American Developers Comment On Japanese Video Games' Weaknesses

American Developers Comment on Japanese Video Games' Weaknesses

Back in the 1980s and '90s, if you played arcade games or console games, you played Japanese games. Lots of them. But maybe things have changed. Why?

At a recently held game developers' convention in Japan, Kento Kojima, a lead animator at 2K Games, gave a presentation on things he has learned working for an American game studio. The presentation covered both the good and the bad.

It also featured some responses from a hundred or so American game devs that had been asked why Japanese made games were having a tough time abroad — namely, why they weren't selling in the US. Via Famitsu, here are some of the results:

• The market has shifted to North America and Europe (in the past there were mostly Japanese console games, but that's changed)

• There's a cultural gap between Japan and the West that even manifests itself in how fantasy worlds are seen

• Japanese games are not exactly easy to get into (for example, their pacing)

• Japanese games are too talky, and their stories aren't good at evoking empathy

• Westerners don't like the body types in Japanese games (they prefer "Roman style" bodies)

• Anime eyes are no good

• Westerners prefer movie-like performances, while Japanese prefer theatrical style performances

• Japanese games are aimed at the hardcore (whereas in the West, something like Call of Duty, which certainly has hardcore players, is aimed at the masses)

• Japanese games seem to be stuck in the past (and thus, smaller budgets mean Japanese game devs have lost their technical edge)

This is painting with mighty big brush strokes! And of course, there are many exceptions to these comments, whether that's Nintendo or big titles from Capcom or Konami.

なぜ日本製のゲームは以前より北米で苦戦するようになったのか? [Famitsu]

Photo: Junko Kimura/Getty Images


    That wasn't particularly in depth as I was hoping.

    My personal opinion for Japanese games' weaknesses is simply because they still have so many cumbersome and outdated design elements that gaming has truly evolved away from.

    I played a whole lot of Yakuza 3 recently and I loved every minute but thee is seriously some annoying crap in it. Like not offering restart options for minigames, having arbitrary requirements for win/lose, letting you keep your mistakes for things that have no bearing on the other, requiring long time-consuming actions to perform incredibly trivial and maintenance tasks...

    While it appears western games seem to care more about a streamlined experience, Japanese games appears to care more about making a 'game' as in a system of actions/rules. Each has it's own drawbacks but I can totally see why the mainstream west stays away.
    except for Nintendo, they seem to have learned something.

    I'd agree with these comments. There are a few exceptions (MGS for example) but the vast majority of the games that come out of Japan are very dated in terms of game design. On the whole, their industry has not really kept pace with western devs. More than likely its the budgets as mentioned above, but I'd say there is also alot of creative stagnation there.

    9/10 times I'd go with the japanese game.

    Just me.

    I think it's just a simple matter of Japan favoring, and being good at 2D graphics, which means they were left behind when the industry moved to 3D polygons, which many American studios took to rather quickly.

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