Keiji Inafune believes Japanese publishers don't give developers the opportunity to show their own strengths, and the industry is suffering for it. The former head of Capcom's R&D department spoke with Gamasutra about why he thinks Japan has relatively few independent developers and what his company Comcept is doing to empower creators.
Inafune, who left his position at Capcom in 2010, has spoken frequently on the state of Japanese games. He said many of the problems in the industry can be traced back to overbearing publishers who expect developers to simply follow instructions without deviating into original thought.
"With outfits in the US and Europe, it's more of a case of the developer really trying to make their own successes and reap the rewards — that's why you see inspired people entering developers instead of publishers, and that's why it's easier for developers to build up people pretty quickly," Inafune said. "Meanwhile, in Japan, the idea's often that you enter a developer because you couldn't join a publisher, so it's harder for them to attract people."
He said Japanese games will only become more competitive in the global market when their developers feel more energy, and to do that they must be better rewarded for taking the initiative and creating high-quality projects.
"There are a lot of very talented creators in Japan, but often they aren't in a position to use that talent, or the developer they're working for hasn't noticed that talent," he said. "So I think there needs to be a system that allows them to be more creative in their work; that would help them a lot."
Inafune's Comcept creates ideas for games, then recruits external developers from Japan and abroad to translate that concept into an end product. Its first collaboration, Soul Sacrifice for PlayStation Vita, is in development by Marvelous AQL for release in Japan this winter and at an undisclosed time in North America and Europe.