The sad state of the Japanese games industry as told by Keiji Inafune

Wired‘s Chris Kohler recently interviewed Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune about his thoughts on the state of the Japanese games industry. Inafune has been very outspoken about his perception of Japanese developers, stating “our game industry is finished.” The designer has been trying to spur change within Japan, encouraging developers to admit that their output is not what it used to be and urging the fundamental perspective shift necessary to catch back up.

[Y]ou say that you like Japanese games, but you don’t like them now, right? You like the old ones. You like the new ones sometimes, but you always liked the old ones, right? Say there’s a movie director you really like. You don’t like his new movies but you’ll go to see them anyway. It’s the same thing. Sometimes it’s a hit. But back in the day it was nothing but hits. Since you’re a fan youll watch them, but non-fans won’t see them.

You’re being too nice to Japanese games. You should be harsh when you feel the standards aren’t living up to what we had in the past. You should tell the truth about Japanese games not being what they used to be. Unless they get that criticism, Japanese game creators are just sitting on the glories of the past. They won’t get the message that the Western audience is turning its back on us.

Inafune feels that Japan has been declining and remaining in denial, both in terms of their degrading quality and the swelling wave of social and mobile games. Inafune has been making forays into the handheld space, confident that this is the way to reach new markets and reconnect with a market that’s slowly been slipping away.

[R]ight now, we’re looking at Facebook and social games. Because Nintendo has all these chracters that are appealing to everybody, they know they could win easily if they entered this social-mobile space. If Nintendo was a company with no money, they would have done it already. But they have so much money they’re trying to come up with a new way, a new style of winning.

Inafune’s strongest suggestion is the idea that Japanese developers should (first admit that they have gone astray and then) seek help–partnership–from Western developers. He believes that Western developers have been progressively changing themselves and the landscape of gaming itself, a shift that Japan has been unwilling to keep up with.

It’s impossible for Japan to win with just Japanese power. Everybody in Japane should work with foreign developers. Not just paying them money and letting them make whatever they think is good, but really working together, coming up with new ideas together and discussing how to make something brand new. That would result in a chemical reaction in a good way.

As someone who loves games, this is definitely something I would love to see. Western and Japanese game development have always been defined by their separate approaches to the entire subject. There’s a reason that RPGs and JRPGS are separate genres. It’s a bit strange to think that this suggestion is even possible since there is such a strong dichotomy between the two philosophies, but the synthesis could mean a truly beautiful renaissance for gamers everywhere.