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Inafune: Japan dev culture "changes creators into salarymen"

"Even if the game doesn't sell, you still get your paycheck the next month"

Former Capcom creative director Keiji Inafune has discussed his reasons for leaving the company, claiming that Japanese development culture stifles creativity.

"My generation is, for better or worse, holding the game industry back," he told 4Gamer. " There are a lot of people who take their company's commitment for granted and don't work as hard as they should."

Of Japan's lifetime employment system he said, "It's like a communist state. Working as hard as you can is your own loss. Not working hard becomes more advantageous. But doesn't that get in the way of making games? You can't make good games by just taking it easy."

Guaranteed salaries meant no striving for excellence, he felt. "Even if [the game] doesn't sell, you still get your paycheck the next month. Because people are used to working in such a system, against such competition, the sense of wanting to make a better and better game has weakened. It's like, 'I'm just doing what I was told to do.'"

The Megaman creator also felt that development costs were currently too high to turn high profits. " If you look at the numbers, 500 thousand copies sold is great, and that might get you 2 billion yen ($25 million).

"After paying for development costs, promotion, corporate expenses, and business overhead... Thinking about all of that, 2 billion yen really doesn't cover it."

As a result, "publishers themselves are forcing developers into becoming subcontractors. 'For this amount of money, finishing by this deadline,' and so on, and even more than quality, "Aim for this number of sales," is what's being pushed."

Inafune felt the West's approach to development was more alluring, perceiving more opportunity for creative freedom. "There are of course publishers who keep developers "like pets,' but overseas there are more independent developers.

"For them, the goal is to make a hit, grow the company, sell it or do an IPO, and make lots of money. It's the American Dream."

This was the core reason for his departure from Capcom, it appeared. "Wanting to try my own strength is absolutely driven by the desire to know if a game can sell because it's made by Keiji Inafune. and not 'Inafune of Capcom.' This was something that was absolutely impossible from within Capcom."

He hoped this would set a precedent amongst Japanese developers. "With the initiatives I'm taking, I hope to naturally effect change in the game industry."

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Alec Meer

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A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.

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