The time is right for Idolmaster
I can't help but wonder if the time and environment is right for Idolmaster to make a proper, English language debut. It seems like the stars are aligning for what could be a perfect opportunity for Bandai Namco to take a chance. The gamers are ready, the market is ready, and I just can't imagine a more perfect chance for people to start raising some idols.
I mean, we've already been exposed to out first real idol game, thanks to NIS America picking up Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection. While it isn't the best idol game out there, it proved a surprisingly good first step. It featured characters with a devoted fanbase, easing players into the role of producer with humor and a rather simple stat building schedule. The track list was lacking and it was practically impossible to fail, but it was a good way to show that there is a market for this genre outside of Japan.
Especially since Bandai Namco's initial Idolmaster introduction was a decided failure. The company attempted to test the waters by releasing the Idolmaster Shiny Festa games on iTunes. The over $50 price tag was daunting for mobile gamers, and the more rhythm-based gameplay is far different from the Idolmaster experience players expected. It isn't bad, and I even recommend taking a chance on it the next time the price drops below $30, but they aren't really indicative of the catchy gameplay the main series has to offer.
Fortunately, Bandai Namco has a new Idolmaster game that would serve as a perfect introduction. Idolmaster: One for All just debuted on the PS3 this past May and I believe it is the best place for English speaking, prospective producers to start. After all, it's the first game where all 13 idols in the series are part of the character roster. Players are eased in by starting with one idol, and eventually train entire groups. It also features a fantastic collection of songs. It's basically giving players an opportunity to get in on the series at its peak.
Most importantly, Idolmaster: One for All has been released at a time when Bandai Namco is taking risks. It's localizing more One Piece and Tales games than ever before, considered bringing Attack on Titan: The Last Wings of Mankind to the US, and even brought us Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment. The company is on a roll. Combine that with the recent influx of PlayStation Store exclusives, and it would be easy to see Idolmaster: One for All as a digital exclusive. Localize the text, keep the Japanese voice acting and songs, and it could be a win. After all, people embraced Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F.
It's time that Idolmaster took the international stage. Gamers are ready, and the perfect game is waiting. All that's needed is for Bandai Namco to continue taking chances, because really. We're ready.