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Does Culture Play an Important Role in the Success of a Console?

Last Updated on June 3, 2023


It’s an interesting word, one that describes how a society behaves within its customs and ideas. Across the Earth, there are many different cultures, including Latino, African, and Caribbean, each with its unique thinking and behaviour. For businesses to succeed in international markets, they must understand and adapt to the customs and ideas of other cultures. What is acceptable in one culture may not be acceptable in another, making cultural awareness a crucial factor in business success.

While this is common knowledge for businesses, video game consoles can also achieve varying success, depending on the cultural preferences of their target markets. Some consoles, despite having great games, may fail to impress overseas due to cultural differences.

I will give you 3 examples of it. For simplicity, I will refer to Western and Eastern culture.

Success in the East, Failure in the West: TurboGrafx-16 (PC-Engine in Japan)

The TurboGrafx-16, for example, outsold the Sega Genesis in Japan due to its games library. However, the same console failed to repeat this success in the West. This was due to differences in culture and preferences. The Western market preferred sports and violent games, which were not as popular in Japan. The Sega Genesis had a better understanding of the Western market (even releasing a commercial with Michael Jackson), using this knowledge to promote its games, ultimately defeating the TurboGrafx-16 in the Western market.

Despite a few commercials, the TurboGrafx-16 simply couldn’t compete with the Sega Geneis, EA Sports’ first FIFA game, and fell by the wayside before the console war even started.

Success in the West, Failure in the East: The Original XBOX

Another console that failed to make an impact overseas was the original Xbox, but in the east it was doomed from thr start. While it was popular in North America, it failed to appeal to the Eastern market due to size, brand loyalty, and game genre preferences. The Eastern culture preferred smaller-sized consoles, Japanese games, and 2D games, while the Western market preferred grand, blockbuster (often FPS) games like the Xbox offered.

There are many more reasons for Xbox’s failure in the Eastern culture. Microsoft should have learned lessons from KFC and McDonalds, American brands that remain successful in Japan.

Success in both culture: Playstation 1

However, some consoles succeed on both sides of the Pacific, such as the Playstation 1. Sony’s first video game console was a game-changer, appealing to both the Eastern and Western audiences. It had a diverse library of games that fit the preferences of both cultures, from extreme sports games to 2D Japanese anime-style games.

You want a JRPG? The Final Fantasy series is on PlayStation. Want to fight? Go with Tekken. Want some Japanese anime style fighting? Try the crazy combo masher Asuka 120%. The PS1 games have a ton of Japanese anime style games to enjoy for the Eastern audience.

The PS1 was, at that time, one of the few consoles that was accepted in east and west.

How important is culture?

Culture plays a critical role in determining the success of a console. Recently, the Nintendo Switch has dominated the Eastern culture, outselling the Playstation 4. The console’s success is partly due to Nintendo’s strong brand loyalty and understanding of the Japanese market’s preferences in games.

Nintendo Switch has dominated in the Eastern culture and has even outsold PS4. This was helped by the fact that Sony has made spme bad decisions that damaged its reputation in Japan, such as shifting their headquarters and putting more focus on the Western gamers.

For any business (regardless of industry) planning to expand internationally, it is crucial to understand the cultural differences of the markets they are targeting, especially those in Eastern cultures, to ensure business success.

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