Weekly Famitsu (週刊ファミ通, Shukan Famitsu) is considered the most respected video game news magazine in Japan. Weekly Famitsu concentrates on video game reviews, as well as video game industry news. The magazine was originally called Famicom Tsuushin (ファミコン通信, Famicom Tsuushin). Family Computer is the name of Nintendo’s eight-bit video game console in Japan (the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the Europe, the U.S. and most other western countries), and tsu-shin is the Japanese word for “news”. The first issue was published in 1986 (Today, Famitsu Cube and Advance concentrates on Nintendo games). Weekly Famitsu is sold every Friday with a circulation of 800,000 per issue.Famitsu publishes other magazines dedicated to particular consoles – Famitsu PS reports on PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable news. Famitsu DS, Famitsu Cube and Famitsu Advance report on Nintendo DS, Wii, Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance, respectively. Famitsu Xbox, the least popular, reports on Xbox and Xbox 360 news. Famitsu Wave DVD (ファミ通 Wave DVD) is published monthly. Each magazine includes a DVD disc (NTSC Region 2) with video game footage. The magazine was originally called GameWave DVD.
At the debut of the PlayStation, PlayStation Tsushin was published, but later the magazine changed its name to Famitsu PS.Scoring
Famitsu is known worldwide for its extremely harsh grading of current videogames. Video games are graded in Famitsu by a panel of four video game reviewers. Each reviewer gives a score from one to ten (ten being best). The scores of the four reviewers are then added up with a possible score of forty. Famitsu reviewers have long been considered unmercifully tough, though in recent years their average review scores have generally taken an upswing. Several recent Famitsu scores have been subject to controversy, and the magazine has been accused of “selling out” to appease advertisers and the larger entities in the industry, such as with its score for Dirge of Cerberus (1up.com news link). Tim Rogers explains the Famitsu scoring system.
Contrary to what hordes of western gamers believe, people don’t “pay” Famitsu for a specific review score. I know this because I have dinner with Famitsu guys once a week. It’s more like, a company pays Famitsu “protection money” — in other words, they pay them to review their games, period. Famitsu — and most of Japanese journalism, in fact — is basically just vanity PR. And proud of it!
The editors of Famitsu are, to a certain extent, deeply entrenched in the most fascinating role-playing games of their lives. Sure, it’s a love of games that gets them to apply for the job. However, once “in”, they must play the “role” of a person who is batshit nuts in love with the very idea of videogames. The guys at Famitsu, however, are usually such resiliently affable personalities that they can do this job and still provide hilarious conversation at dinners where they are not even drunk (yet).
That, and let’s face it — games like Sonic have creepily devoted fans who are even more devoted than, say, James. In other words, they are blinded by their love for Sonic. Or Final Fantasy, or Kingdom Hearts. The chief purpose of the “MOST WANTED” poll in each week’s issue can be assumed, then, to be to gauge what games the readers do not want to receive a low score. The readers who vote in that poll are the people who buy the magazine, read it cover to cover, and chatter endlessly on 2ch about it. (Keep in mind that, unlike, say, 4chan, 2ch also contains a mind-numbingly high amount of sterile, plain, humble conversation about a range of topics, such as videogames. That is to say that, sometimes, on 2ch, anonymity lends people the choice to be, you know, not assholes. Of course, the other way around happens a lot of the time, as well.)
When Famitsu rates a game high, they do it out of respect for the readers — avid players of Kingdom Hearts as most of them are. Avid players of Kingdom Hearts don’t want to be told what Famitsu really thinks of their fucking piece of shit hobby. So Famitsu awards the “courtesy score” — which used to be all nines and a ten, and is now all tens and a nine. When Famitsu KNOWS a game is going to sell 2 million copies in a week regardless of what they say, this is what they do.
You can try to refute the above paragraph. However, you will not be successful! Famitsu is still very careful about perfect scores. No matter what, readers will bawl when a perfect score is given. They will be either overjoyed or deeply angry. Final Fantasy XII’s perfect score, to look at 2ch, was “the biggest debacle in the history of the magazine”. No. FFXII was a game that made giant, drastic, sweeping attempts to change a genre. Famitsu made a conscious decision to give it a perfect score, despite the game not being perfect. They wanted to send a message — a gentle one — “Please make an honest attempt to like this game better than those other games.” It’s very noble of them.
Yet Famitsu makes more money off the back cover advertisement than off all the newsstand sales combined (they offer no subscription service). What Famitsu is — and you wouldn’t know this unless you’ve held a heavy issue in your hand on a tired Friday morning — is straightforward (if not entirely honest) PR in a pretty, meaty, high-quality bundle. It’s an advertisement feast. If the western concepts of “journalistic integrity” are distorted and twisted within its pages, they’re done so very lovingly. Because, you see, that degree of over-thinking really doesn’t exist here. You can cry “viral!!!!!!!!!!!!” and “TEH PAID!!!!!!!!!!” all you want at Famitsu’s features and articles. However, you can’t change that it’s a hell of a thing to look at on the train on Friday morning, or at lunch on Friday afternoon; it provides stimulating topics of conversation (for geekos) over Friday dinner.
The people who read Famitsu are not brainwashed by the contents of the magazine. They take it in, shrug some of it off, and form their own opinions on the fly. Whether they’re enlightened about the finer points of its making or not, they are always suspicious of the fact that they can think for themselves. It’s a free country, and a free world, et cetera.
So, sorry if the magazine doesn’t fit your conservative American psychologies 🙁
. . . I tried to write a column about this once on Next-Gen.biz, and the editor fired me back a nasty email: “WE CAN’T RUN THIS FUCKIN’ THING MAN!! WE’LL GET HIT FOR SLANDER!!”
I replied, “Actually, I think you mean libel. And, no?”
See, I think this is a pretty good post guys someone give me an e-hug for it
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