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Castlevania's Igarashi exits Konami; the Japanese indie revolution is in full swing

The indie scene is, in a word, bustling. A quick skim of Kickstarter or the front page of Steam makes a compelling case for the rise of indie success leading up to 2014, which shows no sign of slowing down. And it's not made up entirely of new faces, either--AAA devs have been leaving big publishers to form small studios for a few years now, resulting in games like Tiny Brains, Mark of the Ninja, and Gone Home, made by developers who previously worked on Dead Space, Assassin's Creed, and Far Cry 3 respectively. Now, it looks like the Japanese development community might be joining in on the indie uprising.

Today, it was revealed that Tetsuya Mizuguchi left Q Entertainment quietly late last year, and was followed by chief executive Shuji Utsumi. Mizuguchi co-founded the company in 2003, served as the director of Child of Eden, and produced Every Extend Extra and Meteos. Q Entertainment was recently invested in by Sanyo Chemical Industries (a company usually involved in plastics and stuff), which some say is related to the duo's departure. It's possible that the two game creators didn't like the fate of their business being controlled by a chemical company.

And they're not alone; Koji Igarashi, the producer of the Castlevania series, has announced that he left Konami to start his own small development studio where he hopes to have more control over his games. "I hope all the gamers and fans who have supported me in the past will join me in being excited about what comes next," he said in a public statement. "Wish me luck."

It's starting to look like a trend, isn't it? Especially when you mix in Keiji Inafune leaving Capcom to develop two separate spiritual successors to Mega Man, and Yasumi Matsuno jumping from Square-Enix to Level 5 to Playdek to create the new tactical RPG Unsung Story. Others have made the jump as well, following Western developers' recent trend of ditching their publishers and existing franchises in favor of creative freedom.

This shouldn't come as a surprise--Japanese publishers are notorious for their refusal to take risks, and developers are often prevented from trying new things. After Inafune left Capcom, he claimed that the company's policy was very anti-new IPs, with a mandate that 70-80% of the titles produced should be sequels to previous franchises. He said that he defied the company's wishes by developing Lost Planet and Dead Rising, games that he thinks "saved the company."

This sort of mindset is the kind that leads to influential figures like Inafune (and Igarashi and Matuno) to want to go indie, and that's… not a bad thing, honestly. Sure, it's unfortunate for the big publishers (and part of a larger, fairly regular cycle), but the exodus of creative minds from corporate structures is actually not an unhealthy sign for the industry.

While it's a shame to see these developers exit the companies that made them famous, it's exciting to see what they might come up with, and I'm personally excited to see all the stuff they'll do when no one's holding them back. For too long, Japanese developers have been a victim of their publishers' hesitance to take risks, but with these figures jumping into the indie scene we might see the indie revolution go global in the best way possible.

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10 comments

  • Relayer71 - March 18, 2014 4:46 p.m.

    I think it's great, I'm a fan of Igarashi, Inafune, and Matsuno, and if their creativity is being stifled at the big studios and they can leave, then more power to them. Doesn't always work out too well for them though. I'm reminded of Hironobu Sakaguchi. Although he made a couple of good games with Mistwalker (Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey), I recall reading they didn't sell that well. And I recall reviews weren't glowing either. In his case though, he wasn't trying anything new or different but rather sticking to his roots. I think that's because Development companies have fans of their own. I wonder if those games had "SQUARE ENIX" on them if they would have sold better, perhaps been better received. Sounds silly, but it is probable. Many fans likely associate a series with the game company and not an individual developer. Anyway, wish these guys success.
  • alllifeinfate - March 18, 2014 2:27 a.m.

    It's quite a treat to see the eventual outcomes of these new studios and their projects, but the public should set their expectation to a lower level since the developers are operating at a lower level...
  • Vonter - March 18, 2014 10:52 a.m.

    ...graphically. If the end game is good that'll be all it matters, maybe even a lower price to boot because of lower developing cost.
  • GOD - March 18, 2014 1:07 a.m.

    And then ten years from now we'll see this emerging trend of indie developers joining up with large companies to create huge games of quality and scope. And we shall call them AAAA games.
  • BladedFalcon - March 17, 2014 7:24 p.m.

    Further proof that AAA is crumbling, something I've been clamoring about for years. And really, the announcement that IGA is leaving Konami actually makes me very happy. I mean, I love Castlevania as a series, but seeing how IGA wasn't able to make a REAL 2D Castlevania since 2008, (No, I don't count Harmony of Despair, fuck that game.) it was becoming rather evident that Konami had no interest in letting IGA do what he does best. So this is great news really, because I feel like IGA's talents were being wasted in these couple years, and now he can have free reign whatever he wants. And based in his comments, it seems that he's gonna be doing what us fans also want him to do... So basically, I'm really looking forward to see his MansionVania: Sonata of Darkness Kickstarter announcement any time now ;)
  • Vonter - March 17, 2014 4:36 p.m.

    *Sigh* I suppose David Cox was right that 2D Castlevania is dead. I don't see them making another portable one without Iga, even more because the last one sucked big time. [In comparison to other 2D Castlevanias, the game by its own was ok]. Well I think its coming but who will leave Nintendo this year? Will it be Reggie, Iwata, or maybe next year Aonuma or Miyamoto after they finish their next projects. Makes me feel old. Ips shouldn't die before their fans... :´(
  • Vonter - March 17, 2014 4:48 p.m.

    Now for wishful thinking; what if Iga makes a new 2D Metroid? Sadly things that cool only happen on fairytales.
  • BladedFalcon - March 17, 2014 7:28 p.m.

    Meh, I'd rather he focused on creating his own IP if he's gonna make another Metroidvania. Many of the ideas he introduced with symphony of the Night and the Sorrow games were awesome, but not expanded upon properly maybe because of Konami's fear that it might not feel "Castlevania" enough. Stuff like taking the souls of monsters and powers increasing the more souls of the same type you absorb were pretty neat, and I'd like to see that return in an IP that can be allowed to be more creatively diverse than Catlevania was. Seriously though, don't be sad by this, it had been 6 years since the last true 2D Metroidvania game, it was clear the concept was dead in Konami's eyes, IGA just made the wise choice to break free instead of wasting away there as he had been.
  • Vonter - March 17, 2014 8:26 p.m.

    Well I'm more sad with the current events because he hasn't been the only one as of late of wanting to leave a big company and also in this atmosphere of layoffs it doesn't paint a good image for this business. Well is kind of sad imagining they put Castlevania to rest like with Bomberman, Goemon, Gradius, Silent Hill, Contra. P.S. Btw the LoS 2 is ok, ironically they addressed most of my worries with MoF, but on the other hand the Modern setting felt uninspired and "lazy". I like they took a concept of SotN and put deeper meaning. In the end, IMO it was like the Yoshi's New Island in the sense that these game make the last two stronger games because it added sense to some things, but still didn't seem to know how to end. [I try to be as vague as possible because I don't know if you have already play it].
  • Divine Paladin - March 17, 2014 5:47 p.m.

    Nintendo has given some pretty good freedom to Aonuma, so I don't know if he'd be inclined to leave them so quickly. Miyamoto COULD retire soon, but he's "retired" at least once in the past, so who knows if it's gonna happen (given his love for the company and the fact that even rumors of him retiring lead to stock drops, I doubt he'll be going until Nintendo is back on more stable ground). Iwata or Reggie are more likely. I'd vote Reggie because fuck Reggie. I think NoA would be better off with a less-pompous figurehead. I have a lot of respect for Iwata, because in spite of a bad last two years, he's refused to consider layoffs for the sake of keeping up developer morale, taken two large pay cuts, etc. The guy is, IMO, a class act as far as gaming names go.

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