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Japanese Publishers Cancel, Delay Disaster Games Following Deadly Earthquake

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Disaster Report 4 - Irem

Following last week's killer earthquake and tsunami in Japan, game publishers have canceled and delayed several PlayStation 3 games with disaster-related themes.

Irem will cease development on its PlayStation 3 game Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 4 (City in a Desperate Situation), the publisher said in a statement on its website Monday. Previous installments in the action-adventure series, which has been released outside Japan under the name Disaster Report, star a protagonist who must escape a city that has been destroyed by an earthquake, roaming through destroyed streets and buildings and rescuing survivors.

The new game was originally slated to be released March 10, although development issues had already forced Irem to push its release back to later in the spring.

"We deeply apologize to the users waiting for this game and to everyone associated with it for the disappointment that this cancellation has caused," Irem representatives wrote in the statement. The formally worded announcement did not specifically mention the earthquake as the reason for the cessation of development.


The earthquake, which hit the Sendai region of Japan on March 11, is the largest temblor in Japan's history. The quake and resultant tsunami killed untold thousands of people, left millions without power and water and caused severe damage to nuclear power plants.

The cancellation of Disaster Report is a heavy blow to Irem, a small publisher with a few cult hit games. It was to be the first PlayStation 3 game in the series, featuring stereoscopic 3-D graphics and support for the PlayStation Move motion controller. The previous game in the series, Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 3 for the Sony PSP, was released in 2009 and sold 62,720 copies, the publisher's best-selling game that year.

Other publishers, including Sega and Sony, have pushed back the release dates of games with disaster-related themes that are not quite as literal.

Sega has indefinitely delayed the release of its PlayStation 3 game Ryu Ga Gotoku: Of the End (Like a Dragon, known as Yakuza outside Japan), which was originally slated to ship to stores this Thursday. In the game, a swarm of zombies destroy a fictionalized version of Tokyo's red-light district, leaving the area's mobsters to defend the ruined city against the undead. It is one of Sega's most popular game series in Japan.

In a statement much like Irem's, Sega apologized for the delay, which the company blamed vaguely on "various circumstances."

"We are truly sorry for the abruptness of this announcement, but we ask for your kind understanding," read the statement. Sega said it would announce an updated release schedule for Ryu Ga Gotoku: Of the End at a later date. The game has not yet been announced for release outside Japan.

Citing similar "various circumstances," Sony said it would indefinitely delay the Japanese release of its PlayStation 3 game Motorstorm: Apocalypse, also originally planned for March 17. Slated to be released this week in Europe and in April in the United States, it is an off-road racing game set in a fictional city that is being torn up by natural disasters. Earthquakes shake and deform the terrain as drivers navigate it on motorbikes and racecars.

In related news, Microsoft said in a statement that problems with shipping and distribution logistics caused by the earthquake would result in delays to several products including the Japanese release of Dragon Age Origins: Awakening. Capcom said it would delay the release of downloadable content foMarvel vs. Capcom 3.

Following the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, game publishers canceled several games including Sega's Propeller Arena and Nintendo's Advance Wars.


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