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Japanese developers have fallen far, far behind this generation
Editorial by 
Editor
May 27, 2010, 20:11:23
 
They have? Does anyone else feel some serious cognitive dissonance when they hear this mantra repeated over and over again? I'd attribute it to the biases of Western gamers towards Western genres and games (that may or may not be set in the Wild West), but now it seems that many big-name Japanese developers (Inafune, Kojima, Wada, etc.) are just as eager to talk trash about their own community (excluding their products, of course).

Obviously, all of this rhetoric conveniently ignores the enormous global success of Nintendo. Because they're Nintendo! (lol, waggle)

Maybe it's my own bias towards quirky games with fantastical (and actually interesting) settings, but most of the games that have piqued my interest (Valkyria Chronicles, Demon Souls, 3D Dot Game Heroes, Earth Defense Force, etc.) or tripped my trigger this gen still have Japanese origins. Western devs are very good at iterating and expanding upon (and fusing) existing concepts, but I find that most Western games (especially retail games) still lack that certain 'soul' that I find in the best Japanese games - the idiosyncrasy, the superb visual and aural design, the charm and polish and refinement.

Not ALL of them, mind you. I've enjoyed quite a few Western games this gen. But I call bullshit on Japan's impotency and irrelevancy. It might be irrelevant to fratboys, but not to me.

I don't want Capcom to make Gears of War. I want them to make Capcom games. Square - to be honest, I don't even care what they do. Enix usually follows their own prerogative (as long as said prerogative involves Dragon Quest in some way). Konami and Namco have become kind of a joke...

Hmm, maybe there IS something there. It seems that many of yesteryear's Eastern giants have lost their way, lost their identity. Their mad scramble to keep up with the Joneseseses (after a late start) has only caused them to fall farther behind. But companies like Atlus and Marvelous and Platinum (and From Software?) have continued to forge their own path without pandering to perceived market needs. It would be nice if they were always financially rewarded for that, but...

Anyway, the audience for Japanese games may indeed be shrinking, but I still maintain that there is still plenty of great shit coming out of Japan. Just from different places.

Oh, and from Nintendo. But they don't count. (You know, because they're Nintendo.)

(This is my second attempt at this thread. The first, which was lost to the inter-ether, was far more eloquent and coherent. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

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Posted: 05/27/10, 20:11:23  - Edited by 
 on: 02/24/11, 23:13:13    
 
Why not sign up for a (free) account and create your own content?
 
I don't know about the whole "land of entrepreneurship" thing. Is it really what led to Western dominance on consoles? I doubt it. I can't even think of one wildly successful game created by such a new studio. Unless you count the Medal of Honor guys forming whatstheirname and making Call of Duty. But wasn't that a full studio leaving, and not just "one creative mind"? I think there's a difference.

Martin Hollis hasn't amounted to much since leaving Rare. Ron Gilbert made games for children after leaving Lucasarts (not that there's anything wrong with that). Tim Shafer hasn't had all that much success either. Since God of War, whatshisname (what's wrong with me today?) made a PSN game, Calling All Cars, that failed.

I'm sure there's an obvious success story I'm missing here, but my brain isn't working at full capacity apparently.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 22:32:09
It isn't just entrepreneurship, though. The rewards for success are much higher in the US of A. (Were Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert ever bankable, moneymaking names or just critical darlings?)

I think he was saying that only by striking out on their own (or inheriting a big company, maybe?) can Japanese devs reap a similar profit.

EDIT: Maybe I misread. But that kind of competitive capitalism (in the US) doesn't really require forming your own studio. Even within big companies, significant incentives exist.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 22:36:27  - Edited by 
 on: 05/28/10, 22:57:06
@Pandareus

I wonder how Armature's game will turn out.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 22:37:46
@achhibbar Do Western developers really take many risks in gameplay and genre though? A couple here and there, but most of the major Western developers are very, very predictable. Hell, EA basically publicly admitted that taking risks (which I'd assume meant releasing Mirror's Edge and Henry Hatsworth, lol) wasn't working and they were cutting back to their iterative franchises.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 22:41:09
When Lost Planet 2 debuted, console gamers cried foul because the game didn't have a kill-everything-button and wasn't as easy to control like a typical action game they were used to. LP2's controls are very similar to the Monster Hunter series, another Capcom game. Monster Hunter is always blasted by critics and gamers saying the controls are equally clunkly and arcahic. The fact though is that these games control fine and are deliberate. It's just that gamers who expect to be gaming gods after picking up the controller for the first time and are unwilling to learn will always blame the game instead of themselves.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 23:37:33  - Edited by 
 on: 05/28/10, 23:39:15
I'm not saying that it's the only thing that's caused the swing from east to west, but it's an important part.

Look at the guys behind Harmonix. They left MIT and immediately started their own company, as opposed to going to work for a big studio. These were 'green' guys straight from school who have come to dominate an entire genre of games. It epitomizes the risk taking culture that's has worked so well for western devs.

Maybe the fallout out from Rare wasn't great, but look at the former Argonaut guys. They are now Rock Steady (Batman AA) and Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword).

These great new companies are popping up everywhere, and while you hear about a few new Japanese success stories they are few and far between.


Posted by 
 on: 05/29/10, 01:37:28
Zero said:
@Xbob42 But how would you use keyboard and mouse in a lounqe chair!? And if you're not using keyboard and mouse and just playing the games with a controller, don't they kind of lose the PC advantage a bit? Anyway I can barely support the platforms I own already. My PS3 and PSP haven't been touched in awhile.

I'm not saying you should go hopping on Steam buying hundreds of games. :P If you don't have the time, don't try to force more games into your schedule! Shirley'd kill ya.

As for the control advantage thing, that all depends on the games. There's plenty of platformers and whatnot that just work better on the PC when you hook your 360 controller up. (I actually switched to a wired 360 controller since I play so many console-ported/co-developed games on my PC that I killed my batteries weekly.)

Some people do as was said earlier and get a wireless mouse and keyboard and a little table, some like to sit it right on their lap, which in my opinion is more comfortable than actually holding a controller, some will set it on a table and hunch forward, and some will stick strictly to controllers when PC gaming on a TV. I actually prefer playing games like Dead Space and Resident Evil 4/5 with my controller as opposed to mouse and keyboard, simply because it's how I'm used to playing that type of game thanks to the Gamecube.

In any case, PC gamers are never short on options, there's always a quirky little peripheral coming out that people might make fun of, but a lot of them fill certain niches perfectly that you know it was made simply because the inventor wanted one for himself and was frustrated with makeshift versions. (For example, you can bet your ass that wireless mice and keyboards only exist because some slovenly fellow wanted to browse the web while sprawled on his bed like a corpse. I personally hate the damn things, but they're great for folks who don't want to be in a computer chair all day.)


Posted by 
 on: 05/29/10, 03:52:38
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