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GungHo: Japanese Games "Are In Their Darkest Times Right Now"

Get out. No way. Really?

The Japanese video game industry has long since been eclipsed by the Western side of the industry, at least in terms of overall worldwide sales and general popularity. Japanese designers have tried multiple methods of returning to prominence, but none really seem to have worked.

Most fans have been saying the same thing- Stick to what you're good at, because that's what we liked in the first damn place. And now, in speaking with Gamasutra, Killer is Dead developer GungHo Online Entertainment repeats that sentiment. President Kazuki Morishita said Japanese teams just need to focus on making "good games," which makes a ton of sense, doesn't it?

"Let's say that Japanese games are in their darkest times right now. There's no way to go but up, if that's the case. In terms of making games, I think Japanese developers need to go back to basics about why they make games in the first place, which is to make good games."

GungHo recently acquired Grasshopper Manufacture, the company responsible for critically revered titles like Shadows of the Damned and No More Heroes. Studio boss Goichi "Suda51" Suda is one of the biggest names in Japanese development today, and he has never pulled any punches or compromised his Japanese-centric principles when it comes to his games. Maybe other developers could learn from that.

I know! Suda51 should go work for Square Enix. Yeeeaaaaaah... Okay, maybe that doesn't fit.

Tags: gungho games, japanese video games, japanese gaming industry

5/17/2013 9:40:04 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (19 posts)

WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 11:26:48 PM
Reply

Suda 51 has got to be my favorite Japanese gaming honcho, he gives strictly no f*cks about how his games could appeal to westerners.

As much as I agree with the sentiment that they need to just go back to what they do best (especially with JRPGs) I think we have to start accepting the fact that the market has changed and appreciation for Japanese style games has waned outside of Japan. The torture and murder of Final Fantasy has kind of capped that fabled age of gaming.

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Snaaaake
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 12:57:08 AM
Reply

It's funny how Japanese developers try their absolute worst to win over the western audience.

You don't see the likes of EA and Activision tried to capitalise on the success of JRPGs back in the 90s.

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Beamboom
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 3:02:46 AM

That is a wonderfully good point.

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shadowscorpio
Sunday, May 19, 2013 @ 5:54:41 AM

What boggles my mind is that japanese devs were appealing more to the west when they were making japanese style games.

Bottom line is: the west has western style games covered.

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Beamboom
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 3:02:10 AM
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Well, they could always try with even bigger boobs and greater bounce physics, can't they?
</sarcasm >

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Snaaaake
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 3:39:28 AM

I certainly wouldn't mind big boobs in video games.
I'm a healthy guy after all, oh wait, recently found out I have HBP!

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Dukemz_UK
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 3:53:16 AM

And how exactly do bouncing b's affect HBP?

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Snaaaake
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 5:20:34 AM

Well I was making a joke there.

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Dukemz_UK
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 8:45:40 AM

So was I dude :-)

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 12:21:27 PM

Bouncing boobs would make your blood pressure higher and more dangerous. As they do with my BP.

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KidPresentable
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 7:38:38 AM
Reply

I call BS on this. Just because a guy is in the video game business doesn't mean he is more informed than anyone else. Honestly, he probably doesn't get to get his hands on as many titles as other serious gamers.

There are a TON of great Japanese games that stick to tradition like Folklore, Valkyria Chronicles, Xenoblade, 999, Ni No Kuni, Gravity Rush, Yakuza series, Radiant Historia, Ghost Trick, Blue Dragon, Infinite Undiscovery and a few outside of the 'norm' like Demon's/Dark Souls, Dragon's Dogma, Vanquish, Binary Domain, that are right next to the West offers. And then singular games like Metal Gear Solid 4 that eclipse the vast majority of what the West has produced this entire gen. Great studios make great games, period. East and West. Yes, there have been a few titles that have taken a bit of a western approach, but it's certainly not an epidemic. The West may produce and sell more titles, and on a tally sheet that will look mighty impressive, but I don't see this as being indicative of the East 'losing their way'.

I find it ironic when I hear people say that the Japanese devs should stick to what they do, then in the same breath say they hate Nintendo for catering to their fans and not being more Western, even though Nintendo produces games that are very high in quality, critical acclaim AND sales. So, which is it?

Last edited by KidPresentable on 5/18/2013 7:42:02 AM

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ProfPlayStation
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 10:39:00 AM

They're rather separate problems. Obviously there are good Japanese games being made, but it is a bare trickle compared to even the last (PS2) generation. The elephant in the room is that many Japanese developers/publishers decided that they needed to copy Western styles in order to sell lots of units. The fallacy in that reasoning is the same as it is with Western developers who make Call of Duty clones, trying to draw the CoD audience. Call of Duty fans play Call of Duty; not copies. Western gaming fans play Western-made games; not poor imitations from people who don't understand what makes them fun.

All of the Japanese games you listed succeeded because they were doing things their own way, and not chasing after someone else crying "Me too, me too!" Then there are companies like SquareEnix who bought Eidos and basically threw in the towel for making their own stuff. They're not doing very well now, are they? The lesson is: Do what you do well. Stick to what has always worked for you.

Since you brought up Nintendo, they have the opposite problem. Yes, they cater to their fanbase, but it is an ever shrinking fanbase. Nintendo was the bomb in the beginning because they were constantly bringing out new ideas, new concepts and new IPs for their games. That was their talent: Having a great VARIETY of quality games. What of today? Now we only have Mario, Zelda, and couple other rickety old IPs that they occasionally trot out. When was the last time Nintendo bet on a big, new internal IP for consoles? Animal Crossing on the GameCube? They have talented people working for them, but reign in their innovation and force them down the narrow path of Mario, et al. My two favorite games on the Wii--Disaster: Day of Crisis and Xenoblade--were both from a Nintendo-owned second-party developer, yet Nintendo didn't want to bring either of them to the States because....reasons? We only got Xenoblade because of a massive fan outcry at the stupidity of the situation. Nintendo can make great games, but I, and many others, am sick and tired of Mario. Do something new.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 12:22:37 PM

Very few of the games you listed stuck to tradition.

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KidPresentable
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 12:56:44 PM

You say 'many' Japanese devs, I just don't see it. You could say Resident Evil 6 but, in truth, that game was going down an action path since 4, when they gave you TONS of ammo, upgradeable weapons, and a mysterious stranger just showed up to sell you stuff. You could say Front Mission: Evolved but that was a spinoff made by a decent dev, the result, just a decent game. Can you list ten games from the East that all of a sudden switched gears (pun intended) to an action oriented style?

I agree there are quite a few games I would have liked to see here from Nintendo. Dynamic Slash, Another Code: R, Fatal Frame are some. But I understand that this is a business, sometimes hard decisions must be made, and sometimes it sucks for the U.S. gamer who loves Japanese games. I could lay the same claim on Sony. They weren't going to bring Demon's Souls over. It had to be picked up by those absolute geniuses at Atlus, with NO support from Sony. Same with White Knight Chronicles 2. But SCEA will run a metric crap ton of ads with Jerry Lambert trying to sell me on that mediocre Socom 4. I have all of the Operation: Rainfall games, I'm happy with each one of them. I'd like to see an increased investment and worldwide promotion of any game from Monolith Soft. I love those guys. I hope with Iwata taking over NoA we will see that. Nintendo has brought over games like Sin and Punishment 2, Wario: Smooth Moves, and Endless Ocean, Hotel Dusk.

Does Nintendo in- house need to create new IPs? Not really. Nintendo does seem keen on backing outside developer's ideas, like Lego City, Bayonetta 2, and Wonderful 101, which is a great thing. I don't mind that new gameplay ideas are put into existing IPs. It keeps them fresh from a gameplay standpoint, which is the most important thing. It's not as if someone has an idea for a Heavy Rain type of drama, and they say "No! put it in the new Mario!" Though, an interactive drama starring Mario would be interesting. What you see in Mario Galaxy, is a bunch of little ideas that, alone, may not have been much to build a game on, but together make a game packed with new ideas on every level, much to the delight of fans.

Nintendo has reached the mountaintop on the IP front. They have multiple IPs that have stayed alive for decades with an army of old and new fans who are interested. They publish the Marios and Zeldas, but the also back them with the Smashes, Donkey Kongs, Metroids, Kirbys, Kid Icaruses, Fire Emblems, Punchouts, Star Foxes, and F-Zeroes. And when they've backed new IPs you get greatness. Goldeneye, Eternal Darkness, etc. You dislike Mario? That's wholly irrelevant when you look at the sales numbers. New Super Mario Bros 2 has sold nearly 6 million in 10 months. Super Mario 3d Land. 8.5 million. Even Luigi's Mansion 2 is about to break 2 million in sales after being on the market for only two months. There are plenty of people who want those games and giving people what they want is the very first order of any smart company. That is the reason why Nintendo has only lost money 1 year out of the last 30.

Last edited by KidPresentable on 5/18/2013 1:00:16 PM

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KidPresentable
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 1:02:26 PM

By 'tradition', I mean not selling out to cater solely to western audiences. Western action audience, to be more specific.

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___________
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 7:52:36 AM
Reply

another day, another no sh*t sherlock fart in the wind!

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Nas Is Like
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 10:33:41 AM
Reply

Well saying "just make good games" is not very easy to do + is subjective. Japanese game developers are trying, I'm sure, but they're behind on today's trends.

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Teddie9
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 11:08:15 PM

Precisely how I feel about this.

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Looking Glass
Monday, May 20, 2013 @ 1:59:14 PM

@ Nas Is Like

I think you're missing the point. The point is that it would perhaps be best for Japanese developers to stop trying. Specifically stop trying to follow trends. Instead it may be best for them to stick to what they do best and what made them popular in the first place. Some Japanese developers are actually doing this and others not quite so much.

And while Morishita doesn't seem to make it clear exactly what he means by "good games" I get the impression that he means games that the developers themselves think are good as opposed to games that other people think are good.

The overall message to Japanese developers seems to be "Do your own thing. Don't try to do someone else's thing because the chances are that someone else will be able to do it better". Or something like that.

This is one of the things I like about developers such as Quantic Dream, Media Molecule, Gust, and others. They've proven that you actually can buck trends and do your own thing and still be successful.

Last edited by Looking Glass on 5/20/2013 2:04:13 PM

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