ByAna Valens, writer at
Writer and games critic. As seen at the Daily Dot, Waypoint, Kill Screen, Bitch Media, and ZEAL.
Ana Valens

Japan loves Final Fantasy, right? Actually, no. At least, not as much the ultra-American Grand Theft Auto V.

According to Famitsu, GTA V sold 2,366 PS4 copies in Japan last week, making it 29th on the top 30 best selling games within the country. In comparison, the recent Final Fantasy XV sold 2,220 on the PlayStation 4, meaning that GTA V beat out FF XV by a little over 100 copies. That's close, but a big win for the Grand Theft Auto series nonetheless: people clearly still love the game in Japan even after being on shelves for years.

And a bit surprising for some gamers. Grand Theft Auto V was originally released for the PlayStation 4 back in 2014, after coming out for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2013. The game has basically been out for five years, collecting sales in Japan ever since. But why do people keep on buying new copies of GTA V?

It's Just So American

[Source: Rockstar Games]
[Source: Rockstar Games]

There's something about Grand Theft Auto V that sticks with gamers around the world. Perhaps because the game satirizes American life so well, in a way that resonates with both Americans, and outsiders all too familiar with America's cultural influence on the world. And, these days, America is making a ton of international headlines.

Taking place in a version of the United States that mirrors California — especially Los Angeles, the greater LA area, and Southern California — GTA V captures what life is like inside one of the most culturally significant metropolises in the country. The disgustingly rich live alongside the terribly poor, and wherever money flows, crime follows shortly in its wake.

It's a game that reflects life in America, and for outsiders, it represents some of America's more dangerous vices: corruption, crime, entitlement, and capitalism.

And all these things bleed over to Grand Theft Auto Online, Grand Theft Auto V's online equivalent.

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GTA Online Fills Japan's Need For An Action MMO

[Source: Rockstar Games]
[Source: Rockstar Games]

In fact, it's safe to say GTA Online has played a major role in contributing to GTA V's success. Giving up to 30 players the opportunity to explore San Andreas and fight with (or against) one another, Grand Theft Auto has received new content year after year, flooding the game with modes, accessories, items, vehicles, weapons, and more to keep the game fresh. GTA Online is an enormous experience, and turning GTA V into an online third-person action shooter with MMORPG elements added in. With content constantly being pumped in, that's particularly appealing to gamers around the world who want an endless gameplay experience.

But especially in Japan, GTA V's online portion provides a pretty killer service to Japanese gamers. Grand Theft Auto Online takes the best parts of MMOs — building up your character while role-playing in a living world — with the high adrenaline action found in the GTA series. For Japanese gamers, there's a lot of appeal there. MMORPGs aren't booming monoliths in Japan the same way they are in South Korea and China, with Japanese gamers gravitating more towards console gaming than MMOs on the PC.

But GTA Online takes MMO action, combines it with a popular third-person shooter, and lets player go out on their own adventure. If you like action games, there's a little bit there for you. And if you like role-playing, well, there's some fun there, too. With endless content in a free world to explore, Grand Theft Auto Online makes for one fun game.

GTA Isn't The *Most* Open Game, But It's The One That Best Resonates In Japan

But what about other endless open-world games, like Minecraft? Well, for one, Minecraft doesn't have that American charm — the game is borderless, and was created by Mojang, a Swedish game development company. But there's also the constant content Rockstar keeps pumping into GTA Online.

Compare the two games for a second. Minecraft has plenty of content thanks to the game's seeds, giving players a wide variety of worlds and biomes to explore. But Minecraft's content is largely based on seed generation, and some seeds are just inherently better than others. It's easy to see all you want to and get bored with Minecraft pretty early on, but every day there's something new to see and explore in Grand Theft Auto Online.

Being able to jump into an online action world and always have something to do, something you want to try out, or somewhere to hang out with your friends? That's a huge appeal. And in retrospect, it just makes sense that the game continues to chart in Japan over even some of 2016's biggest releases.

It's not enough to be an open-world game like Minecraft, and role-playing games like Final Fantasy XV don't necessarily cut the cut without a steady stream of content. It takes both together to make a game like Grand Theft Auto V chart for years. Rockstar Games has clearly done a good job.

Are you still playing GTA Online? Share your story in the comments below.


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