Okamoto: End of the era of Japan making successful console games

Game Republic founder on why he's retired from console development

Game Republic founder Yoshiki Okamoto has forecast the end of blockbuster console game development in Japan, and announced his own retirement from consoles.

"Nowadays, even if a Japanese company would create a big title for the consoles and sell it worldwide, it's really hard to be successful, even though the attempt was there," the developer told Polygon.

"We're probably heading toward the end of an era of Japanese game developers making successful console games like in the West."

Okamoto is currently working on a secret mobile title, and said during the interview that he had been told by his bosses to say he has "retired" from console development.

"For a game creator like me, one who's been creating games such a long time, I feel like it's more fitting to create a game where I know what's going on [during development]," he said.

"With bigger titles, there are so many aspects of development, so many people working on the game. It's more fitting for me that I work on a game where I can see what's happening, like it was during the beginning of the video game era."

Okamoto worked at Konami on titles like Time Pilot and Final Fight at Capcom, before founding Game Republic in 2005. It closed its offices in 2008.

"Game Republic has not gone away, but we ran out of money," he explained. "So I had to let go of everybody."

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Latest comments (8)

Jason Pullara Podcaster 7 years ago
Give me a call when Japanese developers stop making games for Japan and start making games for profit.
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Jason Sartor Copy editor/Videographer, Florida Today7 years ago
This is the most ridiculous and over-stated myth.
Resident Evil 5 sold more than 8 million copies across the PS3 and 360.
Metal Gear Guns of the Patriots sold 6 million units as a PS3 exclusive (slightly outselling both Gears of War and Gears of War 3 separately as 360 exclusives - and nobody calls them flops - granted it was by only tens of thousands of units so even if you called the sales on par, that still is a huge success).
Final Fantasy XIII sold more than 7 million copies.
Dark Souls has sold well and is profitable, Professor Layton and the Curious Village sold more than 5 million units.
And if you count the 25 million plus units of NSMB DS and NSMB Wii Japan is selling selling a lot of games.
Gran Turismo 5 as a PS3 exclusive sold 8 million, GT 5 Prologue sold 4 million.
Street Fighter IV sold 3 million, add another 1 million plus for Super SFIV.
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Nuttachai Tipprasert Programmer 7 years ago
Agreed with Jason. And I am certainly sure that MGS 5 will sell like hot cakes when it come out. I personally believes it will even sell more than Gun of the Patriots. Just because you cannot make good games, don't assume that other people also cannot do.
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Show all comments (8)
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
I think he's referring more to Game Republic's failures, as they certainly did a number of really interesting titles that never caught on with gamers or critics (but some do have a niche fan base). It's too GR went under, as there was a lot of heart in their games even when the gameplay wasn't so hot.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee7 years ago
I see what Jason is saying and awarded a star for highlighting success stories coming out of Japan. The scary thing is though, nearly every title mentioned is a safe, long running IP in its 4th or 5th release (if not more). Comparing to the west, where several new IPs are also selling 5, 6, 10 million there is a distinct difference in terms of the success these days. So I don't completely agree.
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Jason Sartor Copy editor/Videographer, Florida Today7 years ago
@Adam: The west has had success with new IPs. I agree, but it also has a lot of games that sold below expectations and below what critics and players who bought the games think of their quality. As examples:
Kingdoms of Amalur: Sold 1 million copies and 38 Studios went under.
Prototype 1 sold 2 million units and the sequel sold 1 million and Actrivision closed the studio.
Warhammer 40K sold less than 1 million copies.
Heavenly Sword sold about 1.5 million - never saw a sequel.
Blur sold about 1 million units and Activision closed Bizarre Creations.
Prince of Persia sold less than 2 million units.
Darksiders 2 seems to be having its troubles, too.
But nobody says Western game developers can't develop games anymore.
I think this generation has seen many new IPs that didn't sell as well as they should have across developers from every region, Kingdoms of Amalur, Dragon's Dogma, Vanquish,. Bayonetta, Darksiders, Prince of Persia.
As a whole, the industry is facing the problem that a few franchises - CoD, WoW, FIFA, Madden, GTA, Mario - are holding up publishers and there are a lot of AAA games that cost $20-$40 million to make and are only selling 1-2 million units even though the quality is very high, and it is not just Japanese developers this is hurting. Take Two's stock moves almost exclusively on GTA releases (though they did add Red Dead Redemption to huge success). THQ is struggling even though they have Saint's Row, Red Faction and Darksiders in their stable. It seems to be a feast or famine market at the moment - unfortunately.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
@Adam - Game Republic's own titles were primarily original IP they created with the exception of Brave Story (a manga/anime adaptation), three Dragon Ball games, Catan, and (of all things) Clash of the Titans (which was not as good as it should have been, but absolutely PACKED with content). I was looking over the games I have by them and it's clear that the company definitely tried really hard to do the best work they could in every release.

Granted, when they did great work, their games were a load of fun as they should have been. On the other hand, when they made mistakes (the bad partner AI, certain boss fights and QTE sections in Knight's Contract, Clash of the Titans' trading too much content at the expense of gameplay depth, both Genji games with their sort of generic gameplay elements despite some gorgeous artwork), they usually got poked around by critics and gamers who wanted better.
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Tony Johns7 years ago
I want Japanese game developers to make games for the Japanese market, and then release them into the west so they can get more exposure.

The problem is not Japan making games for just the Japanese otaku, the real problem is that everyone expects games to sell like millions of copies in the west just to make a profit and the price of making games is higher and that makes it hard for Japanese developers to make a profit, also compounded by publishers not wanting to localize their Japanese focused games to the west therefore not allowing otaku in the western countries like USA, Europe and Australian/Oceania regions to experience their unique and creative games that most people would not know about unless if they imported from Japan.
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