At the Game Developers Conference this past week, former Capcom executive and Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune spoke about the past, present, and future of gaming in Japan. At the Tokyo Game show in 2010, he declared “Japan is dead,” and to the New York Times in September he said, “I look around Tokyo Games Show, and everyone’s making awful games; Japan is at least five years behind.”
At the GDC, he explained, “I said those words to light a fire under the Japanese video game industry before it was too later,” SiliconEra reports. He explained that many Japanese developers rely on past successes, and that they continue to pump out sequels to and re-makes of established brands, including his own now-abandoned Mega Man. He said, “We need to think about more than just maintaining brands.”
Inafune cited Resident Evil as an example of how making something new and branching out could lead to great success. He recalled, “At one point Resident Evil [the first game in the series] was canceled. Nobody believed it would be a success except [Shinji] Mikami.”
Inafune left Capcom in October 2010, only six months after being promoted to Global Head of Production. In December he launched a new company called Comcept, which now boasts 20 employees.
Inafune isn’t the only one chiding Japan. Last November, we reported that Tak Fujii, producer of Konami’s N3II: Ninety-Nine Nights, proclaimed that Western gamers were pulling away from Japanese games, exacerbated by the emergence of Western gaming platforms and a certain “big FPS franchise in the West.” He said of Western gamers:
They only have one game and they keep purchasing downloadable maps, additional content, DLC, DLC, DLC. And then a new one comes out and they just buy it. They never play sports games, action games, and have no interest in Japanese games.
In addition, President and CEO of PlatinumGames Tatsuya Minami wrote, in an open letter on the company site, “Series grow ever-longer; original titles are on the decline. Games with new at their core are disappearing. Japanese games that garner worldwide acclaim are slipping away.”
In July last year, we wrote an editorial about some reasons why Japan is falling so far behind in game development. It’s pretty critical of Capcom, but also takes a look at Square Enix.