Where For Art Thou… Oh, There You Are.

I have to confess to being disappointed. Years of hearing about landmark game launches in Japan created in me a misconception. I erroneously believed that somehow games of note drew everyone from their homes in a frenzied fit to politely queue outside any and every game store in the land to get their mitts on the latest installment of their beloved franchise. I was wrong.

11pm, day 1, still no shortage here.

11pm, day 1, still plenty.

It isn’t that Final Fantasy XIII didn’t have a big turn out. I have seen images on blogs, hordes of people waiting anxiously in line outside the downtown stores of larger cities. But this doesn’t seem abnormal to me. These stores always draw crowds. Even in the UK, the release of a big title can draw fevered masses to the streets for a midnight launch.

No, I expected more. This game has been cited as one of the two most anticipated games in the Japanese Famitsu for nearly three years. Every thing blogs and magazine had lead me to believe about Japan’s love of Final Fantasy had me expecting every store was going to be rammed harder than a ewe in mating season. So I headed down to my local store for its early opening on the day of release to see the spectacle for myself.

The (un)lucky 7.

The Lucky 7.

A pitiful line stood outside my local (but not insignificantly sized) game store. The cold winter morning hosted the bedraggled group of seven (six guys, one girl if you are interested). Each trudged slowly in as the door opened, they politely bought their game before scampering home. They all (perhaps rightly) looked at me like I was the weird one as I surreptitiously took photos on my iPhone, their confusion growing still greater as I didn’t even enter to buy the game. Slowly more arrived, one by one picking up their copies. The trickle of people continued on, but disappointingly it never grew in to the expected torrent.

Of course the reports are already coming in of successful the first day sales. Square-Enix talking of shipping two million copies of the game, with over one million sold on the first day alone. Obviously I am in no position to discount any of this, but I can say that claims of the game having sold out all over Japan are somewhat exaggerated. Perhaps there is a drought in Tokyo, but Osaka still has plenty to go around.

7pm, day 2, this store is about the size of two cars, still has plenty.

7pm, day 2, this store is about the size of two cars, still has lots to go around.

Anyone would be well within their rights to tell me I haven’t been to the otaku centres in my research. They could even tell me that this is the first Final Fantasy release I have witnessed since starting DoFuss; perhaps I mealy misinterpreted the western coverage of previous similar events. Too all of this I would have to hold my hands up and agree, that indeed I haven’t, but I did see the Dragon Quest 9 launch. I saw the state of every retailer in my area that day. Each and every one had been ransacked, and all of the staff looked exhausted. Shelves lay empty, with old Dragon Quest game the only thing left to fill the voids made by the day’s sales.

It’s to be expected. A large audience both due to complexity and platform penetration of course means Dragon Quest 9 was destined to sell better. But I visited a total of five game stores in my local area and all still had sizable stocks of Final Fantasy XIII still available. The game will be number one next week, of that there is no doubt. But unless you are unlucky enough to be looking to pick up a copy in one of the more famous gaming outlets you don’t have to worry about shortages just yet.

Now if youll excues me, I am off to reconstruct my shattered childhood beliefs.

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