago, I stumbled upon a magical combination of these two things: a video game based on a long-running series that I absolutely cherished, and one that had mechanics that were so deep and engaging that I found what was literally — yes, literally, and with zero hyperbole — the greatest amount of fun I have ever had with a controller in my hands. Thirty years of playing video games, and this was the mountaintop, the very apex of everything I’ve ever sought in a game. And to top it all off, it was a licensed game based on an anime series. I didn’t think that combination was possible.
That game was Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Versus Full Boost, and its place in my PlayStation 3’s disc drive has become somewhat permanent.
I bought it on the recommendation of a friend who was heavy into the series — far heavier than I was at that point in time, as my total Gundam experience equated watching Gundam Wing, G Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory — and it looked very similar to Sega’s Virtual ON, one of my all-time favorite games. So, I took to Amazon and imported the game from Japan. I fired it up expecting to have a little bit of foreign thumb candy, and nothing more.
What I didn’t expect was for it to open a doorway filled with my money and my time, and for me to be so blissfully unquestioning in its requisite price(s) paid to pass through its arches. Before a year and a half had passed, I had played the game to Platinum Trophy completion, I had bought and assembled my first Gunpla model kit (a Master Grade RX-78-2 Ver. Ka, if you’re curious), and by any and every means necessary, I had completed my journey through (almost) the complete entirety of the Gundam franchise’s animated works.
That’s fifteen full animated series with episode counts ranging between the high thirties and low fifties. That’s three full-length films, and that doesn’t count compilation movies that speed through the narrative of the aforementioned television series. Then, that’s nine OVA series ranging from three episodes to thirteen. The only reason why all that happened was because this one silly little video game was that fucking fun to play.
So fun, in fact, that I spent more money on DLC for this game than I did purchasing it in the first place. And I did so gladly, because each new suit was a new way to play, a new character making callbacks to their series and the events that happened to them. I spent $60 total to get the game from Japan, I spent over NINETY DOLLARS on DLC for the game, and this wasn’t cosmetic crap like alternate HUD graphics or waifu character cheerleaders, either. Every dollar I spent was on a new mobile suit to use, in a game that shipped with a character select screen NINETY-SIX blocks deep, all of them available from the moment you start the game.
Every time I had to buy a suit, I needed to first find an online retailer that would accept payment for a Japanese PSN wallet card, then redeem those digital funds on the Japanese PSN in order to have money available to purchase the new suits. And I wasn’t the only one doing it, either.
Fast forward to 2017. Right here, right now. Gundam Versus is headed to PlayStation 4. It’s high time to officially introduce this franchise to the global market. I’ll gladly explain why that makes sense.
First, the Gundam franchise as a whole is starting to see a bit of a renaissance in the United States. Classic series have started to see more frequent DVD and Blu-Ray releases, and this includes series that have never seen American releases in the past. Gunpla models and hardcover manga volumes alike have become staple fixtures in stores like Barnes & Noble, and routinely sell well on Amazon, to boot. There are entire communities that have sprung up around Gunpla model building, with instructional videos, subreddits, Facebook groups and forums consistently buzzing with new techniques and completed kits to show off.
There are also two modern and current Gundam series that have seen regularly-scheduled timeslots on Cartoon Network’s Toonami anime programming block; Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans and Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn RE:0096. The franchise hasn’t seen this level of traction within the United States in over fifteen years.
What better time to capitalize — or even build upon — that momentum than to officially release Gundam Versus here? According to VGChartz, Bandai Namco sold 380,000 copies of ExVs Full Boost in Japan since the game’s initial launch on January 30th, 2014. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 was released in February of 2016, and has since gone on to sell 120,000 copies in Japan as of the current date…but this game sold 480,000 copies in the United States, 520,000 in Europe, and another 200,000 in the rest of the world. That’s 1.2 MILLION COPIES versus a paltry one-hundred-twenty thousand. If that’s what an anime-based licensed game from the same publisher could muster in a year, imagine the profit margins and sales numbers at similar ratios of sales in those global markets.
If you had to break that down by the numbers, Full Boost brought in roughly $22.8 million dollars in revenue from a single-purchase Japanese release alone (380K x $60). If you take Naruto‘s adoption rates in the West (10x) as the metric by which you measure Gundam Versus‘ potential, that becomes a total of $250.8 million dollars, all together.
Additionally, this opens up the world to purchasing DLC locally. If you take Naruto‘s numbers, this has the potential to expand the game’s potential revenue stream nearly threefold. You’re looking at a theoretical maximum of almost $750 million (because you, too can gleefully spend $90 in DLC for a $60 game), which is far beyond the definition of “significant.” This is not only great for Bandai Namco as a publisher, but it’s great for Bandai as a company, since they own the Gundam franchise.
In short, Bandai Namco would be foolish not to give a global release to Gundam Versus. It’s a strong game with a lot of depth under the hood, it’s relatively easy to play when compared to other popular games and it’s the absolute best calling card for a franchise that carries nearly four decades of pedigree. In terms of cost / benefit, it’s a no-brainer, as the rewards mitigate any potential risks to the point of being laughable, and just about every relatable metric you can find backs that up. Plus, it might make a ton of new, diehard metaseries fans out of people who simply wanted to dig into the world(s) their new favorite game showed them.
That is certainly what happened to me. It’ll probably happen to you, too.
Editor’s note: Updated 4/10/17, added some math.