Games shouldn't be judged on sales - Inafune

Mighty No. 9 creator talks about the impact of crowdfunding on the industry and the way he thinks about games

Last year, Keiji Inafune's Kickstarter for a Mega Man-inspired 2D platformer attracted $3.8 million in funding. Today, Inafune came to the D.I.C.E. Summit in Las Vegas to discuss the experience and talk about what the crowdfunding revolution means for the future of the gaming industry.

Speaking through an interpreter, Inafune said his experience with Mighty No. 9 changed the way he thinks about making games. The most important part of creating Mighty No. 9 for Inafune is being able to create the game in a way similar to how he made titles when he first broke into the industry 20 years ago. Back then, Inafune didn't think about whether his games would sell. He didn't really care about that. He only had to think about making the game fun.

But somewhere over the course of his career, Inafune said he had started to change without realizing it, and began worrying more about how his games would sell. Even though it's critical for a game to turn a profit for creators to be able to continue making them, Inafune said developers shouldn't think of having a lot of sales as inherently good and failing to sell as inherently bad.

With Mighty No. 9, Inafune said he hasn't finished the game, much less sold any copies. But it's already been funded, so Inafune doesn't need it to sell in order for it to be considered a success, or "to achieve justice" in the game industry. The project is possible only because the backers of it feel that it's the kind of game they would like to play, and so gambled on the development of it with the Kickstarter. As a result, Inafune thinks they understand that it won't be judged purely on sales.

As a result, Inafune said the campaign has allowed him to revisit his early days in the industry, without having to worry about sales or "bureaucracy in the system," and instead focus solely on what he thinks will make the game more fun. He believes this is actually the future of the industry, a callback to the days when he first broke in, when Inafune said many creators were a little bit crazy, exploring wild ideas with no concern for their viability in the market.

The Kickstarter process is a new one for Inafune, as it has allowed him to talk about the game much earlier in development than with his previous publisher-funded work. He thinks it helps people understand what the game is a lot better to see it come together in this way. That also lets the fans collaborate with creators to some extent, which Inafune said has created "a new golden age of gaming."

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Latest comments (9)

Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises4 years ago
Well you have to judge games based on something... It's either going to be sales, your metacritic rating, or total downloads.

My favorite way to judge games is based on their IGN score. They review everything and come up with a rating, so you know if it's higher than a 9.5 it's worth playing, if it's anything lower than a 9.5 it's crap.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus4 years ago
This is the benefit of the indie boom: people using well-trod engines and just making games, while cutting publishers out of the system.

It can only last so long, though. From this, other publishers, who are going to be risk averse as they get bigger, are going to step in. And in a sense, Steam - which just released seven games *TODAY* - is also a risk-averse publisher (see: Greenlight). There's a circular system in this industry that keeps things from getting too good.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany4 years ago

I think he meant Sales alone. Let's check, for example, "Beyond good and evil" Great game and terrible sales. Now if we look at alien Colonial Marines...
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 4 years ago
Vanquish, Mirrors Edge and Beyond Good and Evil have been some of the best games I have ever played and they didnt sell too great. I own each of these and I at times play them over again.

But but as a developer at times you want to make the games you want and not have the constraints of a limited budget or legalities of using a publisher to release it, so he took a differant approach with Mighty No.9 and that gamble worked for him. I even put in a pledge when the kickstarter was active.

Again i just think the industry should look for other ways to get there games made. And not everygame needs to be a AAA game with super realistic graphics. As games like Resogun, Hardcorps uprising and Castle crashers can provide endless hours of fun.

Its sad to see companies just let go of certain franchises simply if there last game doesnt sell well. Capcom is easy to ditch there franchises if they perform poorly, like Megaman, Street fighter and Breath of fire. If it wasnt for Yoshinori Ono, street fighter IV would have never happened. I for one would like to see a new Bionic commando, despite the mediocre Rearmed 2. I did however like the PS3 game, its just the story was a bit bizarre, with his wife being his arm... and the ending was horrible, but the game itself was really good. Insomniacs FUSE and dotnods Remember Me, didnt quite make a splash when released, but im hoping both these games get sequels, because they both offer pretty good concepts that if refined can make great games.

In this respect I can admire sega for not giving up on Sonic.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 7th February 2014 1:04pm

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Brian Lewis Operations Manager, PlayNext4 years ago
It is interesting that by standing outside of the development enviornment... I can see what Inafune did not. He is free of concerns about money (sales), because he got the money upfront. I am sure that this is not what was intended as the dialog for this article, but it is the reality that I can see as an outsider.

There is a definate need for some experimentation, and a return to the creative roots that have built this industry. AAA publishers have not provided the funding needed for this, so crowdfunded efforts such as Kickstarter have provided an avenue for projects to get funding for less traditional development. This is a great thing, and in the long run, will bring a lot of vitality to the industry.

However, just as we seem to have forgotten what built the AAA publishers, we have forgotten why the came into existance. There is a natural cycle of small, cheap, creative development that leads to innovation followed by a very expensive large scale development that leads to industry growth. Both of these are a natural part of the process, and the sooner that they work together in a healty enviornment... the better it will be for all of us.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
Whatever happened to the days the games industry compared itself to the film industry? Long gone, or just selective amnesia? :)

There's always been a dividing line in films between the popcorn fare that sells well, and the arthouse and "worthy" material that is creatively interesting, mentally taxing, and assumed to sell less for those exact reasons. For every Batman there's a Ghost World; for every House of Flying Daggers there's a Not One Less. I wonder if this system can actually be replicated in gaming, or whether cost and development time mean that sales will always win out over creativity to some degree. True, film has the bonus of being fluid with costs and finances - everything from George Clooney sinking his own money in, to actors working for minimum pay because they like the script so much, or want to work with the director. But then, third-party dev software like Unity should, theoretically, cut costs a lot when developing games.

I would go so far as to say that the industry needs a far more balanced approach in terms of publishing, since it seems that the "art-house" sector is entirely filled by indies, and the "blockbuster" sector is catered to by large publishers. This sounds fine initially, but I think it would benefit everyone if both sides had more fluidity - some large publishers are sitting on great IP, whilst some indie developers could do so much more with more funding.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago
This is the standard crap from people who've made it. Hearing it a lot lately and it's getting a bit old. "Developers have to give back", "Games shouldn't be about making money", etc.

Well, it sounds good. But most of us are struggling to pay our mortgages and studios are shutting all the time. If I ever have big financial success and can stop worrying about sacking our guys, one of which has a newborn, then I promise I'll get more zen about things too.

"Just have lots of money and everything will be fine". Right, thanks for that gem.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany4 years ago

I'm going to guess you are going through rough times. I really don't think unloading that frustration (which I went through a couple of times) over other industry professionals will solve any problem, will it?

Now don't get upset, just saying...
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago
Not going through particularly rough times, they're always like this. As someone who's worked hard for 30 years and gotten not much back, lets just say I speak for the silent majority when I say stuff like this.

I'd like to think that if I ever make it big, I'll be a little more considerate in my "this is how you do it" speeches.
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