Disclaimer: The reasons and motives I will lay out for Bandai Namco’s business decisions are purely my own opinion and speculative in nature. Zero ill will is directed at them and the development team, quite the opposite actually.
There’s quite a bit of confusion surrounding exactly what separates WMMT5 international and 5DX Japanese game versions. I thought it would be a good idea to make a post detailing every difference currently in the leadup to the international release of 5DX, and explaining why exactly this is the case in my opinion as someone who closely follows all versions of these games.
So why does Japan have so much more content than the international versions? Why do screenshots of 5DX keep popping up with content you had no idea existed? Why does their version look better? Load faster?
There isn’t a huge amount of specific info regarding differences in the arcade hardware, but the biggest and most obvious difference is the hardware that the Japanese version of 5DX currently runs on, which then leads into why they happen to have all this extra content.
Maximum Tune 4 came out on December 15th, 2011 in Japan and ran on a custom Namco arcade system called “System ES1“.
System ES1 boots to a custom Linux Debian kernel and dual boots Windows Embedded 7 on top of that to run the game. This dual booting alongside the enhanced network support is what allowed Maximum Tune 4 to access the internet and support the banapass system. It was made to replace the now ancient Namco System N2 hardware that WMMT3 – WMMT3DX+ ran on.
When you look at the update notes for the Japanese version of WMMT4, there wasn’t a huge amount of content updates, but many bug fixes. System ES1 had been used in arcades as early as 2009, so there was pressure also for Bandai Namco to update to one of the later revisions of System ES1 so as to not breach the limitations of the hardware in regards to content, functionality, and performance.
WMMT4 International version came at the very start of 2013 in January at least in Australia. We started on revision 1.01 much like Japan did, but looking at our update history suggests that the Japanese servers got more frequent revisions for bug fixes, and the international version got only 4 updates including the final 1.10 update, but each revision combined bug fixes and content updates into one. So essentially our version of WMMT4 was at parity with the Japanese version by the end of WMMT4’s lifecycle.
This is where it starts to get complicated. Not only did the development team have to distribute all the WMMT4 hardware and software to the International community, they also had to deal with the impending upgrade to System ES3 to expand the online features and content of WMMT when it came time to release WMMT5 in Japan.
This is why WMMT5 location tests in Japan started as early as 2013 and WMMT4 was shelved after barely 3 years of operation. WMMT5 was released early to test out System ES3 and the expanded features that came with it. The location tests started on October 19th, 2013 and lasted for 20 days until November 8th, 2013. The tests were held at the following locations:
The version of WMMT5 played at these location tests was limited in terms of content and function. Below is a list of things observed during the location test, translated from the WMMT Japanese Wiki.
-200 yen per game. Cannot continue under any circumstances.
-In accordance with the yellow theme of WMMT5, The LED lights in the signage and cabinet housing and seats are yellow by default..
-If you use a current Banapass, the car you choose is full tuned, C4 rank with no dress up. If no Banapass is used, the car is stock.
– Story mode, ghost mode, and time attack are all playable. If no Banapass is used, ghost battle is unavailable.
-Existing cars have been rebalanced
–Improvement in load times (loading screen for VS battle ends in about 3 seconds)
The most important thing here is bolded. The better loading times seen in the WMMT5 test location demo is a direct result of the System ES3 upgrade being trialled.
Since its a hardware upgrade, its much easier and faster to distribute the upgrades to arcades domestically in Japan, which is why Japan got it first. Bandai Namco had no such luxury when considering the vast international market.
By the end of the location test, we were on WMMT4 version 1.04 which was released on the 24th of October, 2013. The same day, Japan received the final update for WMMT4 which was version 1.10. We recieved the content from this update in update 1.09 on the 25th of June, 2014, but we weren’t officially on 1.10 until the 5th of August, 2014.
The Japanese version of WMMT5 was officially released on the 12th of March, 2014. After a short location test in Hong Kong in September 2014, the International version of WMMT5 was released on the 27th of October, 2014.
This is where the two versions were officially split up. The Japanese version of WMMT5 was running System ES3, and our version of WMMT5 was and still is currently running on System ES1. Because of this major difference in hardware, we were given an alternate version with limited content to satiate the international market for the time being. This is even referenced in the first English WMMT5 Future Lab written by series producer Kazuhiro Maeda:
“New cars and courses have also been added.
But that’s not all!
Some models differ from the Japanese specifications.
This has even managed to surprise Japanese players.
Up until now, the International Versions have always followed the Japanese specifications which means that the updates offered no surprises.
That’s why this time the Japanese and International versions are planned to differ in the order and what appears in each specification.
I hope you’ll check the updates of both the International and Japanese Versions and look forward to what might be coming in future updates.”
This confirms that our version was planned to be different from the Japanese version. In the third Future Lab news post, lead programmer Takeshi Ono references the development of WMMT5 International and Japanese version.
“Hi, everyone. Ono here.
It’s great that Wangan Maximum 5 is finally out.
I’m happy to say that this time we developed both versions simultaneously so fans outside of Japan could get the game as soon as possible. We all worked together so this could happen.”
The bolded and underlined text is the most important. Timing was very important. Bandai Namco had to plan around the roadblocks when it came to distributing new content to the international community so that we weren’t left in the dark with a seemingly outdated version.This is why we were given the Mount Taikan course before the Japanese, and exclusive european cars that they wouldn’t get until the release of 5DX.
The bottom line is that the current hardware differences and the difficulty of servicing the international community basically forced Bandai Namco to makes these changes. We are incredibly lucky as a community for Bandai Namco and the development team to continue bringing us content. The good news? WMMT5DX international version is coming very soon.
This video by Sam P of WMMT North American Community seems to suggest that WMMT5DX is coming to international sometime this year according to a conversation he had with a representative. This flew under the radar for over a month until the images below started popping up on Facebook.
The source of these images is unknown, but the quantity of the update packages seem to suggest a large scale hardware update coming soon. I’ve heard rumours regarding the release date being around June or July 2016, but it’s likely that the update will be staggered and may come out sooner or later depending on your region.
So what exactly is different about WMMT5DX currently? I’ll be writing a separate article to show and explain all the differences currently since this article is massive already. I would like to thank everyone who helped me and continue to help me gather resources and research.