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Do Japanese games actually have a shot at The Game Awards?

November 15, 2017 2 min read

For most of the games announced yesterday, the 2017 Game Awards have been a long time coming. From the moment The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild hit the Switch, we knew it was a contender. Same goes for Super Mario Odyssey and the first time we saw Mario capture a T-Rex. Horizon: Zero Dawn has been a lock as well and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has had a shot at the top prize so long as those voting could look past the fact it is still an Early Access game. Rounding out the nominees for Game of the Year is Persona 5, a milestone that is quite significant for the franchise.

All-in-all I wouldn't say I'm that surprised by these nominees. They're a good bunch and any one of them would make a fine GOTY winner. Any of them would, but if history is any indication, three of them don't have a chance. Odyssey, Breath, and Persona face a system that appears to be working against them. It’s not because they aren’t beloved or well-reviewed or crowning achievements in their respective genres, because they are. No, these titles simply seem to be at a disadvantage because of where they were made.

To understand where I am coming from you have to go back to the beginning. The Spike Video Game Awards, produced by The Game Awards’ showrunner Geoff Keighley, was the first modern attempt at giving the video game industry a standard bearer of an awards show. There have been a lot of tries at shit like this over the years. Anyone remember the Walk of Game or all those failed Gaming Hall of Fames? Despite airing on a network that is the equivalent of giving a dick measuring contest its own channel, the Spike VGAs could have been a real, honest shot at a legitimate awards show for gaming right up until the moment Madden 2004 was named Game of the Year.

Now, that’s embarrassing and not just in retrospect. It was embarrassing then to bestow your most prestigious award on an annual sports title over fellow nominees Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, or Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. That’s not even including the fact Madden lost Best Sports Game to Tony Hawk’s Underground but ended up beating it for Game of the Year. A situation like that is silly but not uncommon as anyone who still watches the MTV Video Music Awards will attest to.

The whole first VGA ceremony is a mess – just look at the Best Handheld Game category – and a sports game taking the top prize hasn’t happened since. Instead, a pattern has established itself over the years on just what types of games will be nominated and win the overall Game of the Year award. It's a pattern that heavily favors games developed on this side of the Pacific.

Do Japanese games actually have a shot at The Game Awards? screenshot