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Crunching Numbers: Minutiae

Bryan Boulette

While the Crunching Numbers editorials typically take a look at various sales history and trends in the video game industry, I decided that this time I would take a slightly different tack. This editorial, instead of analyzing the finances and the facts surrounding consumer purchases, instead goes to the portable RPG market and takes a look at the numbers surrounding the games themselves -- how many are there, how many are we getting, and who's making them. In this I hope to give everyone a clearer picture of the emerging portable gaming landscape.

The numbers, to date, are fairly promising for both platforms, and they lend validity to the theory that competition between two viable, healthy consoles drives stronger software development -- particularly when the competing consoles each offer different unique features to the marketplace. By my count, there are currently 54 announced, in development, or released RPGs for the Nintendo DS. Sony's PSP is definitely lagging behind, though not by a staggering amount -- there are 41 announced, in development, or released RPGs for the wide-screen wonder.

The next question one would naturally be inclined to ask is how many of those games will actually be available for play in English. Again, the DS leads, though not by an enormous margin. Of the 54 DS RPGs, 28 (or 51.85%) have been confirmed for a North American release. That figure, naturally, includes those RPGs already released. The PSP is not without a lineup of its own. Of the 41 RPGs, 17 (41.46%) have been confirmed for North American release, or have already been released.

Frankly, the number of RPGs announced for both systems is fairly impressive (both have already surpassed the GameCube and the Xbox in numbers). But who is making all of these? Well, naturally, both Nintendo and Sony are the leading RPG publishers for their respective systems, putting out more RPGs than any other company. I was admittedly surprised by the margins, though. Nintendo often has a reputation of producing consoles that are overly first-party-heavy, but to my surprise, it turned out that Sony's percentage of RPG publishing on the PSP was higher than Nintendo's on the DS. The DS seems to be getting a greater breadth of third party support to this point. A special honor, however, goes to Namco Bandai. If the RPGs for both platforms were combined, Namco Bandai (splitting its support almost equally between the DS and the PSP) would rank as #1.

The top five RPG publishers for the PSP are as follows. Sony takes the lead with 8 titles, comprising 19.51% of the total RPG library. Coming in at a close second is Namco Bandai, riding on a swell of Tales titles, with 7 games in total, making up 17.07% of the lineup. Niche Japanese publisher Idea Factory takes the number 3 position with 4 games, or 9.76%. Bringing up the rear are both Konami and Marvelous, tied with 3 titles each -- 7.32% of the pie. Fan favorite Square Enix, with two games revealed, doesn't make the top five. So far, there are 17 RPG publishers in all committed to the PSP.

Familiar names abound on the DS's top five list. Nintendo comes in first with 9 games, or 16.67% of the RPG library. Konami, lagging behind on the PSP, wins an easy #2 ranking with 8 games, totalling 14.81%. Below those two there is, quite surprisingly, a three-way tie: Namco Bandai, Square Enix, and Marvelous all have 6 games each, or 11.11% for all three of them. In all, the DS has received the support of 19 different publishers.

Even though Nintendo and Sony are the number one RPG publishers on their respective handhelds, they're both sitting back and leaving the heavy lifting of actual development work to others. It's a common practice for hardware manufacturers, even when they have sizable development teams, to regularly employ independent and second party development studios for the creation of many of their published games. 7 of Nintendo's DS RPGs fit this profile -- a whopping 77.78%. Sony is close behind with 5 (62.50%) independant studio or second party games.

A frequent knock against the PSP's library is that it's overflowing with ports and multiconsole releases, but is this true? Let's take a look at the numbers. Of the 41 announced or released RPGs, 22 qualify as either ports of prior or current generation consoles, or multiconsole non-exclusive releases. This comes out to 53.66% of the system's library. Before DS enthusiasts get too happy, though, be aware that Nintendo's dual-screened system isn't without ports and multiconsole games itself. 6, in fact, qualify -- 11.11% of the lineup.

One definite advantage to the PSP, however, is its far deeper Western support. Thanks to competitive hardware and software sales in the US and Europe, the PSP has much stronger commitment from publishers in these regions. Though Eastern developers still dominate, the PSP's Western support is healthier with 6 titles, or 14.63%. The DS lags behind with only 4 Western-developed games -- just a measly 7.41%.

Concerned about sequelitis? Then there's good news for you, as both the PSP and the DS are doing an admirable job at establishing new franchises. While recognized brands will always be the bread and butter of the RPG industry, a creative and thriving one requires new IPs, so this is surely a heartening sign. The PSP's announced library contains 10 new IPs, or 24.39% of the total. It's barely behind the DS, whose 14 new franchises names make up 25.93% of its own library.

And lastly, one might wonder what all these wonderful new RPGs will be playing like. So let's take a look at their subgenres. Action and traditional turn-based RPGs seem to be leading the way on both platforms. On the DS, 23 (42.59%) games are action RPGs, with 24 (44.44%) being traditional turn-based. Trailing distantly behind are 3 (5.56%) Sim RPGs and 4 (7.41%) Strategy RPGs. The picture's a bit different on the PSP, though not much. 15 (36.59%) Action RPGs and an equal number of Traditional RPGs come in first, followed by 2 (4.88%) Sim RPGs and 9 (21.95%) Strategy RPGs.

And with that, I think you'll all have a fairly complete grasp of all the various little numeric minutiae surrounding the RPG lineups for the two handheld systems. For those more fascinated by sales data number crunching, that should return in our next installment.

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