Capcom, Square Enix, Namco, and Sony discuss future of gaming

TGS 2009: Haruhiro Tsujimoto, Yoichi Wada, Shuhei Yoshida, and Shin Unozawa help kick off the expo with an in-depth discussion of East-vs.-West development and the current state of the industry.

TOKYO--This morning at the 2009 Tokyo Game Show, the big draw was Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai's keynote address. However, the affable executive wasn't the only heavy hitter on hand.

Square Enix president and director Yoichi Wada was among those on hand.

Immediately after Hirai's presentation, four heavyweights from the gaming world took the stage at the Makuhari Messe for a panel discussion titled "Strategies and Visions of Top Makers in the Global Era." On hand were some of the biggest names in Japanese game publishing: Capcom president and COO Haruhiro Tsujimoto, Konami Digital Entertainment vice president Kazumi Kitaue, Namco Bandai Games president and CEO Shin Unozawa, and Square Enix president and director Yoichi Wada.

The subject of the quartet's discussion wasn't specified by TGS organizers, but the field of discussion was wide open. Likely topics would include the launch of the new PlayStation 3 Slim, declining sales of the Nintendo Wii, and the challenges of multiplatform development. Given the success of Resident Evil 5 on the Xbox 360 and the forthcoming simultaneous Western launch of Final Fantasy XIII on the 360 and PS3, Microsoft's console also looked likely to come up.

[7:27] First question: since this is the second year in a row we've had this panel at TGS, what were the major changes from last year in terms of gaming?

The six panelists take their seats.

[7:29] Tsujimoto from Capcom says the past year in the Japanese market, user's play styles have changed in a major way. Portable games consoles have become even more popular.

[7:30] Multiple players are now the norm for portable devices, such as Dragon Quest.

The first question: What were the major changes from last year in terms of gaming?

[7:31] Kitaue-san from Konami says the economy hasn't really impacted business in the last year, with the games industry still increasing.

[7:31] As for changes, the Wii has introduced new ways of playing, as well as the popularity of the DS and PSP in Japan.

[7:31] Is it going to be a bright year next year? Well, that's another question, Kitaue-san jokes.

[7:32] Wada-san's turn from Square, and he says entertainment wasn't really that affected by the global financial crisis. The impact that was seen was in retailers--retailers have been a lot more picky in what they stock because of uncertainty.

[7:34] When it comes to portable gaming, Wada-san echoes the view that network gaming is making the experience richer.

[7:35] Yoshida-san from Sony's turn. He says home game content may be severely impacted by the iPhone app store. Many small applications started to be distributed, with users able to spend some extra time they may have used on games with iPhone apps.

[7:35] They may not play these small apps for hours, but they do play for several minutes.

[7:35] Yoshida-san also calls out social networks like Facebook where games are being played. These are only simple games, but they are making an impact on gaming.

Yoshida-san from Sony talks about the impact of the iPhone AppStore, as well as Facebook and MySpace.

[7:36] Content that are being created by publishers like us need to look at this, Yoshida-san says.

[7:39] Capcom's Tsujimoto-san jumps in, saying the most important thing--economy aside--is to create compelling games people want to buy and play.

[7:39] Group question: What's your long-term view on the health of the games industry?

[7:41] Kitaue-san from Konami says a lot of evolution has happened in the past 25 years. The same evolution will happen in the future, but we shouldn't be as dependent on hardware alone. We need more content evolution, he says, pointing out the Nintendo DS as a good example.

[7:42] Square's Wada-san says he's not concerned about the short-term prospects of the industry.

SCE CEO Kaz Hirai listens attentively to the panel.

[7:45] But he does forecast changes that will be painful to implement in the future.

[7:46] One thing that he says must be better recognised: the games industry is for adults as well, and not just for children. We actually have double the size of the potential market. In the West, they think it's cool to play games as adults. We need to change the perspective that it's only for kids in Japan.

[7:46] Wada says a major question that will need to be answered soon is how digital distribution will impact game makers and gamers.

[7:49] Sony's Yoshida-san's turn to chat about future trends: He says how gamers are charged for gaming will need to be looked at, with gamers possibly having a different value idea of how much they should be paying for their different gaming experiences.

[7:49] Unozawa-san from Namco Bandai is skeptical about full-price games taking off as downloadable only, saying the popular applications on the iPhone are the ones that are selling for one or two dollars.

[7:51] Capcom's Tsujimoto says billing over a network is a challenge. It's something they'll need to talk to platform holders about.

The panel discusses pricing of network software like iPhone, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade games.

[7:59] Yoshida-san from Sony says the biggest successes so far on download networks like PSN and Live are from smaller production studios and independents.

[7:59] Wada-san from Square says setting price on downloadable content is different from boxed packages. Different models can be created to suit what people will be willing to play for.

[8:02] Tsujimoto-san from Capcom says cell phones allow you to actually show other people the games you like, as opposed to a console stuck in a living room. This was a great way of viral marketing, he says.

[8:05] Square's Wada-san says cell phone gaming penetration is high because billing has been simple. As for it being a good game platform, he says it depends on your culture. In Japan, where people are always on the move with their phones, it has become very successful.

[8:07] Next question: In this global game environment, what are the strengths of a Japanese developer?

[8:08] Unozawa-san from Namco says Japanese developers need to rely on the unique Japanese culture, as opposed to trying to emulate what's popular in the West.

Now on to the next topic: Looking at the strengths of Japanese developers.

[8:11] Yoshida-san from Sony says they've seen some million-selling games in the US that have sold only 20,000 units in Japan. He says tastes in the US and Japan will continue to diverge.

[8:11] Yoshida-san says Hollywood-style big-blockbuster games are where the strengths of US developers lie--Japanese developers are better at unique and new gameplay experiences, even if they're not as sophisticated as Western games.

[8:14] Square's Wada-san says Japanese developers can still be profitable while only focusing on the Japanese market. He says there is actually no such thing as a unified global market, with plenty of regional variations in taste and preference to account for.

[8:16] Kitaue-san from Konami says when it comes to Japan's strengths as a game nation, the country's better at being creative and introducing new concepts, while the West is more technically proficient.

[8:18] As for genres, Kitaue-san says Japanese developers need to be able to differentiate themselves better from games being developed in the West.

[8:20] Capcom's Tsujimoto-san says Japanese developers can look to physical games that originated in arcades for some inspiration for future games. He cites examples such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band, games that had their roots in the Japanese arcade but that have become global hits.

[8:23] Unozawa-san from Namco Bandai agrees that arcades contain some inspiration. And while Namco does have an arcade division, it doesn't communicate well enough with the company's home game division. He promises to change this for the future.

[8:24] As for other future strategies that game companies should embrace, Tsujimoto-san from Capcom says more attention needs to be paid to how gamers' lifestyles are changing.

The third and final question for the five panelists: What developments would you like to see in the future?

[8:27] Wada-san from Square agrees. He adds that game producers need to ask questions such as how a user likes to play, what they play, where they play, and when.

[8:29] Sony's Yoshida-san says the diversity of users' needs and lifestyles also needs to be taken into account. Developers also have to be ready to embrace new platforms and new devices.

[8:31] And with a thank-you to all the panelists, the roundtable session ends to a large round of applause.

[8:31] And that's it! Check back soon for more of GameSpot's coverage of the 2009 Tokyo Game Show.

Written By

Randolph is the managing editor of GameSpot, and needs more time to play games.

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Discussion

110 comments
tjmic1
tjmic1

japan "better at being creative and introducing new concepts"?? That may have been true in the past, but not anymore... FFXIII... enough said

tjmic1
tjmic1

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Hizakii
Hizakii

until ms project natal comes in and gives a whole new experience to japanese developers than we'll see how they evolve.

lawfrye
lawfrye

Sony's Yoshida-san says the diversity of users' needs and lifestyles also needs to be taken into account. Developers also have to be ready to embrace new platforms and new devices. This is one of the best statements made, Japanese game developers need to start showing more love and RESPECT to PC gamers. There are still millions of us out here and we didn't build high-end rigs to watch movies! So start developing more games for the PC and do it right!

Ground_Zero
Ground_Zero

So more control destroying button smashers and cliche RPGs??? No thank you

blue_powder
blue_powder

@ FF_fan2004 cool, we think exactly the same way :)

shinspikes
shinspikes

@FF_fan2004 It is broke. Last year they discussed how the japanese gamin market is far behind everyone else because they always try to do their own thing. Now they realize they its a global effort. Focus on what we are doin but utilize the help of others.

FF_fan2004
FF_fan2004

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Japanese should adopt this maxim.

roge666
roge666

[8:08] Unozawa-san from Namco says Japanese developers need to rely on the unique Japanese culture, as opposed to trying to emulate what's popular in the West. yeah... i agree

FF_fan2004
FF_fan2004

Each country has its strengths and weaknesses. If I recall correctly, US are good at making FPS games. The Europeans are more on the strategy games and finally Japan with its RPGs. Final Fantasy was a prime example of an RPG of its time. The way I see it, developers need to put a slow down on the console hype and actually concentrate what they are really good at. That applies to all of them. Yes its all well and truly good that there are good graphics nowadays, but I want good stories much like Half-Life or Final Fantasy XII. Just don't be pressured into the other countries strengths. They are what they are.

iandizion713
iandizion713

the future of gaming depends on what Nintendo makes next ...Mauhahahaha

S3P4eeever
S3P4eeever

micro no go?.... lol Capcom, Square Enix, Namco, AND Sony discuss future of gaming

kamizuka
kamizuka

well if it is up to M$ the future is FPS FPS ..FPS

Meteor-man
Meteor-man

Final Fantasy XIII was tagged onto this despite no mention of it at all. Hmm....

darkbuster_exe
darkbuster_exe

The comments on the strengths of Japanese developers is probably the biggest topic here. I HATE when Japanese developers attempt to emulate Western games with over the top violence & vulgarity. Not only do these games downplay what Japanese developers do best, but the games themselves are often piss poor horrible. Point is, Japanese developers have always had us covered when it came to imaginative concepts & worlds. Most Western games these days are so hung up on graphics, they often forget to apply any real appeal or charm to the game.

XanderZane
XanderZane

DRXgamer93 wheres microsoft??? **************************************************************** They are there. M$'s main show is always the E3, which they owned this year. Sony didn't do much at TGS so far. They announced the release date for GT5 which is March 2010. I knew it wasn't coming out this year. LOL!!

businessfox
businessfox

aight at the first stage of the tokyo game show I must say they really having a really good start.

ColonelX24
ColonelX24

Great read and @rebelway They'd have to have subtitles at the bottom=extra work. This is easier.

1r3ap3r
1r3ap3r

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

green_dominator
green_dominator

@DarkBuhamut You are right, but the console systems have only now caught onto the whole net thing and how to use it, Look at XBOX Live, It's grown from just a hub for online gamers to Movies, Music, Games, Micro transactions and all that, Even if you don't have gold It's a nice setup....

DarkBuhamut
DarkBuhamut

most companies have already started forgetting about offline multiplayer which is a same they're all focused on online modes.... only the arcade style or sports games have it anymore. i wonder what else will change in the future

Shinkada
Shinkada

So basically.. Namco, Sony and Konami crap on about the continued drive to turn games more and more casual until the entire media form is just as ruined as books and movies... Capcom tries to make a point about "creat[ing] compelling games people want to buy and play," but as is usual for Capcom loses their chutzpah after a couple of minutes and goes back to recycling what everyone else is saying And Square continue to be completely apathetic about the entire thing because they know that no matter what trash they make it'll still earn them billions and billions of dollars. Yeah, that sounds about right. Now all's we need is Blizzard to jump in and give us advice on how NOT to spend all the money we make, but instead become cheaper and cheaper the more we earn.

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

Interesting. While there are some specific things they say different than the Western round-tables there is a lot of overlap... unfortunately in the aspects of gaming I'm not very fond of - for example: motion control, online gaming / interaction being extremely important, digital distribution... I really wonder were gaming is going in the next few years... hopefully they continue to make stuff I want to play.

anibaljr
anibaljr

and yes its really interesting these GS Coverage from game events im from Brazil too :P

anibaljr
anibaljr

Its interesting the point of view of these japanese developers,in prioritize the local market.Its true the culture on Japan is really different from west.But because of limited vision They sum up their markets only to those fans of anime fanboys and some franchises that they have made some time atrás.lasting some techniques obsolete games they push to the west.I think they should open up their minds and see the future of the gaming.

Generalmojo
Generalmojo

Given the success of Resident Evil 5!! what!?!?! lol

Generalmojo
Generalmojo

Given the success of Resident Evil 5!! what!?!?!

santinegrete
santinegrete

I really liked what they said about not emulating the west, too. Just made me remember the way the japanese thinks, prioritizing the identity more than "a possible way to catch more Western Audiences". But I really hope that more "Namco Tales" games come to the west.

Cbot
Cbot

Interesting interview!

green_dominator
green_dominator

The problem I see in Japanese games and this is an RPG thing, Final Fantasy nobody can deny that it's a successful series of games but if they really want more players they need to have something in place that keeps you informed of where you need to be and what you need to do but still offer the freedom to do as you wish. The other thing they need to do is quit with all the gauges dials and bars and what not, All you need in an RPG is a health and magic bar and ammo counter when needed, plus allow filks to create their own hero.....I'm tired of playing the same goku looking guy in every game, I mean maybe I don't want to use that huge sword, maybe I wanna use a katana or a standard broad sword...... Maybe it's just me but I play Biowares games because they offer a good story and the customization and at the end the experience is fun.....

xche78x
xche78x

3d remakes of 2d games, just keep em coming, these fps from everywhere makes me sick. new doesnt always mean enjoyable. i just hope some devs still make classic style games, thexder for example, i didnt play the old one but im sure to play neo.

magusat999
magusat999

It would be nice if Game Developers would stop comparing consoles to handhelds, and taking resources from one to create for the other. Those two are different markets altogether, and they feed off of one another (more like the handheld benefits from the successes of console games). What I would like to see is more console games, independent of the success of handhelds (when I say console I am also including PC games). I also think they need a better pulse on what gamers want, and try to provide it - such as sequels on the CONSOLES, instead of copping out with sequels n the handhelds. Where is Breath of Fire 6? Chrono Trigger 2 (forget Chrono Cross)? Dragon Quest X???

angelbless
angelbless

That was a good interview, each panelist showes a good, imparcial and professional point of view of each question. Most of the things they say are so true. I am glad they didnt introduce the Nintendo staff here, not that I dont like Nintendo but last time, when they were asked this kind of questions they could only talk about Nintendo and they profits and not about the industry...

gamestop27
gamestop27

[8:18] s for genres, Kitaue-san says Japanese developers need to be able to differentiate themselves better from games being developed in the West." THANK YOU! for saying what needed to be said. Stop trying to "appeal" the west not everyone here loves this endless avalanche of hyperballistic shooters EA,Activision, and microsoft keeps shoveling on us. I love My shooters but Japanese centric games are what made gaming it is today and just because the west has let the techinical aspect control everyother aspect of the game and the same rehashed shooter sells XXXX million copies doesn't mean you have to stray away fromyour formula please keep the fighters,hack n slash,rpgs, and Gundam games coming.

2w-sephiroth
2w-sephiroth

I wished more unique creativity could come out that the Westerns could find apeal. When I become a game designer (if I do) I will make sure that my original games come out that will apeal to everyone being original and fresh.

MaBill
MaBill

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Cross313
Cross313

Great interview. Wish American's were not so dang picky on their gaming tastes that we could get more japanese related content over here state-side... almost feels like the 90s again where we don't get jack anymore, i know my PS3 is hurting from some JRPGs and having them on the 360 just feels wrong.

rebelway
rebelway

ahhhghh i hate readin y didnt they do this with video like on the spot

Windblade91
Windblade91

Sony and Square will have panels i think tonight for us or something, good panel and the "painful" implements are pointing to the fact that it'll become more than just "i want PS4" what a "PS4" might entail is 3D gaming, or virtual reality at some poiint and that is painful to implement

Isayama
Isayama

I stopped reading once I hit "Given the success of Resident Evil 5". Lies!

brian_13un
brian_13un

Just be sure that meeting will change something ^_^

keyblade42
keyblade42

As interesting as this article was, where can I find game announcements from Square and Sony?

slingshot_ylo
slingshot_ylo

Actually, I thought it was an interesting read, but I wish Wada-san and the rest of the panel would have elaborated on the "changes that will be painful to implement in the future." I know they addressed some of the emerging business aspects the industry will face in the near-term but I am more interested in how those influence the technical aspects and how they push (or hinder) the gameplay experience. One item mentioned by the panel that concerns me most about the future of gaming: the growing popularity of mobile and social network gaming. I am still undecided on whether this a good or bad thing for the industry AND its end-users (that would be US!).

Ghostquote44
Ghostquote44

Just make games cheaper. I still have money I need to pay back my parents to buy Batman