News Article

Inafune: Japanese Developers Are "Too Proud" And "Don't Know What To Do"

Posted by Damien McFerran

Recovery is happening too slowly for former Capcom man

Former Capcom developer Keiji Inafune has had some choice things to say about the state of games development in his homeland — it was his famous "Japan is over" speech at the 2009 Tokyo Game Show that triggered a protracted period of self-assessment on the part of many game designers in the country — a process which is still ongoing.

Speaking to IGN, Inafune — who left Capcom in 2010 — expressed mild optimism about the state of development in Japan, but was quick to admit that there is still much to do:

I hope Japanese game developers are breaking through the stagnation. However, the reality isn’t as good as I want it to be. I see they’re starting to be aware of the problem and that they have to do something.

They know they have to learn more from western games and create games that’ll sell more in the western market. However, they don’t know what to do or how to do it.

Even worse, their pride gets in the way, preventing them from learning from overseas developers. As a result, they end up staying in the domestic market rather than going global.

Some developers are saying [the] Japanese game industry is still doing fine, but that’s wishful thinking. Words are not enough, we must act and prove it. Unless at least a few titles from Japan make it to the top 10 games of the year worldwide, we won’t prove it.

Do you think Inafune is being too harsh on his fellow Japanese developers, or is there still room for improvement? Will we ever again see the days when Japanese games dominated the charts globally? As ever, we'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic, so leave a comment below.


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User Comments (61)



ivanmata said:

I think if they come up with an innovative fps they would; not that they should but I think they could.



Savino said:

"Unless at least a few titles from Japan make it to the top 10 games of the year worldwide, we won’t prove it."

I dont know if this means that the japanese market is shrinking or global market grew way too much...



Spoony_Tech said:

Yes and no actually. I just think way too many people in the west play way to many fps. It actually starting to show a little bit that a revival might be starting up again with Japanese games over in the west. Only time will tell but yeah there still is a need for some change but I still love my Japanese games first and foremost!



LittleIrves said:

I see what he's saying... but personally I wish the west would embrace Japanese game design, not the other way around.
[Yeah, what Tech101 said.]



shinokami said:

@ivanmata idk but i think it will be really hard to surpass Borderlands and Bioshock Infinite, unless Nintendo gives Miyamoto a chance for a FPS



gsnap said:

So is he just upset that they're not selling that much in the west?

Because from what I've seen, Western and Japanese devs are basically tied in terms of game quality, with japanese devs maybe even pulling ahead in terms of creativity, etc.



Haywired said:

The FPS becoming the genre of the moment (certainly of this last gen) hasn't really helped. But its time will probably pass (like how fighting games were the big genre in the 16-bit era, but not so much anymore).



stealth said:


6209 comments • 9170 votes
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Stealth • a minute ago

Hes not only an idiot. Hes a joke. He made a MH rip off, a ninja gaiden rip off.

Thats it

sales=quality to him?

hes a fool



Lin1876 said:

Can I honestly see genres like dating sims becoming popular in the west? No, because that's a genre which has appeal in Japan (for whatever reason) and not in the west. Likewise, Black Ops II, a very American game which was very popular in the west, sold just 480,000 copies in Japan (out of around 23 million worldwide).

Japan and the west are fundamentally different markets which will be best served by their own developers. If a game has global appeal, then that's great, but that shouldn't be an end in itself. Good games will be successful in their own way, regarless of what they are and where they're developed.



Spoony_Tech said:

Plus let's look what happen to the Resident Evil series when they tried to westernized that!! Yeah!



-Crystalline- said:

Japanese developers are doing just fine. I could never experience the same emotions and thrill that I've experienced while playing JRPGs on a western title. Same goes for other genres.

They're far superior than us in some aspects as a culture and society, and that shows. It shows in their technological progress, in their creativity, in their professionalism, and of course, in the game development scene.

The only gaming genre the west has that excels in most aspects is probably the online first-person shooter. Other than that, in Japan I trust.



Nintenjoe64 said:

They should ignore what is happening here and make their own games. We'd all want the ones that looked good and use internets to make our voices heard. I blame the publishers for churning out sequels instead of new ideas.



kkslider5552000 said:

I'm consistently mixed on this. I mean, I'd love to say that the Japanese should continue to do their own thing with gaming but considering how much that has actively hurt a lot of companies financially, they kinda have to pander to the west if they want to still matter outside of Japan. Or at least a lot of them haven't found an alternative. I mean, this isn't a definitive thing about every bit of japanese gaming and I think Inafune fails to realize that marketing kinda sorta matters, but considering how the guy had to make games behind Capcom's back in order for Capcom to have a big hit in the west again beyond Resident Evil (Lost Planet, Dead Rising) I can't really get mad at the guy despite some obvious stupidity on his part.



DarkKirby said:

If your goal is sales alone, Call of Duty is the best game series in history.

I like a lot of Japanese style games, the last thing I want is for them to westernize and give up their identity to satisfy idiots who hand over their money mindlessly. Does that mean there aren't things to lean from other cultures or other companies? Of course not, I think many game developers in general too often shut their eyes and ears to the world and as a result their games have many flaws that may not have happened if they looked at what made other games great.



Peach64 said:

The idea that the Japanese gaming scene is full of creativity died a long time ago. People moan about FPS and sports gamers in the Western markets, but in Japan there's far less variety in their charts than we have in the west.



hamae said:

I don't care what the western market think. I'm currently really enjoying MH3U & Fire Emblem.



ZeroxGT said:

If the majority, would put down the guns for awhile and explore other games out side of that, im sure things will get better for both sides.. IF they are that curious on what we like then maybe they should open up an FB page or whateverso that a majority of us can give our voices to them. Sometimes some good feedback could help them out a bit, There are so many games over there that we wanted badly and never obtained as they THOUGHT we wouldnt enjoy them or if they wouldnt sell well... Anywho.. hears hoping that maybe one day, we will see all those games here on the western shores....



SCAR said:

I think both regions are doing pretty good. There's always good games out there. Most notable games from the west are usually on Xbox it seems, though. Japan doesn't even buy Xbox at all, while we in US/UK any big console from either region.
I'd argue to say that Microsoft has done the most in the gaming market for the west. All the other consoles are usually from Japan.
I agree though. Alot of companies stick to the tried and true way of doing things, and people start to realize it's the same ol' same ol'.
FPS and such can be good games, but there's more to it than what meets the eye. Come up with good stuff so we don't have to hear complaints from everyone when they don't sell. It's not like we don't want to buy the games. That's why there's a market in the first place.



AVahne said:

Slightly agree with him, though the western side isn't so great either.



OldBoy said:

Such a shame that they feel they have to change their games to suit us westerners.The games they produce are some of my favourites because of there uniqueness.Will be a sad day if all games become like COD or Skyrim.The sad truth is though its all about profits and sales.Personally I think Japanese developers are still producing great games.



GN0LAUM said:

Ironic that the man behind the Mega Man series is complaining about stagnation.



ueI said:

Why do I never see articles on western games' failure in the Japanese market?




Appeal to a western audience, you mean like RE6.

I still like Japanese games as much as I ever did



AVahne said:

Because no one wants to report about it. Also it seems some of them are doing pretty well in Japan.



Azikira said:

I think he means the BIG developers (Like Capcom) need to buck up and listen to the people, instead of telling us what we want to play and we should be thankful for it. The indie developers and smaller ones still put out great games.



mookysam said:

I like Japanese games precisely because they're "Japanese". They're different to western style games and I think that's a good thing. If I want to play a western-style game I buy a game made by a western developer because most Japanese efforts to emulate western styles suck. They must stick to what they're good at! If not they risk alienating both people like me and, more importantly, their home market.



Dodger said:

Western and Japanese games can learn from each other, for sure. There are better western games then Call of Duty and better Japanese games than Final Fantasy. Learning from the good and the bad will only help.



QuickSilver88 said:

@John-San3 Not fully true in that the West have now taken over the RPG and action/adventure genres as well.....Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Fallout, all USA Rockstar games and then Ubi is mostly Euro and Canada. I love ghe Japanese games and play a lot of jrpg like FF and SMT but they are not appealing globaly like they used to. I expect Nintendo will have some world domintaing goods here soon with Zelda and Mario but even Metroid is US developed now. What I don't want to see is Japan copy FPS stuff as we have enough devs of that inthe west. Mostly I wish Nintendo would continue revisiting some of their long forgotten franchises like they did with kid about a new excitbike 3d, another DK 3d, a new wave race and they haven't done a 2d metroid since gba. Paper Mario on Wii-u and on and on. Nintendo really has moremgreat franchises than they have resources to develop so I hope they keep up farmin out their licenses to reputable japanese devs like they are doing with SSBM and FE x SMT.



SparkOfSpirit said:

Capcom itself went from innovative ideas like Street Fighter, Mega Man, and Final Fight to becoming a 'me too' company this generation.

It says a lot when their best newer ideas like Ace Attorney, Monster Hunter, and Mega Man 9 are thrown to the backburner while Resident Evil 6 gets the push in budget and promotion.



MeloMan said:

He's just challenging them. It's just like for years on end, western devs couldn't even keep Japan from overtaking the western market until modern times, where western devs are everywhere and dominating.



JebbyDeringer said:

There are certain elements of Japanese culture that translate really well for western gamers and others that don't. I love really good Japanese games but there are really few of them these days. Their attention to detail is amazing. Many western developers completely lack any attention to detail and most blockbuster video games are devoid of anything interesting.



Traxx said:

I never saw any problems with japanese games. Things went wrong when Capcom tried to do a western game (resi 6). All its flaws felt like only a western company would come up with.

In my books, most of the western developers still have to learn how to make well crafted games. I still cannot believe how anyone can think Assassins creed features fine gameplay...



AugustusOxy said:

Inafune is a lot like Kojima, they like the cinematic feel of American games. I on the other hand can't stand it. I want games, not interactive movies. I think both countries have serious problems with game making. Both are too terrified to step out of the boundaries of what will and wont sell to give anything original a shot.

In the end, in America all we end up making is the same five games every year, so who the heck is anyone to criticize Japan? At least they try to create new franchises/IPs.



Zombie_Barioth said:

I don't think either side is any better than the other, they can still learn from one another but you still see just as much genre saturation and as many sequels in Japan as in the west. The only difference is the genres and games that do well in each region are different.

I do think that Japanese developers could learn to step outside their comfort zones and go against the grain a bit more without trying to just copy whats popular outside of Japan. Pokemon is almost as old as I am and just now started to break away from the old formula, 17 years later in fact.



accc said:

There really isn't anything Japanese game developers can learn from Western game developers. 99% of high-budget Western games are absolutely terrible. The problem lies with the very design philosophy of Western developers: they focus on making their games as marketable as possible, with no deference to innovation or design quality. The Japanese development philosophy, on the other hand, lies with developers making games that THEY want to play; making them as polished and as tightly designed as they can, and trying to sell them on their own merits. Until this changes, Western games will never catch up to Japanese games in terms of quality.



Emaan said:

We have more than enough western games, we don't need Japanese developers to try and learn from the western market. Variety is the key. People play the kinds of games they want to play.

I personally, think that Japanese games are much better than those from other parts of the world, and rather, they should be learning more from Japan than the other way around. I wouldn't play video games if all that was available was the same old generic western action game. It's just not my style.

Yes, it would be nice if Japanese games still had the audience they used to, but in no way does that mean the developers should conform to what's selling. They should realize how unique their games are and how special they are to many people, they shouldn't change their ways just to appeal to the wider demographic.



gsnap said:

Honestly, neither Japanese nor Western devs need to learn from each other in their current states. When that happens you just get games like RE6.

They just need to learn from their own pasts. Games like Ni no Kuni or Dark Souls, that take the best of gaming's past and incorporate it with modern techniques. That's the idea that these devs need to strive for. It's not a matter of this genre or that genre. Just figure out how to make your games fun.



misswliu81 said:

i agree but also disagree with him. as much as i enjoy most of capcom, sega, namco bandai's efforts and to a lesser extent, konami, i think their best days are behind them. they used to churn out hits and great titles in the 80s, 90s. nowadays, not so much. as for western developers, the indie developers are my favourites moreso than the main ones like activision, EA, ubisoft. creativity is lacking, as well as diversity of games, which is something that needs to be addressed. not everyone wants to play FPS games and i wished side scrolling shooters, beat em' ups, fighting games to name- genres that have been so dominant during the 80s & 90s made a comeback. it's what the industry and games scene needs.



Tertis said:

Fun fact: The reason why Mother 3 wasn't localized is because it wouldn't sell overseas.
I think if Nintendo made a cool mature title, they could win over some US consumers.



DrOzaki said:

I saw this somewhere else and it had a lot to do with the Xbox360 not selling in Japan. I don't think we should be very concerned.



Royalblues said:

I have been playing all sorts of games from both hemispheres of the planets over a very long period of time. I have to agree with him. Eastern games are not as imaginative as they used to be, and western games still have imagination and originality. The relationship is inversely proportional.
That isn't to say that there aren't any good Japanese games out today; far from it. I'm saying when you have games like Mass Effect, and Fallout, and you stack it against the action games from Japan, there really should be no question which games have better mass appeal.
Similarly, look at games like the Walking Dead, the Unfinished Swan, and Fez, among others (bit trip saga, the list goes on and on). Japan needs to catch up!



AlbertoC said:

"Even worse, their pride gets in the way, preventing them from learning from overseas developers. As a result, they end up staying in the domestic market rather than going global."

Sounds familiar? Or is he just joking?




I agree with him. A lot of early Western developers learned from the Japanese classics. Now I think it might be the other way around. Maybe not though, maybe it is a give and take sort of thing: 50/ 50. I know Inafune gets this idea though. He made the first Dead Rising to appeal to Western gamers, but it still felt very Japanese. For the second, he had a western studio, Blue Castle Productions, to give a huge hand. And I think they ended up with a very western appealing game. There's nothing wrong with swapping notes and taking some inspiration from overseas developers.



Rerun said:

I tend to enjoy games that make it big in the Japanese charts than the Western charts. Monster Hunter being the current top franchise for me. This is HUGE in Japan but so-so in the Western market. GTA, a big seller in the West, I didn't really enjoy.
I think it's all a matter of taste. It just so happens that the market is bigger in the west vs Japan.
Everyone should do what they're doing and swap notes every now and then so that they learn from each other.



Zombie_Barioth said:

Developers on both sides can always learn from one another in terms of things like art direction or programing, as well as what does and doesn't work. Its actually a bad idea to be so close minded that you automatically dismiss people and assume nobody has anything of value to teach you.



GreenDream said:

These keynotes and conversations of Inafune coincide with his disillusionment of corporate and private accountability to treat their workers well; in addition to their general failure in recent years to encourage creativity. He is just fed up with the big business situations; the Mega Man Legends 3 fiasco, and even past excursions such as Mega Man X6, were perfect examples of big business getting in the way of Inafune's vision.

He probably desires something along the lines of a Kickstarter project. We're possibly going to be seeing some unprecedented stuff coming from those publicly funded avenues over the next couple years.



biglittlejake said:

There is always room for improvement. No matter how good you get you can always improve if you want to.



GreenDream said:

Both Western and Eastern design in many computer games have been in a constant state of simultaneous enlightenment and decline for a long time now; it's only because the industry is maturing that we now view computer game works with a greater level of objectivity and relativity than 10 or 20 years ago.

Both sides have more than their fair share of stagnation of innovation. Western creativity in big budget computer games is no less stagnant than that of Easterners. That's the whole point of the independent studio movement. A game like "Little Inferno" would never be possible to make in a big budget corporate studio.

I would also say that most people are biased towards Western or Eastern style titles; few people are truly unbiased. The fascination with Western style titles is because more people living within industrialized nations happen to be biased towards them, rather than their Eastern counterparts. Who knows how much the situation would change if there were more involvement from unindustrialized nations?



MadAdam81 said:

While many of us enjoy our Japanese games, only a very small percent of Japanese games actually break through and most really aren't up to scratch. They don't have to change the style of games that much, it's more about being more careful about what goes into a game, and not just "because it would be cool." (taken from D&D arcade game article).



Mortenb said:

I don't agree. I can't see why Japanese games must reach the top 10 worldwide to be a success. What if Japanese players want those kind of games that will not be popular elsewhere?
What if we find life on other planets, and all they want to play is versions of Tetris? Should then all Earth game developers start making versions of Tetris just to reach the top 10 universe game sales?



Dizzard said:

I hope that they don't forget the Japanese style of developing. Many of my favourite and most memorable games come from Japan. The same can't really be said for most western releases.

It's a little funny to me because I feel that Japanese games are generally more engaging and interesting than Western games. Sure western games usually have the whole open world thing going for them but a lot of the time they just feel empty. (They are improving though) Although I would say that many western indie games come close to (or reach) my love of Japanese games, moreso than mainstream western titles.

As someone said earlier I feel like it might be more a matter of taste than bad practice. Although of course everyone has room to improve. That's no different whether you're western or Japanese. They can both learn things from each other.



Schprocket said:

I'd like to know why the few games that do get translated for the North American market are inexplicably bound to it and why there's a sense that "going European" must always involve translations.

Most European gamers (and this observation is a gut-feel, not a fact) seem to have a pretty good handle on English - way better than I have of any other language - so why deny a potentially greater market?

Better still, instead of flogging a dead-business model (as recording companies have tried to for too long) which seems to be "make it for the US and stuff the rest", why don't the Japanese developers embrace the indie model of kick-start milestones when it comes to translations - and give everybody a chance to land some 'special edition' goodness dependent on the size of the donation?
Surely this might help generate enthusiasm within the Japanese developer community for the global market by direct interaction with fans outside of Japan?

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