Kojima discusses East/West skills and design gap

"Do we really need to succeed worldwide?" asks Metal Gear creator

Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima has discussed in detail his feelings on the widening skills gap between East and West developers, and the increasing difficultly Japanese games companies have found in appealing to Western markets.

Speaking to Famitsu magazine, as translated by 1up, Kojima asked: "Do we really need to succeed worldwide?"

"That's what I'm really wondering about. Everyone talks about overseas, overseas, but nobody's really thinking about what needs to be done if we want to succeed. We get obsessed with thinking about worldwide because we've had previous success with games and anime worldwide, but none of those successes matter nowadays," he began.

"When you're making a game, it doesn't matter what nationality the team is - I think there was a lack of understanding among Japanese developers on that issue. It all comes down to the team you have. Even if I brought in the best developer in the world, it won't result in anything if nobody around him understands what he says.

"It's hard to feel this when you're in Japan, but there is a gap opening between the West in terms of pure quality. If you're trying to break out overseas, then I think the only way is to divide your development teams between the Japanese and global markets. It's impossible to encompass it in a single group - everything needs to be separate, down to the office and pay structure."

Kojima also obliquely referred to the phenomenon of Japanese publishers appearing to only partner with less well known Western developers, even for major franchises.

"There are loads of talented developers overseas, but you can't get them unless you spend the money. If you base your calculations off the standard Japanese salary structure, nobody's going to come to you. It's the difference between what you pay a Hollywood star versus a Japanese film star."

However, Kojima also criticised Japanese companies for failing to understand Western tastes and not making the changes necessary to appeal to them.

"To put it in an extreme fashion, Americans like games where you have a gun and you're shooting at space aliens," he said. "If you don't understand why that's fun, then you shouldn't be making games for the world market; you don't need to.

"I mean, Japanese people might say 'Why space aliens?', but Americans will counter with 'What's with these games featuring these feminine-looking boys fighting in Japan with these huge swords?' It's no wonder the target audience for a lot of games is getting so compartmentalised."

"In the 8-bit days you had to symbolise a lot of things and make gamers follow certain rules," said Kojima.

"In the West, that did a complete 180 starting with the PlayStation 2. It's no longer the game designer's job to think up the rules; his job is to dissect gamers' preferences and build a world they can get addicted to. That's why having first person shooters dominate the U.S. market into the future is absolutely fine by me."

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Latest comments (10)

Krystof Klestil8 years ago
He sounds like a very cool dude
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Wesley Paisley Chief Technical Officer, Third and Five Games, Inc.8 years ago
Thats why Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Japan at first used to be at odds with each other because of the culture gap, granted even though they were in the same company(and we ignore the family feuds).
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Haven Tso Web-based Game Reviewer 8 years ago
I think he kinda nailed the issue. At the end of the day the west is huge about FPS but not the east. The east is crazy about pretty cutesy graphics with loads of customisation but the west is not. You can't really have a game trying to capture both all the time. Gamers might have enjoyed certain experience but they will move on as those experience became standards instead of surpises. The way to find a market is to change but remain unique.

Square-Enix is falling short in this area with Final Fantasy XIII as it took out all the fun and core elements that made Final Fantasy is much loved franchise and replaced them with simple and mundane elements. Capcom is one of the few that continuously reinventing themselves. Same for Bandai-Namco and Nippon Ichi. Among them Nintendo is one representative of reinventing themselves while staying true to what Nintendo is about.
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Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member 8 years ago
I didn't understand the last paragraph, but overall I agree wholly. I think the answer is to just have those teams follow what they know and make a good game. It might not sell as well as the next Halo or CoD but it's a starting point to making better quality games which will inevitably catch on here in the West if they're good enough. Final Fantasy XIII would've sold better and done better critically if it naturally evolved rather than be shoe-horned into what an easterner thinks is a western game
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Tony Johns8 years ago
In the future, if all the games released in western countries are FPS's, then I would consider moving to Japan.

He is right saying that Japanese developers don't understand western tastes, but that is also the same when Western countries don't understand Japanese tastes.

The only difference is that the Western Gaming market has fully recovered from the crash of 1983 and they are now dominating over the Japanese developers.

The Japanese developers succeeded in the West back in the 80's and 90's, only because most western developers were only developing games on the PC because of the negative perception of consoles being only for kids.

Now that perception has changed (except for those in political power and most of the parents of the older gen who have not got any gaming experience) and now the western developers are making games for consoles and getting success because there are more gamers around compared to what there was in the 80's and 90's when the market used to be dominated by the Japanese developers.

What the Japanese Developers need to do, is just to make the games they like and enjoy to develop, and that enjoyment will show in the games they make and there will always be the Otaku market in the west to help them sell their games.

I think most Japanese developers tried so hard to want to appeal their games to everyone, when they have forgotten how to be themselves.

And even though I live in a western country, I know that my tastes are 100% Japanese.

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Gregory Hommel writer 8 years ago
The answer is quality. Pure and simple. If any of the Yakuza games had an ounce of the quality found in today's other top tier releases it would have been a hit. Americans don't want games with less customization or detail, we just want realism. We want complicated physics models, we want dynamic context sensitive animations, we want QUALITY. The days of sprites and puzzles keeping gamers content are over. I would love to play an open world game where the player is a dog, for example. With all the trimmings of your GTA's and you Assassin's Creed's. As long the world is fully realized and detailed with quality technology, Americans will play anything.
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Halim Syril Ko8 years ago
Isn't he saying the same thing as Keiji Inafune a few months back? But I get the idea on how Japanese games tend to recycle the same idea most of the time.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
Put aside the visuals and plot of a Bayonetta, isn't it the best God of War clone of them all?

Put aside the visuals and plot of a Vanquish, isn't that the best 3D cover shooter of them all?

Put aside the all the odd choices GT5 made, isn't it still king of the track once you actually get to drive what you want where you want?

Put aside all the "difficulty due to undocumented and impossible to foresee elements" of a Demon's Souls, isn't that proof positive Japanese RPGs can compete with Elder Scrolls.

Do not just consider how little Japanese developers apparently spend on their personnel, but also how little advertising there is.

A western developer would test their product, get negative feedback and react to it. A Japanese developer gets blank stares and ridicule at E3 and continues to release the product without amends.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Klaus Preisinger on 24th June 2011 8:38am

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John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam8 years ago
"Speaking to Famitsu magazine, Kojima asked: "Do we really need to succeed worldwide?""

Has he seen the Japanese chart sales figures recently?
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Nuttachai Tipprasert Programmer 8 years ago
@John I think that the question he was asked not he was the one who asked himself.
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