Most of the mainstream publishers -- other than those Japan-based companies which release their own catalogues in the West -- may have lost interest in licensing Japanese console and handheld games for U.S. consumption. But not a growing number of small-scale publishers who are all vying for the same pool of products and seem to be immersed in a rough-and-tumble bidding war.
Winning, they say, depends not so much on who spends the most, but on whose connections and relationships are the tightest. And on whose localization skills are the most impressive.
The expanding competition for imports is due mainly to a challenging economy that puts a premium on games that can be had for a lot less than Western-developed games. Not only is there an abundance of unlicensed console/handheld games in Japan available for cherry-picking, but in many cases the games are already finished and their quality can be easily gauged.