Natsume has announced a new entry in the Harvest Moon series; Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos is set to be released in summer 2023. However, most of the reactions on Twitter have been negative. This is likely due to the recent history of the Harvest Moon series and its lackluster performance.
Harvest Moon is a series of farm simulator games developed by Natsume. Players are able to grow crops, do various farming chores, and interact with the inhabitants of the farm. In the past, Natsume was responsible for the North American distribution of Marvelous’s Bokujou Monogatari (the Japanese title can be translated to “Farm Story”), which was also published by Natsume under the title Harvest Moon.
Then, around 2014, Marvelous decided to proceed with the North American expansion on its own as XSEED Games from its subsidiary Marvelous USA. However, the handover of the
Harvest Moon IP from Natsume to XSEED Games did not go smoothly, as Natsume retained the Harvest Moon IP instead of turning it over to Marvelous and XSEED Games. As a result, Marvelous was forced to change the English name of the Bokujou Monogatari series to Story of Seasons.
Thus, while the series continues in Japan as Bokujou Monogatari, the English-speaking world has the strange situation of having both Marvelous’s Story of Seasons and Natsume’s Harvest Moon series. Natsume’s Harvest Moon series has not been developed for the Japanese market.
Perhaps because of this history, users have been very critical of Natsume for not passing on Harvest Moon. What makes this criticism even stronger is the quality of Natsume’s Harvest Moon series.
Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley for the Nintendo 3DS, the first release after the split from Marvelous, received a Metascore of 46 on Metacritic. Harvest Moon: Skytree Village, also for Nintendo 3DS, has a Metascore of 59. Harvest Moon: Light of Hope for the Nintendo Switch has a Metascore of 62. The latest title, Harvest Moon: One World also for Nintendo Switch, has a Metascore of 54.
All of these releases have low user scores as well as low scores from critics. The time between releases is also fast, and many seem to have been made without much consideration. There are also spin-off puzzle games and other games made using the Harvest Moon IP, but the quality of these games is not high either.
On the other hand, the Story of Seasons series, while not incredibly highly rated, gains a consistent Metascore in the 70s for its releases. From the user’s point of view, Natsume is using the Story of Seasons fan base to churn out new games for a casual audience, perhaps even preying on those unaware of the complicated name change.
Because of this, the announcement of the new Harvest Moon game has been met with criticism. Many of the criticisms were directed at Harvest Moon for not handing over the IP to the original owner and for releasing only low-quality new titles. It seems that the criticism is harsh on both fronts.
The fact that the series is continuing suggests that Natsume believes it can expect a certain level of sales. Perhaps they are reaching out to casuals and others who have not seen the harsh criticism of Harvest Moon. If Natsume is going to face the criticism, they need to start by improving the quality of their games.
Written by. Connor Lawless based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2022-12-15 17:43 JST)