A photo by Kirby creator Masahiro Sakurai shows empty Tokyo streets after the earthquake
A photo by Kirby creator Masahiro Sakurai shows empty Tokyo streets after the earthquake

How the Video Game Community Is Responding to Japan's Quake Disasters

With the death toll rising above 10,000 people, 88,000 people reported missing and the threat of numerous nuclear meltdowns, Japan is facing its worst national catastrophe since World War II.

There is no doubt this tragedy will affect the video-gaming industry as well. Japan is home to some of the world's most recognized names in gaming, such as Nintendo, Sony, Square-Enix and Capcom. Although these companies were able to escape the recent tsunami and earthquake attacks mostly unharmed, the gaming industry across the world is expected to be severely impacted over the next few months.

Video-game developers and companies have responded to Japan's disaster in a unique number of ways. Everything from creative ways of donation collecting to opening studio doors in order to aid survivors, it's amazing what the gaming industry of Japan and the rest of the world is doing in order to take care of the unfortunate victims of this tragedy.

Major Japanese Games Publishers Donate Generous Amounts of Money to Support Relief Efforts

Nintendo's HQ in Japan
Nintendo's HQ in Japan

Some of the world's biggest names in the video-gaming industry have generously donated large amounts of money to aid in the relief efforts in Japan after last week's earthquakes and tsunami disasters. According to Andriasang, some of the country's biggest contributors are:

  • Nintendo ($3.65 million)
  • Sony ($3.65 million and 30,000 radios)
  • SEGA Sammy ($2.45 million)
  • Namco Bandai ($1.23 million)
  • Tecmo ($123,000)

Other Japanese-based companies, such as BlazBlue developer Arc System Works, are planning on releasing DLC for their games with profits that will go toward relief efforts.

Several Japanese Online Games Turn Off Servers to Conserve Power

Namco Arcades such as this one in Japan will be closed to conserve much-needed electricity
Namco Arcades such as this one in Japan will be closed to conserve much-needed electricity

According to a statement on Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) website, power facilities have been "seriously damaged" and that "power shortage[s] may occur." TEPCO is urging people to reduce electricity consumption by "avoiding using unnecessary lighting and electrical equipment."

Many video-game companies are temporarily shutting down online game servers in order to conserve much-needed energy. Final Fantasy publisher Square-Enix has shut down servers for online MMORPGs Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV, along with the PlayOnline service for "at least a week." Similarly, Konami has also shut down servers for Metal Gear Online. In addition to donating $1.23 million, Namco-Bandai is also shutting down its arcades.

Twitter and Facebook Have Become a Valuable Method for the Japanese to Communicate

One of the scariest things many don't realize when an event like this occurs is how the communication becomes severely limited. Telephone lines are reported to be down for large areas of Japan, and getting ahold of loved ones has proven to be a difficult task to undertake.

Luckily, various social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been shown to be valuable sources of communication. According to WebProNews, a significant number of earthquake-related tweets have been trending all week.

Many of the video-gaming industry's most recognized game developers have relied on Twitter to communicate to their fans and loved ones. Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima tweeted that he was safe, No More Heroes designer Goichi Suda sent out various warnings to his staff through Twitter, and The Last Guardian designer Fumito Ueda is trying to make sure everyone's safe. Through Twitter, Smash Bros desinger Masahiro Sakurai even shared very powerful pictures that he took of the disasters.

Whoever said that Twitter and Facebook are a waste of time could not be any more wrong.

Disaster Report 4 Game Canceled as a Sign of Respect

A screen shot from Irem's Disaster Report 4
A screen shot from Irem's Disaster Report 4

The upcoming PlayStation 3 survival game Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories has been canceled. Originally set to be released this spring, the game's developer, Irem, has silently canceled its production for obvious reasons.

The game would have allowed players to take on the role of earthquake survivors, in which they'd have to find various items in order to survive. It also would have featured 3D support, PlayStation Move functionality and a hygiene meter, whatever that is.

Irem made no mention of Japan's current situation in its cancellation announcement.

CyberConnect's Hiroshi Matsuyama Is Opening His Studio to Complete Strangers for Safety

Hiroshi Matsuyama: Nice Guy
Hiroshi Matsuyama: Nice Guy

Using Twitter, Hiroshi Matsuyama of CyberConnect announced he will be opening his studio to everybody seeking refuge from the disasters. He provided the studio's address and information in his tweet, and he offered strangers beverages, food and television in order to keep up with the latest news of the disaster.

Microsoft Uses Japanese Disaster to Promote Bing

It's not the most sensitive way to raise funds for Japan, but Microsoft had good intentions. On March 12, one day after the earthquake and tsunami, the company's Bing Twitter account made the following tweet:

How the Video Game Community Is Responding to Japan's Quake Disasters

Do you see what went wrong here? Using a disaster that claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in order to promote your search engine isn't the greatest method of social-network marketing. Clearly, this pissed off a lot of people. Comedian Michael Black retweeted the following in response to what he believes is a blunder from Microsoft:

How the Video Game Community Is Responding to Japan's Quake Disasters

Seven hours later, Microsoft issued an apology and stated the following through Twitter:

We apologize the tweet was negatively perceived. Intent was to provide an easy way for people to help Japan. We have donated $100K.

Sure, it's easy to giggle at Microsoft's lack of judgment, but the company has been very generous with donations to Japan. In fact, it is donating much more than the $100,000 announced on Twitter. According to the Microsoft Corporate Citizenship page, it's making an initial donation commitment of $2 million, as well as contributing software.

Various Video Games Delayed

A screen shot from Sega's Yakuza of the End
A screen shot from Sega's Yakuza of the End

There shouldn't be any surprise that many games and downloadable content from Japan is forced to be delayed as a result of the recent disasters.

Sega's Yakuza of the End, a zombie-themed iteration of the Yakuza series, was bumped from its original March 17 release date to a TBA status. Other Japanese games put on indefinite hold include:

  • Sony's Motorstorm Apocalypse
  • Dragon Age Origins: Awakening
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 3, DLC
  • Steel Diver for the 3DS
  • Haruhi Suzumiya's Majhong for the PSP
  • Major League Baseball 2K11
  • Top Spin 4

 It's uncertain at this time whether these delays will affect all regions of Japan.

Zynga Plans to Raise $2 Million Through the Purchase of Virtual Goods

Zynga, the world's largest social-gaming company, is hoping to raise $2 million for Save the Children's Japan Earthquake Tsunami Emergency Fund. The company is doing this through the use of downloadable content. Players can purchase virtual goods in a select number of its games, such as FarmVille, CityVille and FrontierVille: 100 percent of the profits with the purchase of sweet potatoes in CityVille, radishes in FarmVille or kobe cows in FrontierVille will go toward the fund. Who would have thought playing FarmVille could help others in need?

Zynga has raised millions of dollars in recent years through similar campaigns, most recently for the earthquakes in Haiti.


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