Flashback: The Fallout Advert Which Mocked JRPGs Like Final Fantasy And Dragon Quest 1
Image: Bethesda

There's been a lot of discussion recently about whether or not the term 'JRPG' is derogatory, triggered by Final Fantasy XVI's Director Naoki Yoshida's revelation that, at one point during his career, he felt the term was "discriminatory".

It's hard to pinpoint precisely when this acronym started to acquire negative connections with players, and, as our poll back in May 2023 attested, the majority of people seem to have no problem with its use. However, a fascinating Japanese advertisement for 2010's Fallout: New Vegas appears to have triggered the same intense debate almost 15 years ago.

Flashback: The Fallout Advert Which Mocked JRPGs Like Final Fantasy And Dragon Quest 2
Image: EGM

Unearthed by video game historian and regular Time Extension contributor John Szczepaniak, the advert caused such a kerfuffle that it formed the basis of a mini-editorial in the December 2010 issue of the now-defunct North American video game magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly.

"A random gaming advertisement in a print publication halfway around the world may not seem like the most exciting of conversation topics, but a particular ad run for the upcoming Japanese release of Fallout: New Vegas has sparked an impressive amount of debate on both sides of the Pacific," reads the short op-ed. "The reason? The ad pulls no punches in taking shots directly at Japanese role-playing games, attacking some of the core components that have long been staples of the genre."

The advertisement has a selection of Japanese gamers holding protest signs which point out all of the "shortcomings" of the JRPG genre, including:

  • "Since when did games become something to watch?"
  • "There's no point in doing it again when there's no change in the story!"
  • "A game that follows a scenario is like life on rails"
  • "It's time to lower your motivation while levelling up!"
  • "Isn't modern gaming focusing on realistic movements?"
  • "It's ok for the main character to have a mission other than destroying evil"
Flashback: The Fallout Advert Which Mocked JRPGs Like Final Fantasy And Dragon Quest 3
Image: Bethesda

"Presenting such a marketing campaign to a country where Western titles can already be a tough sell seems like a rather bold – if not completely crazy – strategy, but it may also be a somewhat revealing sign of the times," continues EGM. "The divide between Western and Japanese RPGs has never been wider when it comes to the console market. Whereas Japanese developers were once the main, and sometimes only, supplier of RPGs for such hardware, Western RPG developers are seeing more and more console success, growing far beyond their PC origins. The argument of 'Western vs. Japanese' has also become a burning topic among the fans themselves, to a point where just mentioning the topic on any number of Internet message forums will result in countless pages of heated arguments."

Given the sheer size of the RPG genre in Japan, this was a pretty bold tactic – and it seems to have paid off. Fallout: New Vegas was the top-ranking new entry in Japanese video game charts on the week of release, with the PS3 version claiming fifth place (with 37,000 copies sold) and the Xbox 360 version seventh (24,000 copies sold) for a combined haul of over 60,000 units – not bad for a Western-made RPG.

As you can see, the whole JRPG / RPG discussion was happening a long time ago, which perhaps backs up Yoshida's comment about it having negative connotations during his earlier career. Perhaps this Fallout advertisement contributed to that feeling?