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The Japanese industry’s doing fine? “Wishful thinking” says Inafune

Thursday, 4th April 2013 09:04 GMT By Dave Cook

Soul Sacrifice designer Keiji Inafune has expressed concern over the state of the Japanese games industry, and has called on studios in the country to break through their stagnation and achieve greatness once more.

Speaking with IGN, Inafune said, “Some developers are saying [the] Japanese game industry is still doing fine, but that’s wishful thinking. Words are not enough, we must act and prove it. Unless at least a few titles from Japan make it to the top 10 games of the year worldwide, we won’t prove it.

“I hope Japanese game developers are breaking through the stagnation. However, the reality isn’t as good as I want it to be. I see they’re starting to be aware of the problem and that they have to do something.

“They know they have to learn more from western games and create games that’ll sell more in the western market. However, they don’t know what to do or how to do it. Even worse, their pride gets in the way, preventing them from learning from overseas developers. As a result, they end up staying in the domestic market rather than going global.”

What do you think? Is Japanese development stuck in a rut? Do Japanese studios keep following the same ideas over and over, or is there real innovation at hand? Let us know below.

Thanks GI.biz.

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12 Comments

  1. CycloneFox

    This is a big problem, of which the problem lies not only in few causes, but in many layers. Inafune is totally right in what he said up there.

    It is extremely hard for Japanese developers to balance the string of appealing for both Japanese and the western audience. The only recent examples, that come to my mind are the MGS-series, the Resident Evil series, PES, GT, Ni No Kuni or Dark Souls. In my personal taste, I would love to play more series like Tales, Atelier or overly complex and stylish games like Resonance of Fate. But sadly that doesn’t apply for everyone. I would hate to see Japanese developers to try making clones of Call of Duty. It is also sad, that series like Silent Hill or DMC are being developed by western studios. Both series have shown, that western studios can’t deliver the level of art-/and gamedesign, the depth of characters and storytelling and the japanese style (both in psychological horror and exaggerated sword fights, etc.) people like me and others love in those series.
    To make it short: Japanese games still hold a unique style, both audio/visually and, sometimes even more important, storytelling. I would love to see the DMC and Silent Hill Series to come back to Japan.

    But examples like Ni No Kuni or Dark Souls show, that the western market is still responsive for JRPGs. My personal feelings with this are that Japanese developers are either not moving at all and still try to make the same games they did over ten years ago which doesn’t appeal to the western market at all, or they try too much new innovative stuff for their new HD games instead of just developing classic JRPG-systems and focus on storytelling like they did before. Examples are FFXIII, which tried to simplify the system to a core where you just walk down COD-ish levels and the battle-system takes over everything, you have to do, to be faster and simpler, or Resonance of Fate which did the opposite and was just too complicated for most people.
    Sometimes games like Xenoblade or Dark Souls show that a new direction may be a good idea and could actually work. But then there are also examples like Ni No Kuni, which shows that classic JRPG systems might be the better choice and that you have to optimize this approach.

    But in my opinion, the biggest problem of Japanese games developing does not lie with the big developers in Japan. I actually think, Square Enix, Nintendo, Capcom and Konami (at least KojiPro) are doing quite fine. The big problem lies with the smaller developers. Too many games are not even coming out in the west, mostly because of the barrier of language. I for example live in Germany. Here, people would have no problem developing software both in German and English simultaniously. It would be no problem at all to release the software in other countrys afterwards. But in Japan, people have big issues learning other languages. Most Japanese games are developed in Japanese only. As I mentioned before, storytelling is important in many Japanese games, so there is alot of content to be translated and most publishers absolutely, want to translate the audio speech, too and would rather not release it at all with Japanese audio (that’s why games loose alot of their quality in the process). And there is also the problem with Kaji, different meanings for the same sentence, making the conversations very metaphoric.
    It is even more like a barrier of culture, than of language alone. This is what makes Japanese developers choose not to target the western market at all and just develop and release the game in Japan for an audience of maybe 10.000 to 100.000 people. Game prices are high in Japan, but it is still by far not enough to develop HD games for the PS3, for example.

    Well that was by far too long for a comment-post and I have just scratched the surface of Japanese game development problems.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Clupula

    Inafune suddenly getting his hate-on for Japan up again. Remember the last time you did that? What was that game you commissioned? Oh yeah, DmC. How’d that work out?

    #2 2 years ago
  3. YoungZer0

    I have to agree with him. Japan has lost it’s touch, especially in the RPG department. Not a single JRPG of this generation made it into my Top 20. They simply aren’t good.

    Big Franchises like Final Fantasy and Resident Evil have become utter trash. RE6 was the biggest waste of manpower I’ve ever seen. 600 People were responsible for this trainwreck.

    Silent Hill has been shit after 3. They should try to get it back to its roots.

    They all should. Go back to what made them good in the first place, look how the western market is doing it and check what’s working for them and why. If you can do it better, do it. But don’t try to force gameplay into your games that doesn’t work, just because westerners are doing it.

    They have more experience with that sort of gameplay, they understand why it works.

    What attracted the western audience wasn’t that it was western, but that it was good.

    DmC is the only shining example here. But that was produced by Capcom Japan, not developed.

    NT has shown that they know their game, they have shown to be much more creative than Capcom Japan could ever be. The music, character-design, flashy sound, superior story, developed world, superior gameplay-choices and insane environments are proof enough. All they need is to ramp up the combat and that’s it.

    I ain’t going back to lazy out of place one-liners, dumb story, embarrassing character-designs, music written by a garage band, boring environments, puzzles that break the flow of gameplay and a shitty camera with terrible controls, just because the combat is good.

    Either the full package works or I’m not interested. DMC4 was one of the very games that I did not finish. And that pretty much says it all.

    @2: I dunno, Clupula, why don’t you tell us about? Oh, right, you can’t.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. OlderGamer

    I agree with you guys and with Inafune.

    I think it comes down to simple culture clash. Once systems had enough tech to really allow the JPN devs to be artistic they started losing western audiances. Combine that with the rise of western devs. When FF was on NES, SNES, PSx, there wasn’t an Elder Scrolls game for them to compete with. Now look at Skyrim. Most western players will rather play that then a jRPG. The mechanics are a better fit(jRPG mechanics haven’t evolved much), plus the art style is more tolken and the west can relate to that better.

    And that is just one genere.

    To me a lot of jpn games have styles I don’t like and the actual gameplay is off. Look at Gears Vs Vanquish. I would rather play gears anyday. And a lot of people feel that way.

    And I personaly have rows of import jpn games in my game room. Most of them from the 16 and 32 bit days. I own countless shooters, fighters, platformers. I own TurboDuo, Neo Geo, Import PSx, Import PS2, Import Saturn, and Import Dreamcast. Believe it or not. I used to love that stuff. Still do really. But I can’t stomach getting thro most moddern JPN games.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. ps3fanboy

    i actually read the whole post by CycloneFox, i am totally exhausted now…

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Hellhound30x

    @#2 What are you talking about? Devil May Cry? I don’t think he had anything to do with the Franchise…

    #6 2 years ago
  7. stealth

    Hes not only an idiot. Hes a joke. He made a MH rip off, a ninja gaiden rip off.

    Thats it

    sales=quality to him?

    hes a fool

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Da Man

    He’s a smart guy who’s right on.

    Don’t let that stop anyone from fighting the good fight for teh japan, teh good people and gamers and imaginary values.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. zinc

    Aren’t they simply suffering from the same problems a lot of western devs though?

    Raising costs of triple A, a very strong handheld/portable market & a general stagnation of idea’s?

    Japan’s issues are a microcosm of what’s happening worldwide.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Espers

    “Do Japanese studios keep following the same ideas over and over?” ..Oh really let’s see new ideas:
    Quake = unreal tournament = Counter strike = Call of duty = far cry = battle field 4 = crysis = medal of honor = stalker = metro 2033

    #10 2 years ago
  11. CycloneFox

    @Hellhound30x: Thx for reading. :D

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Clupula

    @6 – Really? You don’t remember who was in charge of Capcom at the time of that game’s commission?

    “Both [DmC Devil May Cry and Lost Planet 3], and some of the prior (like Bionic Commando) were driven by [Keiji] Inafune… now departed,” Svensson shared with forum users, in reply to a query regarding western collaborations and catering to a western market. (Note: Inafune publicly parted ways with Capcom in 2010.)

    Svensson continues: “You’d have to ask him but as I recall, the logic was something along the lines of ‘doing the same thing is going to get us the same results (if we’re lucky). Let’s try something from a different perspective.’ In some cases, a Western one.”

    @3 – I can tell you how it worked out. It was a giant commercial failure. And as for Silent Hill, I agree, it has been mostly a disaster (Downpour was actually a fairly good horror game, just not a good Silent Hill game), but after 4, it’s been all Western developers making it.

    #12 2 years ago

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