Tetsuya Mizuguchi, founder of Q Entertainment and best known for his work on Rez, Space Channel 5 and Lumines took the stage at DICE today to talk about the future of gaming and give attendees a quick history lesson on all things MIzuguchi. His talk, titled "Art vs. Commerce" focused on his career-long struggle to balance the artistic and the fiscally responsible. From the wildly successful Sega Rally—which sold 20,000 full-sized arcade units and 1.5 million on consoles and PCs—to the commercial underperformer Rez—a game for which he declined to offer sales data.
Mizuguchi explained he was inspired by games at a young age, fascinated by Atari's dedicated Pong platform. He says he also discovered the music of The Beatles at the same time, combining the two experiences in a visual and emotional way.
He says he later was motivated to join Sega when he saw the Sega R-360 arcade cabinet for the first time. The enclosed, fully rotating cabinet gave developer AM2's G LOC a more realistic flight simulator experience (and surely induced plenty of nausea). When Mizuguchi saw the R-360 for the first time, he thought "Wow, who did this?"
His first project at Sega, arcade racer Sega Rally, got its own answer to the R-360 later, with a full-sized rally car chassis that sold a total of four units.
Moving on to the console division, the producer went to work on Space Channel 5. It was the result of his fascination with MTV culture as a child and his first foray into merging the emotional response from music with interactive entertainment.
His next was Rez.
The game, once known as K-Project was not just inspired by the paintings of Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian painter who had experience with the condition known as synesthesia. It was also partially inspired by Mizuguchi's early fascination with the Sensorama, a multi-modal device that promised an experience combining wide vision, motion color, stereo sounds, aromas, wind, and vibrations. "Wow," Mizuguchi said, questioning "What is this? What's happening inside?"
Combining those two motivators with Mizuguchi's interest in understanding why people, regardless of region, reacted to music at clubs and festivals physically—and vocally, as Mizuguchi said "Waaaaagggh!", arms stretched high.
These combinations continued, with games like Lumines, which recreated the "play with music" gameplay design and Ninety Nine Nights, Q Entertainment's attempt to combine action games and movies. NNN, Mizuguchi explained, was heavily influenced by Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon. Lumines II, which felt to many like a retread, was an attempt to more heavily incorporate music videos into the gameplay.
All of these marriages of medium are just portions of what Mizuguchi feels will bring to game development, now, according to him, still in its infancy. The "Big Bang" he says will be a hybrid product for a mass audience that combines online connectivity, video games, music, movies, community and advertising.
Since moving to Q and partnering with friend and now CEO, Shuji Utsumi, Miz says he's begun to come to terms with balancing art and commerce. Utsumi, he says, has been a good influence, especially when Mizuguchi becomes "too artistic." "Games," he says "are entertainment, not just art."