If you needed any more evidence that the video game industry has irrevocably changed, look no further than Dragon Quest X. The latest entry in Yuji Hori’s foundational role-playing series released on Nintendo’s Wii in August after more than four years in development and sold just 367,000 copies on its first day. Most AAA games don’t sell 367,000 copies in their first month on shelves, but Dragon Quest is different. A cultural institution in its native Japan, most Dragon Quest games move millions in their first 24 hours. Dragon Quest IX for Nintendo DS sold 2.3 million copies in Japan on day one.
What happened? It’d be easy to blame the Wii. Dragon Quest X is an MMORPG and playing it on the underpowered Wii, with its finicky online play, requires players to buy a pricey USB drive alongside the game, not to mention a subscription fee. The other reason? Dragon Quest X is expected out on the more online-capable Wii U this fall.
You’d expect that the Wii U version of Dragon Quest X would be the premiere version of the game since it’s on an HD console, but based on Square-Enix’s first demonstration of the game at the Tokyo Game Show, it’s no great shakes. According to a report from Siliconera, Dragon Quest X on Wii U is the exact same game as the one on Wii with minimal graphical upgrades. Are there better character models? Better enemies and environments? Nope. Just improved shadows for the player characters.
In fairness, it had to be this way, as both Wii and Wii U Dragon Quest X players will occupy the same servers. It will also carry the exact same monthly subscription fee.
Dragon Quest X is an odd duck in the modern video game landscape. The Wii U could certainly use an online role-playing game early in its lifespan. MMOs are in a state of transition on PC, but the entire genre is still relatively unexplored on home consoles. Since Dragon Quest has always been a series built with casual and hardcore players alike in mind, it would be a perfect introduction to both the genre and to the Wii U’s nascent online community. Even if the game released outside of Japan though, there’s no way an American audience would be willing to be a monthly fee.