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Many Japanese developers don’t understand North American market – Inafune

Tuesday, 25th February 2014 21:56 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Mega Man and Mighty No. 9 creator Keiji Inafune has said Japanese developers are a bit shy about using Kickstarter because they don’t really get what western audiences want.

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In an interview with GamesIndustry, Inafune said language barriers are a problem but the real issue is more complicated.

“Looking at the data for the backers of Mighty No. 9, approximately 60% of those people were from North America. So of course, the Japanese developers would have to make something that appeals to the North American audience,” he said.

“Currently a lot of Japanese developers can’t actually tell what the North American audience wants. And until they learn how to be able to do that, that’s one of the biggest hurdles.”

Inafune said even big Japanese publishers don’t understand how to straddle both markets – or how to focus on just one market.

“For example, with Capcom and Bionic Commando, that game wasn’t really a big hit in Japan but it sold quite well in North America,” he said.

“The people in the company didn’t fully understand this, so it was hard to get them to understand there’s still a possibility for profit here, still a possibility to make a good game from something like this.

“Until we can understand the American market in that sense as well, it’s going to be hard for other private [Japanese] companies to get into Kickstarter.”

Inafune’s Mighty No. 9, which aims to fill the gap in the market left by Capcom’s recent drought of Mega Man releases, was crowdfunded to great success – but the developer says Comcept is still keen on traditional funding channels like publisher backing or private investment. Crowdfunding does allow him to bring fans into the process, though.

“We don’t want to rely entirely on crowdfunding, but it is very important to us that we can make something we want and the fans want,” he said.

“So if there is another situation where it’s something that fans want to be directly involved in, there is the possibility of another crowdfunded game. But that’s not the only option and we’re thinking of many other ways as well.”

Inafune had fingers in a lot of important pies at Capcom, including Dead Rising, Street Fighter, Lost Planet and Onimusha. Since leaving Capcom to go indie, he’s become somewhat notorious for his open criticism of the traditional Japanese games industry, and his insistence that Japanese developers must look west to learn how to survive.

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8 Comments

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  1. NocturnalB

    Japanese devs (as well as North American devs) need to start building more bilingual and multicultural staffs. Take Guerilla Games for example and an article that was on here just yesterday. I think the guy said they have something like 200 people spanning over 35ish different nationalities.

    As an American though I feel comfortable in admitting we are way behind the curb in terms of trying to adjust to the rest of the world, as opposed to others adjusting to us. Without actually Googling anything I believe most Japanese kids are required to learn at least some English in school.

    In all my life I’ve never met a person from my country IRL that knew even 1 word of Japanese, or Mandarin for that matter. On the internet yeah sure, but my point is, if I were to play dumb idiot American tourist and take a trip to Japan, I bet a lot of people I’d meet at random would be able to guide me at least a little.

    Now if a Japanese guy came to my city and did the same, he’d be S.O.L., guaranteed.

    #1 5 months ago
  2. POOhead

    its got to a point where you know what country developed a game just by playing it for the first 5mins, you can always tell when your playing a japanese game by there awful animation and fucked up controls while all other games outside of japan are boring cinematic shit with guns and smooth controls and stuff

    #2 5 months ago
  3. Telepathic.Geometry

    @NocturnalB: It’s even worse than that man. In Japan, many native English speakers who have been living here for years still can’t speak even passable Japanese. I knew one dude who was living here for just over three years and still couldn’t read katakana.

    Another guy I know has living here for over 10 years, and still has pure shite Japanese. Japanese people have absolutely terrible English when you consider how much time they spend learning it, but English speakers are maybe just as bad.

    Summary: Everyone is shit.

    #3 5 months ago
  4. Telepathic.Geometry

    @POOHead: You can definitely tell a JRPG by its insistence that you carry out incredibly time intensive grinding tasks.

    #4 5 months ago
  5. POOhead

    @Telepathic.Geometry not the same thing though, i was merely comparing japanese AAA and mid tier games such as comparing games such as dmc 4 to DMC, DMC is alot smoother, same can be said by comparing god of war to lolipop chainsaw, even god of war 1 is more smoother in comparison, theres no denying that most japanese games that get released feel like something out of a ps2 game

    #5 5 months ago
  6. salarta

    With all due respect, when it comes to working with already existing franchises he didn’t create himself, Inafune doesn’t understand the North American market either. Many aspects of DmC were because of him and his ideas of how to “Westernize” the Devil May Cry franchise.

    But yes, that issue aside, I generally agree with Inafune. Some games seem designed to sell to a specific demographic that mostly exists only in Japan, and as much as I know I say this a lot, I do think Squeenix is a good example of this issue. A lot of their games as Squaresoft were made with many Japanese sensibilities, but in an inclusive way for all audiences, whereas many games they make now, especially the past few years, are made with exclusively Japanese interests in mind.

    #6 5 months ago
  7. ddtd

    @NocturnalB It makes more sense for us to learn spanish, given our large spanish speaking population and that large country to the south.

    But, I guess our country is hell bent on treating those people as foreign invaders instead of neighbors that share our continent.

    #7 5 months ago
  8. NocturnalB

    @ddtd I live in Houston, Texas. I already did my time in Spanish class in high school lol. I passed… barely, but I passed. I don’t know about you, but here Spanish is a mandatory credit in order to graduate.

    I’ve never enjoyed Spanish, it is NOT a very elegant sounding language.

    #8 5 months ago