GDC (Game Developers Conference) 2014 is now approaching its close in San Francisco, and has hosted a variety of games, demonstrations and reveals. As is also the norm there have been presentations from various figures in the games industry, with a particularly high profile example being that given by Keiji Inafune, the former Capcom employee widely associated with Mega Man and now running his own studio, Comcept.
Much focus on Inafune-san at present is naturally on Mighty No. 9, not only due to its clear inspiration from the Blue Bomber's series but its origins as a successful Kickstarter campaign. In his talk at GDC the studio's main man explained how going 'Indie', and being crowdfunded, has given him freedom that he hasn't enjoyed for a good amount of time.
Watching the Western indie movement over the past few years has given me an example to follow. There’s a great deal of freedom being indie. I like seeing and feeling like I can do anything. It feels like a return to the golden days.
I was assigned to consumer division [at Capcom]. We were in side-building, away from the main arcade division and we were treated as such. Our job was to port whatever was made for the arcade. Mega Man was the first original title to come from our team.
In a way, if we’re talking about what is or isn’t indie, for us I would say that was our indie movement. We were a) not housed in main building and b) not doing what we were supposed to be doing. It’s this passion, heart and soul that we poured into that first product that I think shows where the heart of indie lies.
Meanwhile, Inafune-san highlighted the differences between the indie and Kickstarter cultures in the West and Japan. The concept of crowdfunding is still young in his homeland, while he hopes that the restrictions and challenges of small developer studios will stimulate a wave of creativity in the country.
After the campaign finished I received a huge number of letters and emails from other Japanese developers. Around half of them had never heard of Kickstarter. If the game industry in Japan doesn’t know about it, then certainly normal citizens wouldn’t.
Being the first to do a successful Kickstarter in Japan was an act of breaking the walls. I hope that when the game comes out it will also break down the wall to reveal the business potential of crowd-funding and digital distribution to other Japanese developers.
We are a small country with limited resources and limited people. In older generations, Japanese made things work by being creative, not by being resource-rich. I feel like that situation is similar to where we indies are today in Japan.
We may work better with restrictions and limitations because, when that situation is in front of us, we are very creative. I feel like the indie situation today will push our nation to be much more creative direction. Perhaps we will find the next Japanese video game creator hero in this era? I feel that there is a small light that will grow into something bigger in the future. I hope we can push that forward.
The emergence of more download and small developers in Japan could certainly be exciting. Let us know what you think of Inafune-san's comments, while first below is some awesome new footage of Mighty No. 9 that was shown at GDC, as well as the full presentation below that.