Smash Bros. Creator On Why Japanese Games Take So Long To Make

Smash Bros. Creator on Why Japanese Games Take so Long to Make

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U are scheduled for release this year and can't come out soon enough. Why does Japanese game development take so long? In his semi-weekly column for Weekly Famitsu, Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai addressed a fan's concerns directly.

A fan wrote to Sakurai: "It appears that the time it takes to develop a game differs between Japan and other countries, so why do people say that Japan takes a lot of time on development?"

Sakurai responded:

Whether it's domestic or international, development speed is a case-by-case scenario, so I feel this may be a biased opinion. I think the Yakuza team is quite fast considering the scale of their games, and some foreign games can take over 5 years from initial proposal to the actual product release.

However, the fact that someone asks this does seem to indicate that it's not completely unfounded. If I were to guess, it seems that foreign studios have the appearance of a stricter product schedule and organisation. Then again, in some cases, even if the development period is long, the development staff can be small, so the entire picture is a mystery.

Also, the time between announcement and release does not necessarily equal the development period. In most cases, when development actually started is never publicly announced.

In any case, whether it's cost-effective or not is what's important. Whether the development period is long or short, the real questions is if the man-hours spent can bring about a profit or results. Of course, this is also a case-by-case scenario.

Sakurai has definitely been putting in the man-hours for the new Super Smash Bros. — so much so that apparently the condition of his right arm has spread to his left. "The tendon sheath inflammation symptoms in my left forearm are especially hard to deal with." Sakurai writes. "I've been moving the controller as gently as possible. And losing at Smash Bros...."

I want the new Super Smash Bros. as soon as possible, but I want Sakurai to get better more. Development of Japanese games may seem to take longer than other countries, but I can stand to wait a little longer for a game so long as its developer stays healthy.

ファミ通.com [ファミ通.com]


    To me the major irritation is that we don't really know that much about Japanese game development in general. If it's because of language/culture barriers, I don't know but I've always gotten the impression that Japanese devs are so much more 'secretive' than their western counterparts.

    Most Japanese games just kind of 'appear'. 9 times out of 10 I couldn't tell you the name of the studio that mad it, how long it's been in development, how big the development team is, who's in charge, what engine they're using and especially annoying is all the other little bits of 'making-of' material that's pretty common these days for western devs.


      I suspect the reputation for slow Japanese development is largely due to three factors:

      1) Slow or vaporware high profile games: FF13, Gran Turismo 5, The Last Guardian, Versus XIII and so on. You can add Persona 5 to that list, because it wasn't announced until recently but people have been waiting for it for like 5 years at this point. There's hundreds of Japanese games developed and released in good time and order but people remember the big ones.

      2) The Japanese tend to announce their projects earlier than the US gaming publishers, so it's more likely for a cancellation or delay to occur after the announcement. Something like Star Wars 1313 being cancelled after being announced and hyped has become very rare in the US and happened in unusual circumstances. They all learned the lesson of games like Duke Nukem Forever.

      3) There's still a certain amount of reverence for individual creators in Japanese games: Sakurai, Miyamoto, Ueda, Kojima etc. They get to be artistes a bit more, at the expense of rigorous schedules and business management. I think this mostly died in US game development thanks to John Romero and Daikatana.

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