Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Japanese Games Slipping Because Of Marketing, Technology

In an interview with Nintendo Power, Final Fantasy developer Akitoshi Watasu put forth some of his ideas as to why Japanese developed games have been marginalized in the eyes of the global market. He claims that part of the problem is the marketing abilities of Japanese publishers who are caught up with "costs and market trends", and also criticizes developers who are not up to date with the latest technological trends.
"On top of this, developers need to take on a project with the confidence and strength to stick with their vision. Everything I mentioned here applies to me personally, as well, and they are all things I would like to bring to fruition with my next project."
There is some degree of truth to this, but there's one aspect to this I feel Mr. Watasu missed: the cultural aspect. By nature and historically speaking, Japan is loath to adjust to outside forces; they would rather wall up than change their ways of doing things just because the Western world says so. We're seeing this with the narrower focus of Japanese companies like Namco Bandai. While it's true that Japanese games aren't as popular now in the West as they are natively, most developers - at least ones that have the power to make these calls - are perfectly fine with this.

Please mind that I do not think this is a bad thing. I love Japanese developed games. I also love Japanese culture, to the point where I've taught and am teaching myself Japanese (all of the translations I've provided on this site are mine personally, unless directly cited in an article). I'm not the standard otaku; I'd be just as interested in visiting Hokkaido or Tokushima as I would be visiting Shibuya. I think most people who like Japanese developed games are accepting of these cultural differences, as exemplified by the pushback Sega received when they censored Yakuza 3 for the West. The bigger issue is that the things that Japan are selling are bigger niches than ever before, as the focus has been more on fluff and "moe" themes. This is indicative not only in video games (titles like Record of Agarest War), but in other Japanese elements like Anime (K-On!) as well.

Mr. Watasu is correct in his thinking, but "adapting" to more worldwide (read: Western) trends runs the risk of alienating the fans that are currently keeping the Japanese game industry alive, including the entirety of Japan.

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