Japanese Developers Giving In To Western Stereotypes
So Capcom boss Keiji Inafune really thinks the Japanese game industry is locked in a downward spiral. But while I agree that Japan should do something to adapt in an admittedly shifting environment, I also believe they're quite simply trying too hard. Either that, or they're giving in to untrue (or at least partially untrue) stereotypes.
We see the evidence everywhere. Square-Enix's upcoming lineup reads like something from EA and their flagship franchise, Final Fantasy, appeared for the first time on a Microsoft/American console this year. Many will also claim that the altered gameplay style was to appease the more action-oriented Westerners. Then there's Metal Gear Solid: Rising, which takes the legendary stealth series and makes it look like Ninja Gaiden. And speaking of NG, Itagaki teamed up with THQ to work on Devil's Third, a game that combines Japanese-style sword-slashing and third-person action elements from common Western shooters. The evidence of Japanese developers desperately trying to cater to Westerners is everywhere; take the intro of Nier, for instance. They actually opted to lead off with a poorly voiced, profanity-laden rant, which not only immediately paints the game in a bad light - which is unfortunate, because it's actually really fun - but also sort of sums up what Japanese designers think of Western gamers.
But even if they're wrong and even if they continue on this path, I have yet to understand why this requires them to abandon their very own fans. Has anyone even bothered to ask Japanese gamers what they think about these obvious changes from their favorite game companies? It's not like Japanese game makers are trying to drag in new fans; it's like they're only trying to focus on the West while almost entirely ignoring their very own countrymen. Why can't the two styles simply play nice? Why can't we take masters from East and West and just toss them in a room together more often? Maybe then the Japanese devs will realize that not all Westerners require Call of Duty; that we can really love stuff like Heavy Rain; that we love great games like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves that don't reek of cowboy-like bravado, intense violence, a combination of stupid and fast gameplay, dark overtones, and huge amounts of profanity...the very elements Japanese overdo when trying to make Westerners buy their products.
You know, it's interesting to compare this movement to the time when Western game developers couldn't possibly match up to the best efforts of the Japanese. But I don't really remember if the West attempted to give in to Japanese stereotypes and make similar-style games; actually, the way I remember it, I think they sort of presented their own style and atmosphere and just kept working on it. But either way, if the two "opposing" sides can't find a way to work together and cater to both Western and Eastern tastes, and Japan continues to stigmatize all Western gaming fans, then yeah...I guess Japan's game industry is in trouble.
One final note to the Japanese game companies: the average age of a gamer in the US is about 34 years old. ...we all grew up with your stuff.
6/22/2010 9:20:27 PM Ben Dutka