Is it game over for the Japanese games industry? Keiji Inafune, known for his work on the Mega Man and Resident Evil series, proclaimed a few years back that the video games industry in Japan is dead, and at the Game Developers Conference this year, he outlined why and what developers need to do to get themselves back into the global market.
At the time when he made the bold statement, he was still at Capcom, and believed that it was one of the few companies that kept up with Western games and their standards. He said that Capcom strived to develop games with a global audience and vision in mind, but the reason he said those harsh words was because he also saw what was lacking on a broader level, and wanted to light a fire under the industry before it was too late.
Inafune stressed that there's been a loss of desire to want to win and come out on top.
"Back in the days we were used to winning and success," he said, through a translator."However at some point these winners became losers and not realizing, acknowledging or accepting that fact has led to the tragic state of Japanese games. Refusing to broaden and expand to a global level, or view the big picture, the Japanese game industry has become a frog in a well or very close minded."
"In order to win you must acknowledge your loss and prepare to start over," says the designer.
Inafune lamented that when he travels overseas, he feels that Japanese games are more like a "blast from the past" and noted that there are rarely any new IPs coming from Japan. He recalled his time on Mega Man Legends, where it was an extremely tough project to produce. After that he moved onto Resident Evil 2, and saw what a difference it was to work on an already established franchise.
Having to pitch Mega Man Legends to the press was extremely difficult, and no one at the time was interested.
"The treatment and the attitude between the two was so different. And I thought to myself, 'If I worked on a title like this from the get go, this would be common practice, playing the producer role would seem pretty easy,'" he says.
But he realized that, "If you don't get your hands dirty you'll never be able to understand the nitty gritty details."
Above: Inafune promised that he will work on something new
He has learned that establishing a brand is a lot of work, and that too many developers have relied on brands that worked and have taken the easy route instead of taking risks and trying something new. He used Apple as an example of a company that didn't just stick to personal computers, but that under the vision of Steve Jobs was able to expand that brand and business into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.
"When times are good and you have extra money its easy to take chances and make mistakes," Inafune says. "However that never leads to true success. It's probably because you're not determined and not fully prepared, when times are rough who is willing to take on the hardships? As humans we face these situations all the time. No matter the situation, those who succeed will never take the easy route. It's because they know success comes after hard work, even if they didn't know, they feel it. That's what it means to win. What we're missing in Japan is the desire to win and the tenacity to succeed."
Later in the presentation Inafune talked about the hardships regarding running his own company, and that, "Nothing can compare to the joy and happiness after overcoming hardships."
Comcept, Inc is currently working on King of Pirates for the Nintendo 3DS, social games and a Vita title, which he wasn't supposed to announce but jokingly asked the audience to forget everything that he said. He promised that he will introduce a new hero, which is pictured above.