It seems a Bandai Namco representative by the name of Tak Miyazoe made some remarks last weekend at a press event suggesting there is sudden interest in a new Sailor Moon video game.
It reminds me of the time a friend of mine and I went to a big theater to watch Aliens for the second time. We sat in the back, high above the majority of the crowd and waited until the first medlab scene when Burke gets too close to the facehugger stasis tube. The entire theater jumped at once. It was priceless.
We knew what was going to happen. Watching the audience experience the film was more interesting than the film itself.
Watching new people try to license Sailor Moon for adaptation into a video game is equally entertaining. I know exactly what is going to happen. I wrote the book on it.
My first clue was Miyazoe’s subtle but all-too-familiar blaming American fans for Sailor Moon’s alleged failures in the U.S. “We’d want to know that fans would support the game,” says Miyazoe. Indeed.
I’ve been personally involved in every attempt to make an English-language Sailor Moon video game since 1997. I tried to license the characters in 2000, right before the television ratings tripled (an event I predicted). Timing was wrong.
I was hired by DIC and launched a Gameboy title project in 2002. The clock ran out on the license.
I was approached by Toei in 2010 to make an iPhone game (bet you didn’t know about that one, did you?). Why, I even commissioned mock-ups and wrote a 15-page business plan. You should have seen the evil magic library level! Vetoed.
I’ve spoken with Viz Media about the rights since Crystal first aired. Sailor Moon’s been on the air since mid-2014. Is there a game yet? No. But there are still two “Coming Soon” pages on the official web site!
I interviewed both the developer of the 3VR title in 1997 and the head of the company that licensed the Italian title in 2011. And if there is one thing I’ve learned, it is this:
There will never be another English-language Sailor Moon video game.
Leaving aside for the moment the now proven fact that Sailor Moon’s merchandising efforts outside of Japan are and will remain a train wreck, those responsible for the rights to these characters simply don’t care about markets outside of Japan.
I have well-placed sources inside and outside the Sailor Moon licensing structure who confirm the Japanese licensors consider the U.S. a secondary market at best and further seem to prefer to avoid significant contact with their American licensees.
It’s not that they don’t want a game. They just don’t care.
Now this may be because they don’t believe Sailor Moon can be a success in the United States. I have proof they are mistaken. As I point out in my book, The Incredible Untold Story of Sailor Moon, these characters helped build the #1 cable channel in America. Sailor Moon came within one phone call of ruling the universe right alongside Pokemon. In fact, those of you who are Pokemon fans have Sailor Moon to thank. Were it not for her, your favorite pocket monster would still be in a filing cabinet somewhere in Machida.
It may also be the true owner of the property is either unable or unwilling to manage it properly.
With the exception of DIC Entertainment and some would argue Irwin Toy, the Sailor Moon rights were mishandled in the late 1990s, and they are being mishandled now. Those who own this property are far more interested in earning pocket change building an enormous catalog of costume jewelry and character statues instead of putting their multi-billion dollar franchise together with the multi-billion dollar U.S. video game industry.
Video games are marketing vehicles, just like films. Oh, that’s right; Sailor Moon could have been a movie too. In fact, Sailor Moon, Pixar, and Disney had the same address right up the freeway here in sunny SoCal about the time I was trying to get the second English-language video game made. Why, Geena Davis was even rumored to be interested in the Queen Beryl role.
But it wasn’t to be, and it won’t be. No movies. No games.
Just before the first English-language licenses expired, my company conducted a survey called the Gemini Project. Our purpose was to gauge interest in an English-language Sailor Moon video game. The survey generated more than 2900 responses, 97% of which stated they would buy a Sailor Moon game sight unseen.
I even printed out the survey responses. The result was a stack of paper nearly a foot tall. 1300 pages. I carried that stack of paper to a meeting at Cloverway (along with an 11 minute animated presentation) and dropped it on the table. It made a rather solid “thud” sound. I announced our idea to the Cloverway representatives by saying “that, ladies and gentlemen, is the sound of your market. Their message is ‘we want a game.'”
Hey, it wasn’t a total failure. I got on Toei’s Christmas card list.
Twelve years later, we ran another survey called the Magellan Project. Same purpose. This one was expanded to include preferred game type and platform. It was a follow-on to the crowdfunding campaign for our book. I wrote a second book about the two surveys called Return to Tranquility. I think you’ll be astonished at what we learned.
Those two surveys are the largest and second-largest surveys of their type ever conducted for this property. I had nearly 3000 copies of the first game sold before we even had a title.
But it isn’t going to happen.
There are numerous people who believe a Sailor Moon game won’t sell. They’re wrong, and I can prove it.
There are numerous people who believe Sailor Moon won’t work as a video game. They’re also wrong, and I can prove it.
There are numerous people who think Sailor Moon is doing just fine with the Crystal series and their 600-page costume jewelry catalog. It isn’t.
Who knows; maybe Tak Miyazoe is listening? If so, I have a message for him: Give me a call! Crowdfunding a Sailor Moon video game would raise seven figures in a week. With a budget like that, we could produce a game that would make Sailor Moon fans weep with joy.
That’s right. You can have your game, Bandai Namco, and it won’t cost you a cent. I might even pitch it to Blizzard. They’re right up the freeway too.
But it ain’t happening.
When Sailor Moon’s licensors start taking the property seriously and are willing to take notice of the facts regarding their characters’ popularity outside of Japan and Italy, they might make some progress.
When the licensors stop competing with their own licensees, the Sailor Moon market will improve.
When the licensors stop trying to re-capture the events of 1992 and start building a franchise for 2015, they will have better results.
But it’s not going to happen. Sailor Moon will forever be left out of the world of video games. I’m sorry.
But hey, in the meantime maybe we can have a few more entertaining moments in the medlab.
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