Disclaimer: I play both EN and JP, and have no money invested in Sakura whatsoever – so this is as objective as it can possibly be at the moment.
I think I speak for everyone who’s ever as much as touched an English Weiss Schwarz card when I say that the EN side of the game is not what it could be. Unreliable release dates, outdated booster box formats and laughable translation errors are like the damn plague – except that unlike these problems, the plague eventually ended.
However, compared to the Abyssal Fleet and P5 delays, the Konosuba cards literally stuck in pack seals and the high amount of translation errata from the previous years, 2018 seemed to be a decent year for EN. No set got pushed back for half a year, and the errata page wasn’t a shameful overflowing disaster either (at least until the Kantai Euro Fleet traits happened, but that’s another story). The fact that such fundamental things can actually be pointed out as progress for the EN side of the game is kinda sad, but it’s the reality nonetheless. At least it seemed like they were doing something, and then came the announcement of Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card!!
The “first English Edition Exclusive title.” It was received with some surprise and confusion, but mostly just a lot of genuinely enthusiastic responses: it’s an extremely nostalgic series, and a huge step up for EN. As an English player, what’s there not to be happy about?
Bushiroad even made the smart realization that the JP only players might be upset if they had to miss out on such a big title, so when they later announced the release date for the set (February 22nd, 2019), they also mentioned this:
Cards in this product may be used in official Japanese Edition tournaments outside of Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong.
And for those of you who’ve somehow managed to stay blissfully unaware of the commotion around Sakura until now: yes, this means exactly what you think it means. For the first time ever, English language cards were given a green light to be used in Japanese-only events. But hey, with the set being an English exclusive, Bushi had to cover their bases somehow, and at the time, it seemed like a decent, albeit strange compromise.
Now flash-forward to February 5th, when Bushiroad was having a live stream to reveal upcoming Japanese releases for 2019, and this happened:
An announcement for Sakura … in Japanese.
To give credit where credit is due, the initial response to everyone’s reactions was prompt, but also extremely vague:
It created more questions than it answered, the main one being “different how?” A few days later, additional information followed, but by then, the damage was already done, and it’s not like their follow-up response fixed anything at all.
From this, we’re supposed to gather that the card effects will be different between languages, I assume – it’s not like they say it outright, but what else could “differing fundamentally” mean in this context? Oh, and the EN Sakura release is still legal for JP language tournaments … even though that was a measure put in place because it was supposed to be an EN exclusive.
You might be wondering why I bothered writing this post, and I can assure you that it’s not because I just want to have a timeline of this shit storm set aside for giggles. It’s because the situation is anything but funny, and because while reading Facebook and Reddit discussions, I’ve come across way too many people who genuinely don’t seem to understand what makes the announcement of Sakura in JP problematic. So without further ado …
A Comprehensive Breakdown of Why This Isn’t Okay
First off, there’s the marketing, transparency and communication aspect (at which Bushiroad had been traditionally bad when it comes to English format). There are people out there trying to reason this fiasco by pointing at the disparity between JP and International offices within the company, and I agree that it’s entirely possible that Sakura was supposed to be EN exclusive and JP Bushiroad blind-sighted everyone by announcing it in JP two weeks before the EN release, but that’s a company-based problem. And no matter what is going on in your company in regards to communication and decision making between departments, if that negatively affects your customers, you have to make some changes to your company!
Another common reasoning seems to be that since the JP set is confirmed to be different, the EN is still an exclusive release in that sense, at least. However, I’d kindly invite you to scroll back up to the first announcement of Sakura in EN, where they clearly state that it’s the first English Edition Exclusive title. See, that phrasing doesn’t even hint at the possibility that just the effects or card art might be exclusive – it says that the title Cardcaptor Sakura as a Weiss Schwarz entity will be exclusive to the English format, which is now no longer true.
And even if this was all there was to it, players would still have every right to be upset. It was introduced as an exclusive. It was marketed as an exclusive. It was sold to distributors as an exclusive. Two weeks before release, it suddenly wasn’t an exclusive anymore. That’s reason enough to be upset, because we’re not talking about a five-year old kid who said he’d put away his toys but didn’t, we’re talking about an international company which has once again proven to its customers that it says one thing, but does another. And how are English players supposed to expect quality product from a company with such blatant lack of reliability?
But this isn’t the only reason, and it absolutely baffles me how many community members both don’t care at all about this marketing disaster and also fail to realize the financial implications this announcements has for players – so I’ll do my best to explain.
Imagine being a JP only player outside of Japan, China, Taiwan or Hong Kong. Your local shops run JP tourneys, you go to WGP regionals and you don’t care about the EN tournaments. Then Sakura gets announced as an EN exclusive, and it’s a set you definitely want to buy/own/play. Because Bushiroad tells you it’s playable in your WGPs, you bite your tongue and order a playset, which costs you around 350$ or more – all the while EN isn’t even the game format you want to support with your money. But hey, it’s an EN exclusive, and it’s Sakura.
And then barely before the set releases, they announce a JP release, and practically confirm it will have different effects. Some people immediately insisted it will be a better set in JP, and while that’s not a straight out fact, it’s not a completely outlandish assumption either. But even if we lay the effects aside, it still doesn’t change the fact that many people who only deal with JP product and only wish to support the JP side of the game have essentially been scammed/baited into buying EN Sakura.
And that created a chain reaction – people are cancelling their pre-orders, shops, distributors and private sellers are losing money and we’re yet to hear how much (if any) responsibility for this Bushiroad will shoulder.
The problem isn’t just them taking back their words about the set’s exclusivity, it’s what that exclusivity meant in terms of sales. This isn’t a question of EN players being salty about no longer being able to hold a popular set above the heads of JP players. People aren’t upset over what letters get printed on their cardboard, they’re upset because there’s money involved.
It’s great that EN Bushiroad took initiative in communicating with us in the aftermath – it show’s they’re trying, at least. Just as they were with the introduction of EN exclusive sets. No, this doesn’t mean that all future EN exclusives will live to see a similar fate and it also doesn’t mean that English Weiss Schwarz is dead. We don’t (yet) know what happened to cause this Sakura conundrum, and we might never find out, but it would sure help if we did.
I didn’t write this to screech angrily at Bushiroad, because that does no good: not all company decisions can be openly shared, unpredictable things happen, and I understand that. But players making fun of others who are upset over this situation does even less good.
Now is not the time to shrug shoulders and say “you should have known better, sasuga Bushi.” It’s the time to acknowledge what they’re doing right while also holding them accountable for what they’ve inevitably done wrong.