Inafune: Japanese devs "don't know what to do or how to do it"

Another stern warning from Comcept CEO says industry still struggling

Comcept's Keiji Inafune has spoken out yet again on his favourite topic, the state of the Japanese games industry, warning that while its developers are beginning to be more aware of the problems surrounding it, they're not yet able to act.

"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," he told IGN.

"Unless at least a few titles from Japan make it to the top 10 games of the year worldwide, we won't prove it."

This is a topic close to the former Capcom executive, who just six months ago warned that Japanese devs needed more energy, and at last year's GDC delivered a heartfelt session on the subject.

"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."

Inafune began his development career with Capcom on Street Fighter. He went on to work on Mega Man, Onimusha and Dead Rising and in April 2010 became Capcom's global head of production. In December of that same year he launched his new development studio Comcept.

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Latest comments (6)

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 4 years ago
I agree with what keiji is saying. He may be harsh in his way of saying things, but the truth doesnt ring well with anyone, especially when its something they dont want to hear. But i just want to see his comcept studio make more games.

But what he says is true to companies like Capcom, Square Enix and Probably even Nintendo. They are stuck to pride and tradition, doesnt let them grow beyond what they have already accomplished or expand to other audiences.

Nintendo, I love there games, but honestly, I feel they just keep making the same games for each generation with just updated graphics. I feel pokemon can be so much more than what it is. But the main pokemon games have always been mostly the same. Its almost if they are afraid to tamper with a formula that has been succesful for them. Zelda keeps feeling like the same game, Mario Kart and Smash Bros the same. Metroid Prime is actually a good example of how to change a formula around while preserving the important elements and escence of a game. Square Enix doesnt know what to do with Final Fantasy, Capcom has no idea what to do with there existing IP, when so much can actually be done with it. If it wasnt for Yoshinori Ono, Street Fighter would have died. Resident Evil can have a deeper story and situations where you might be forced to kill a friend to survive and multiple story choices. Resident Evil would benefit from a complete reboot. And better controls. I hate the truck driving controls. They can improve controls and mobility of the characters and offset the difficulty by discouraging confrontations, less ammo and forcing you to think about how to approach certain situations and put the player in situations like in the walking dead TV series. But recently they have taken both the survival and horror elements and eliminated them to just make a pure action game. I use the term "call of dutied" the game.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 4th April 2013 6:46pm

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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago
I think they need to lump it tbh. Culturally speaking, Japan and the West could not be more different and it will take more than a small amount of effort to think like the other guy at a creative level.

You can tell immediately that a game is Japanese in origin, they have their own style and flow and they're often very well made, there's certainly no technical issues here at all. If anything I would suggest the Japanese have had the edge for a long time. But a Japanese trying to design like a westerner will turn out the same as a westerner trying to pass off a game as Japanese in style - and I doubt either would be pretty.

We're well beyond the "all your base are belong to us" stage, but the differences are still there. And in any case, given the overall population, and the percentage of those as gamers, isn't the Japanese market enough anyway?
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
Mmmm, but we are a global industry, so what affects Japan affects the rest of us. SquEnix owns Eidos, and the recent cut-backs have affected the developers of Sleeping Dogs (though hopefully not the sequel to SD). Probably half of the Final Fantasy fan-base is Western. Most of Street Fighter's continued sales are probably down to the competitive SF tournaments, and the fighting game culture in the West. So it's hard to just say that the Japanese market can exist on its own.

Perhaps what is needed is more experimentation, just, but it's hard to do that when even Steam is only just getting traction in Japan, and the value of success vs. failure is higher.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 4th April 2013 10:27pm

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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago
I just don't see it as a problem though tbh. I have played at least one game from all of those names above, and doubtless a load more besides, as must yourself. As just one country among many, I think the Japanese are well represented in the western gamers mind and if they think there's more to be had here, they need to be careful. Maybe by bending the designs to appeal more to the west, they'll stop selling as many copies at home.

I've already lost my job from Eidos->SCi in the past btw. Shit just happens with big firms and right now it seems the whole world is in meltdown. If you have a core market you're guaranteed to do well in, I'd vote to stick with that and maximise it - at least for the time being.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago
Let's try a thought experiment with a market that isn't already a thing.

Say you're busy designing the next blockbuster and some exec comes in and says: "You know what, India. They have a massive population, an explosive growth in wealth right now and they're not that big on computer games. Make the game appeal to more Indians and we'll clean up."

What exactly would you do to fulfill the brief? I'd probably go for a handful of obvious tourist magnet references, set level one in the taj mahal and continue as normal. And that would probably cause nothing but offense due to being obviously just a lip service exercise and missing out much of what Indians consider to be truly important and obvious. To do better than that, I'd need to go live amongst them for years and that might be a bit beyond the spec.

You can easily envisage the same thing here in the UK. I'll bet the rest of the world still thinks our coppers are dressed in royal blue with that silly tit-head helmet and a truncheon. When the reality is that they look more like Vin Diesel.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 4th April 2013 10:51pm

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Saehoon Lee Founder & CEO, Pixellore4 years ago
To be honest, it is very difficult to make a game that covers all the global cultures and regions at once. I don't think it is a shame to focus on a specific market if that is what they do the best. I personally think that Japanese game don't necessary need to target western market to be globally successful. What about the other Asia markets? Also, must not forget that lots of gamer do like Japanese games because they have that Japanese feel to them.
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