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Grasshoppper's Suda 51

The Killer7 and No More Heroes director on the Japanese games market and the importance of unique games

This year's Nordic Game last month was notable for a good international line-up of speakers, with Grasshopper's CEO Suda 51 among them.

Here, the iconic developer of Killer7 and No More Heroes talks about the games business in Japan, his philosophy of game design, and the importance of creating something that stands out in a crowded market. What brought you to Nordic Game, and what are your thoughts on the cultural shift in videogames for designers working in Japan?
Suda 51

I've been invited by the Nordic Game conference organisers for the past couple of years, but I wasn't able to make it last year - so I came this year. I was also keen to visit a couple of studios located around London, and I wanted to learn what people are doing now - it's so hard to go back and forward to Europe from Tokyo, so it was a good opportunity to come here, and stop over in London at the same time. Square Enix president Yoichi Wada has told in the past that it's increasingly important for Japanese companies to appeal more globally - how do you feel that events like Nordic Game help to bring different communities together?
Suda 51

Well, actually, Grasshopper is probably better-known in the Western market than in Japan, so these kind of events are really good for people in Western countries to understand us more. We released No More Heroes and Killer7 in the Western market so far, which also helps.

And then the people from GDC and Nordic Game give me the opportunity to speak, so I can talk more about the company, which is great for working in the global market. Does the Japanese videogames business need to appeal more to the West, do you think?
Suda 51

I've heard that a lot of the big publishers in Japan have already started working on how they can sell more games in the Western markets - they need to figure out how they can do that. Hardware and software sales in Japan have been very slow this year - why is that?
Suda 51

I think there are a number of reasons, but one of the main ones is that Western gamers and Japanese gamers prefer different content in their games. Maybe 2009 is showing us the reality of that.

Also, while the developers in Japan are really good at creating action games, they're trying new genres. For example, role-playing games is one genre, although Western gamers seem to prefer different types of RPGs to those in Japan.

It's not just RPGs - there are tonnes of different genres in Japan - but I guess Western gamers just aren't quite so keen on those RPGs. When you design games, who do you think of? Is it a Japanese audience, a Western audience, or a global audience?
Suda 51

When I design a game, I imagine that people all over the world are playing it. We're basically targeting a global audience.

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