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Itagaki: Japanese Devs Love Games But Can't Make Them

Tomonobu Itagaki never has any trouble speaking his mind.

But his Japanese countrymen may not like what he has to say. The controversial designer was pretty blunt in speaking to Gamasutra, saying his current partnership with THQ proves that US game executives know what they're doing. THQ boss Danny Bilson is a multi-talented guy so Itagaki says it's "really fun" to do business with him. Said Itagaki:

"Those guys know how to make games -- so they know it takes money to make good games. Those two aspects are on a direct one-to-one relationship. So I think it's very practical to be that way."

Japanese game bosses, on the other hand...

"In Japan, management people sort of pretend they know what they're doing. Those management people, they say, 'I love games,' but they don't know how to make them... It's the opposite of practical. It's not practical."

You can bet these comments will generate some bitter flak, but then again, that's sort of what Itagaki does. But before you flip out, let's not forget that other big-name Japanese designers have called out the Japanese gaming market, including ex-Capcom boss Keiji Inafune and even the MGS master, Hideo Kojima.

Tags: itagaki, video games, japanese games, games industry

6/9/2011 12:10:53 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (46 posts)

Highlander
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 12:24:38 PM
Reply

I suspect Itagaki has burned so many bridges now that he simply doesn't care any more. As for what he's saying, I think his generalization goes way too far. I think it definitely applies to some organizations but not others. I'd agree, for example, with his analysis if it were said in regard to SE, but perhaps not Level 5 - for example.

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Temjin001
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 12:32:22 PM

Well, while he definitely rags on his peers that are not part of his kin, he usually lays the lip service on thick with his business partners.

He's gone on record making very favorable claims in response to KINECT, MS and now THQ.

Granted all of those instances could be counted on one hand where his other negative sentiments couldn't be counted on 5 hands =)

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Akuma07
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 6:04:54 PM

What he is saying does make alot of sense though.

How many japanese devs are making awesome games these days...barely any.

They have let their competition with the western market get way out of control, to the point where they lost focus.

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Highlander
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 9:16:21 PM

Whether it makes sense for some or not, it doesn't apply to all developers. Itagaki is making a scornful generalization about his peers in Japan. There's no question in my mind that it applies to some, but I'm just as sure it does not apply to all.

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jimmyhandsome
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 12:25:01 PM
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... THQ makes GOOD games???

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tridon
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 12:58:22 PM

I think THQ has REALLY picked up their A-game this generation. Rather than only being known for wrestling games and kids' games now, they're trying their hardest to start up new franchises that, while seeming flawed at first, have tons of promise. Darksiders was a great title with a sequel on the way, MMA is stronger with THQ's UFC series than with EA's MMA and Homefront has tons of potential. I'm excited to see what the future of THQ holds.

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Claire C
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 1:00:43 PM

Darksiders, Saints Row & Red Faction Guerrilla come to mind.

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Alienange
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 1:18:01 PM

Everyone needs to play Darksiders. That game is great. At least THQ knows how to publish a good game.

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GuyverLT
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 1:36:02 PM

I can't wait to get hands on Darksider II and try my hand at playing as death.

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Temjin001
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 3:55:13 PM

I give a big thumbs up for darksiders as well. while it doesn't do anything to really redefine gaming, it provides an awesome old school action/adventure experience meaty in the play of it's respective genre.

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somethingrandom
Friday, June 10, 2011 @ 12:33:08 AM

Titan Quest?? Come on! PC game.. but it was really good!

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Temjin001
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 12:27:03 PM
Reply

Haha I love Itagaki's bold against the grain attitude. It also helps that this guy has made some of my most cherished games.

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Claire C
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 1:02:47 PM

Yah! He's like Jaffe in that he doesn't give a f*** what he says. Always entertaining to listen to. =D

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Fane1024
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 6:54:13 PM

Just don't let him corner you in a booth, Claire. He'll try to stick his fingers in your mouth.

True story; he's a weird dude.

Itagaki, not Jaffe.



Last edited by Fane1024 on 6/9/2011 6:55:13 PM

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Claire C
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 7:09:59 PM

Make sure you brush your teeth, Fane. =)

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Lotusflow3r
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 12:45:18 PM
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Funny guy.

Fumito Ueda is also laughing.

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tridon
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 1:06:52 PM
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I can kinda see where Itagaki is coming from. I believe that Japanese companies could still make awesome games, but somewhere along the way they've lost focus and lost their way.

Looking at my PSOne collection and even my PS2 games, there was TONS of amazing games from Square-Enix, Capcom, Namco and more. This generation, though, what the hell happened? I swear that the only good S.E. games that I've played on the PS3 are the ones published through Eidos. Capcom is trying to Westernize all their popular series while also pi$$ing people off with multiple releases for each title and Namco is starting to follow the same suit by releasing trying to Westernize their titles (I'm looking at you, Ridge Racer).

The sad thing is that by making an Eastern series seem Western, it loses a lot of its originality. Japan is AMAZING at coming up with off-the-wall and innovative ideas for games and that is slowly starting to vanish. Yes, Western developers are clever too but games like Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed are making Japanese companies change their way of thought and that saddens me.

I hate thinking that by the time I have kids and they're old enough, everything will just be "aim and shoot". I'm glad we still have games like Metal Gear Solid, Vanquish, Demon's Souls... but they are dwindling.

Last edited by tridon on 6/9/2011 1:07:08 PM

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Beamboom
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 1:33:46 PM

"everything will just be 'aim and shoot'" -> I do not believe that! Not at all. As the market grows bigger the "subcultures" will be larger, making niche markets large enough to make the less popular genres profitable.

The easy action games will of course continue to dominate the sales charts, just like the Hollywood action movies will dominate the movie charts. But underneath there will be lots of growing and thriving niches that will enjoy a wide variety of quality games within their preferences.

I seriously believe so!


Last edited by Beamboom on 6/9/2011 1:35:25 PM

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tridon
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 3:01:09 PM

I don't want to believe it either but let's face it; the "aim and shoot" make a lot more money than something intelligent like Heavy Rain or Alan Wake. Even platformers are becoming a rarity these days. Money influences so who knows which direction the market will take.

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NiteKrawler
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 3:30:08 PM

Why did you place Assassin's Creed in with Call of Duty? And why would it be bad if Japanese devs took something from that series? AC is my personal favorite franchise.

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Fane1024
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 6:59:22 PM

Assassin's Creed, inFAMOUS, and Uncharted are all platformers, just ones updated to take advantage of advances in software technology.

@Nite

I think because it sells tons of copies, which is also why I mentioned it.



Last edited by Fane1024 on 6/9/2011 7:01:04 PM

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Beamboom
Friday, June 10, 2011 @ 5:14:19 AM

@tridon: The shooters at the top of the charts will make more money, yes.
But don't forget that the shooter that noone cared about will lose money - even possibly a *lot* of money. And the competition for the shooter top-5 list is *intense*!

And when, say, the rpg market has proven to be big enough to make good money for good titles, without even remotely the same amount of competition, well then it will make perfect sense from a business perspective to create a product for that market.

At least, that's what my limited business logic tells me...


Last edited by Beamboom on 6/10/2011 5:16:21 AM

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Alienange
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 1:08:26 PM
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I'm surprised at how right this guy is. Let's face it, bottlenecks are always at the top right? Japanese devs are being outdone this console generation in a large way. Time was they were pumping out games and we were gobbling them up. Now? They're barely even on the scene. I don't think it's a lack of desire or intelligence, it's just bad management. People at the top simply pretending to know what the gaming market wants.

Look at SE. They absolutely bombed at what they're best at, and now, now what are they doing to rectify the matter? They making FFXIII-2 more like Red Dead Redemption. Talk about hosers. It's not the guy who's drawing the graphics that's to blame because the graphics are awesome. It's management's fault.

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Underdog15
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 1:34:40 PM

"It's not the guy who's drawing the graphics that's to blame because the graphics are awesome. It's management's fault."

That statement right there has more truth in it than a computer that cannot lie.

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Clamedeus
Friday, June 10, 2011 @ 3:44:11 AM

@Underdog


Lies! Computers can lie, I open up a document and it says it's not there. But it is. :'(

/joke

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Scarecrow
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 1:37:10 PM
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The problem is that Japan has a well known history of copying everything American.

The Japanese were the ones who really brought v-games to a whole new level(NES,SNES, ps1).

But what happened this gen was that microsoft changed all that and tapped into the gun craze and graphical whores and completely changed what most gamers buy.

The Japanese were selling their games to us and they were happy.

But as soon as we started buying more of these FPSs and "real-life graphics" games they felt like "OMG we must not lose the Americans/British! Let's copy them and follow suit!"

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maxpontiac
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 1:42:25 PM
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Man, I can't stand when people run their mouths for the sake of running their mouths.

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tes37
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 5:06:06 PM

I usually sit during those times as well.

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Akuma07
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 6:09:08 PM

The world aint going to change, unless we run our mouths.

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maxpontiac
Friday, June 10, 2011 @ 11:22:53 AM

Akuma07, I am not saying that everyone should be quiet all the time.

I am simply pointing out the fact that some people shouldn't have a microphone (for example) put in front of their mouth.

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Deleted User
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 2:00:59 PM
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I'll say this:

I have bought about 10 games that were released in 2011 and only Yakuza 4 was from a Japanese developer. LBP2, Infamous 2, DiRT 3, LA Noire, MLB '11, Portal 2, Mass Effect 2, Tiger Woods '12: The Masters, Killzone 3, You Don't Know Jack and Dead Space 2 are the others.

I haven't looked forward to any Japanese game in a long time.

I don't know what has happened. They just aren't delivering anything exciting outside of fighting games. Square Enix's precipitous decline has hurt. It seems the good Japanese games were on the Wii. Gran Turismo seemed to take forever to release.

I wish I had answers.

I'm no fan of Itagaki but I can't argue with him. Where have the abundance of great Japanese games gone?

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SmokeyPSD
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 8:36:35 PM

They still live on the psp. Great games still exist they are just quite literally on a smaller scale.

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Kiryu
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 2:13:14 PM
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If money is the problem.don't worry the PSV will change that.

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Danny007
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 4:13:30 PM
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I find Tomonobu Itagaki to be an interesting person. Now, after reading this I know he is an honest person. He has gained my respect and I'm looking forward to his new game.

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Scarecrow
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 6:28:35 PM

Exactly how I feel.

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Excelsior1
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 4:21:23 PM
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there is no doubt that japan has seen an erosion of popularity in it's games, but i think that stems more from a lack of leadership than talent. i still think they know how to code for the systems better, and tend to release less buggy games. say what you want about re5, or ff13 but those games looked great, had no hd installs, and the load times were super short. that's a pretty impressive technical achievement.

it takes forever to travel between decks in me2 becuase of the insane load times. that's even with a massive hd install upfront.

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Highlander
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 4:32:41 PM

I agree, it's the leadership, not the talent that is lacking. SE illustrates that point perfectly.

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SmokeyPSD
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 8:46:08 PM

I found that that was his point

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Summoner
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 5:49:36 PM
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I think it's clear that the lack of great japanese games is a consequence of the fact that videogames became mainstream. you have to make a certain kind of games these days, not just to have success, but to even emerge. I've played shooters ever since Wolfenstein 3D came out, and I like them, but it's easy to see that they took over the videogames world, and to have success nowadays you have to struggle and come up with great and original concepts, to compete with shooters. Come on, there are plenty of FPSs that look all the same, it's ridiculous. RPGs are struggling to survive, and many of them look more like action games than RPGs.

Square Enix, for example, seems to ignore the fact that there are plenty of gamers who who'd love to get more turn based RPGs from them. They think they have to "westernize" their games.. and we're talking about a staple of the japanese videogames industry. Don't get me wrong, I don't think FFXIII was a bad game, but it just couldn't feel like a FF game, it felt just like many other games, not special at all. Going on this way they're going to kill variety in games, and one day we may end up having to choose only between the next Crysis, the next Call of Duty, and other similar games

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gangan19
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 7:06:10 PM
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It's not their fault, too much idiots can't get enough of low grade fps games.

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godsdream
Thursday, June 09, 2011 @ 11:28:50 PM
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I really miss good Japanese games. Or at least ports...

One thing I shall insist, as others, is that gamers nowdays are very different. Or lets say, have very special tastes *caugh!* CoD *caugh!*

Last edited by godsdream on 6/9/2011 11:31:36 PM

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___________
Friday, June 10, 2011 @ 4:08:49 AM
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so in other words there tight a$$es?
would make sense, i remember when NG2 was due to release he wanted a few extra months to polish the game but it was refused.
he may be a pompous stuck up arrogant a$$, but he sure knows how to make kick a$$ games!
and thats all that matters!

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Kevin5
Friday, June 10, 2011 @ 6:03:38 AM
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This dude is cool, i mean he wears his shades at night......what a guy....

I like the fact that he speaks his mind & annoys his rivals but i can't take him completely serious when he criticises Devil May Cry & Bayonetta, thinks Tekken is
sh!t compared to his wank fodder fighting game DOA & thinks Devil's Third will be the best thing since sliced bread.

I love Ninja Gaiden though & i do admire the counter system he used in DOA, but they're not as amazing as he makes them out to be.

Good article & an interesting read. I expect nothing less from this fellow.

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shadowscorpio
Friday, June 10, 2011 @ 1:13:56 PM
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Microsoft coming in and manipulating the Japanese devs to think that in the US Western type games/ideas were what was going to sell probably had something to do with this. I can't believe MS's influence didn't have anything to do with Japanese devs losing their stride.

Sorry for always bringing up Microsoft but hell. Look at a Japanese dev like SE. Besides FF13 and finally a ported version of Star Ocean 4, how many JRPG's have they given the PS3? How many have they given to the 360?
I'm sorry the PS3 has been out for over half a friggin' decade.

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Fane1024
Friday, June 10, 2011 @ 6:52:28 PM

Not quite. 4 years and 6 1/2 months.

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Mounce
Sunday, June 12, 2011 @ 4:20:59 PM
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He speaks his mind fiercely, it doesn't mean its because he's telling the truth, he's just using fierce confidence that's backed up by nothing but biased opinions to glorify his own 'skills', which frankly aren't anything special.

I don't know him personally so I can't say 100%, but I'd bet he's an egocentric prick.

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