One Theory Why Japanese Games Aren't As Big As They Used To Be

Ever since this console generation kicked off in 2005/2006, Japanese developers have become increasingly irrelevant to the purchasing habits of many Western gamers. There are plenty of theories as to why this is. And Dead or Alive creator Tomonobu Itagaki has one.

"In Japan, in this industry, they are lacking not just in technology, but the important thing is the creativity and ingenuity" the outspoken developer told Gamasutra. "They're lacking in that. So they complain a lot, they say a lot, but then they don't take action. So before they say anything bad or complain — 'Do something!' is what I want to say."

"It's important to have the skill to express what you're doing, what you want to do — you know, express yourself", he adds later. "I'm talking about social skills. I'm sure you're interviewing a lot of people, and maybe you meet people at parties, Japanese developers. Japanese developers, they don't have the necessary social skills. The American social skills, European social skills."

"You know, maybe they don't have humour; they don't know how to joke around. Maybe it's a problem with their manner. So if those people don't have those necessary social skills, and if those people are the ones who are developing the game, no matter how much they try to make globally accepted, globally popular games, that work in different cultures, that might be very difficult.

Does that make sense?"

It's one interesting theory amongst many. At least he mentioned the technology aspect, which is where I think anyone not called Nintendo has fallen down: too many Japanese games for the 360 and PS3 are built, and feel, like they were made for a PS2, as even major studios have failed to take advantage of advances in engine technology.

From Ninja To Viking: Tomonobu Itagaki Speaks [Gamasutra]


Comments

    "too many Japanese games for the 360 and PS3 are built, and feel, like they were made for a PS2, as even major studios have failed to take advantage of advances in engine technology."

    This is correct - it's almost like the curent console generation took Japan by suprise. Even good games like Dead Rising use PS2 controls - relying on the face buttons rather than the triggers, other games come out and seem to be imitations of western ideas, Castlevania looks like God of War, Quantum Theory is a pale rip off of Gears, only Suda 51 and Shinji Mikami continue to suprise

      Im sorry but Castlevania has been around since 86.
      GOW on the other hand is a more recent IP. also god of war isnt the first to have over the top gore etc u realise.

        Obviously he is talking about the 3D incarnation, and he's not just talking about the visuals but the control schemes and mechanics

      err, Castlevania lords of shadow was made by mercurysteam. they are spanish...

    Sounds pretty much on par w/ what Inafune said yonks back when he left Capcom =P

    Maybe this, maybe that, maybe you don't know what you're talking about. I agree with you though. Nintendo seem to squeeze out some nice quality games but it's the same crap so even they're in the same boat as the rest of the japanese developers, which is a real bummer. You'd think they would have turned Pokemon into an MMO by now but no we all sit and dream about the potential many of their games have.

      Pokemon MMO Awesome! i had never thought of that lol. That would be so sick now im going to be dreaming about it for like the next 10 nights =D

      A Pokémon MMO is a brilliant idea! I doubt it would happen given how paranoid Nintendo is with online play *cough*friendcodes*cough*, but the way the whole Pokémon universe is set up would suit that sort of platform perfectly!

    Mmm, doesn't explain previous exceptional games which were original and creative coming out of Japan. Why would the current game dev culture in Japan be different to that which created such masterpieces?

    Would it matter if they improved? So many titles are released in Japan only anyway, regardless of glaring facts to show that they'd sell better in other regions. The only titles that get any proper region releases are more copy/paste than the CoD series.

    I find it weird that everyone's on the "Japanese-game-industry-is-dying" bandwagon without looking at other game makers, namely the Western studios.

    Gears of War is practically a rip-off of RE4's gameplay, and God of War is Devil May Cry with chains and quicktime events from from Shenmue. I don't see any innovations there at all, sorry.

    " as even major studios have failed to take advantage of advances in engine technology."

    Not necessarily true, Lost Planet 2 has some sweet as graphics, check it out with DX11 on.

    I have an explanation simpler then any of the last 500 theories thrown out once a week in regards to this topic. Japan used to be on top because they had no competition. Most Western developers made games for the PC but now consoles are powerful enough to receive respectable ports.

    So basically Japan has a lower market share because competition that didn't exist in the past has now popped up. Its Year 10 economics.

    I'm a JRPG lover and its made up the lion share of all my game time on the PS2. That was an absolute golden age for the genre. PS3/360/Wii use is very small in comparison. I've spent more time with action/adventure titles or western RPGs for my RPG fix this generation.

    Portables is a different story. It seems all the companies that make second tier JRPGs on the PS2 moved to the DS/PSP and that works too.

    Japan was never creative, just unique. Everyone played Japan's games and now they're realizing they're the same games they played a decade ago.

    That and actual creative studios all went bankrupt after being f**ked over, cough Cavia.

      This, pretty much. With certain notable exceptions, the same games keep getting produced except with more shiny.

      To be fair, this is just as true of Western developers. Difference being that a bigger and overall more diverse market allows for greater penetration and success of innovative indie games.

    I think they are largely becoming irrelevant more because of lack of marketing and lack of product.

    E.g. there were a ton of big Japanese RPGs for the PS2 - yet for the PS3 I can easily count the releases with my fingers. Simple fact is they seem to be making far fewer games now. Hard to sell when you do not make.

    Japanese games sell well enough in Japan that they don't have to care so much.

    Every time a Japanese game comes out here that isn't one catered to appeal to more universal tastes [Yakuza, Bayonetta, etc] then we get a Kotaku news report dedicated to mocking how weird japanese people and their games are.

    It's a really different market, insular and stylised. We never mention that Korea doesn't have much of a console presence despite having a huge PC market, it's the same shit.

    " So if those people don’t have those necessary social skills, and if those people are the ones who are developing the game, no matter how much they try to make globally accepted, globally popular games, that work in different cultures, that might be very difficult."

    So all Japanese game devs are antisocial loser? That's a hell of a generalisation to make.

    It's not a problem of technology. Many modern Japanese games look amazing, it's just creative stagnation and the fact that their traditional Western audience has now aged beyond their teens.

    Throw in the fact that Japanese games always sell fine in Japan, means that there's no risk of completely bombing (unlike Western games with no such guaranteed base) and you'll realise there's less incentive to innovate.

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