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Kojima discusses East/West skills and design gap

"Do we really need to succeed worldwide?" asks Metal Gear creator

Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima has discussed in detail his feelings on the widening skills gap between East and West developers, and the increasing difficultly Japanese games companies have found in appealing to Western markets.

Speaking to Famitsu magazine, as translated by 1up, Kojima asked: "Do we really need to succeed worldwide?"

"That's what I'm really wondering about. Everyone talks about overseas, overseas, but nobody's really thinking about what needs to be done if we want to succeed. We get obsessed with thinking about worldwide because we've had previous success with games and anime worldwide, but none of those successes matter nowadays," he began.

"When you're making a game, it doesn't matter what nationality the team is - I think there was a lack of understanding among Japanese developers on that issue. It all comes down to the team you have. Even if I brought in the best developer in the world, it won't result in anything if nobody around him understands what he says.

"It's hard to feel this when you're in Japan, but there is a gap opening between the West in terms of pure quality. If you're trying to break out overseas, then I think the only way is to divide your development teams between the Japanese and global markets. It's impossible to encompass it in a single group - everything needs to be separate, down to the office and pay structure."

Kojima also obliquely referred to the phenomenon of Japanese publishers appearing to only partner with less well known Western developers, even for major franchises.

"There are loads of talented developers overseas, but you can't get them unless you spend the money. If you base your calculations off the standard Japanese salary structure, nobody's going to come to you. It's the difference between what you pay a Hollywood star versus a Japanese film star."

However, Kojima also criticised Japanese companies for failing to understand Western tastes and not making the changes necessary to appeal to them.

"To put it in an extreme fashion, Americans like games where you have a gun and you're shooting at space aliens," he said. "If you don't understand why that's fun, then you shouldn't be making games for the world market; you don't need to.

"I mean, Japanese people might say 'Why space aliens?', but Americans will counter with 'What's with these games featuring these feminine-looking boys fighting in Japan with these huge swords?' It's no wonder the target audience for a lot of games is getting so compartmentalised."

"In the 8-bit days you had to symbolise a lot of things and make gamers follow certain rules," said Kojima.

"In the West, that did a complete 180 starting with the PlayStation 2. It's no longer the game designer's job to think up the rules; his job is to dissect gamers' preferences and build a world they can get addicted to. That's why having first person shooters dominate the U.S. market into the future is absolutely fine by me."

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David Jenkins

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