GungHo: Japanese devs must go 'back to basics'

No More Heroes, Killer Is Dead studio owner says Japanese developers need to remember why they make games in the first place.

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Japanese developers must go "back to basics" if they are to return to prominence, according to GungHo Online Entertainment president Kazuki Morishita. Speaking with Gamasutra, Morishita said Japanese studios need to focus on making "good games."

"Let's say that Japanese games are in their darkest times right now. There's no way to go but up, if that's the case," Morishita said. "In terms of making games, I think Japanese developers need to go back to basics about why they make games in the first place, which is to make good games."

GungHo Online Entertainment recently acquired No More Heroes and Shadows of the Damned developer Grasshopper Manufacture. The studio is currently working on Killer Is Dead, a multiplatform action game helmed by studio boss Goichi "Suda51" Suda.

Morishita is not the first Japanese developer to speak out on the current state of the industry in the region. Mega Man and Dead Rising designer Keiji Inafune said last month that Japanese studios are beginning to become aware of the "problem," but still have a ways to go.

Discussion

157 comments
frylock1987
frylock1987

You released 3 shitty games so far this Generation.


I think they shouldn't take your advice sir.

Spartan_418
Spartan_418

generic JRPGs, like the Atelier series, need to become less generic and demonstrate that they have some reason to exist

Diablo-B
Diablo-B

The question is are Japanese devs focusing more on a regional audience or have they completely lost their way. There is no doubt that on a global scale japanese games on a whole have lost their appeal. But if japanese games are still going well in Japan (which they probably are) then its probably just a cultural thing. Japanese sensibilities and culture doesn't translate so well out side of japan.

Articuno76
Articuno76

It isn't much of an interesting statement if he doesn't tell us what those fundamentals are supposed to be.  Maybe that is in the original article...but without that information extracted and placed in this article I'm not sure what I'm supposed to take away from it.

DarkSaber2k
DarkSaber2k

And then on the other hand you have head-in-the-sand morons like Squeenix who blame all their woes on the decadent spoilt western gamers for only buying 3.5 million copies of a game.

Hey_Jay
Hey_Jay

I can support that kind of idea, and I'd sure like to see a proper resurgence. It's a weird day and age when the Japanese are behind.

emerin76
emerin76

as long ss they don't go back to BASIC.

Devil_wings00
Devil_wings00

I dunno plenty of decent traditional JRPG's around but after the ps2 days but 90% of them were on the PSP/DS. My guess is those smaller Japanese studios weren't willing to increase their production values required to make the jump to this gen. Heck the PSP is still getting solid support to this day from Japanese dev's.


I can understand how people got sick of the turn based RPG's but really it's a genre unto itself at this point and if you don't like it then it's just not your thing. I dislike skyrim and games of it's ilk because I find wandering around a giant open world boring as dirt but I wouldn't call all games that use the formula BAD. I just don't like the formula. Honestly most FPS boiled down are pointing guns at things and shooting and then adding a few bells and whistles to that. Not that much different then taking the dragon quest/Final Fantasy formula and throwing a few bells and whistles on it to shake things up either. 

BadMrSnake
BadMrSnake

Jap games haven't been good for 20 years!

trivolution
trivolution

American developers should be American developers not money seekers.  Japanese developers should be Japanese developers not glory seekers.

Riverwolf007
Riverwolf007

Jdev  just needs to be  Jdev.

i would rather see them make their formula games and just be themselves and maybe hit upon something i like than to continue to chase after me   and fail miserably like they do now.

caffiend7
caffiend7

I say both east & west need to go back to formula

splinter10
splinter10

Someone once said. Forget about the money. Go out and do what you want, and eventually you'll be able to command a fee for it. I feel Japanese devs have forgotten this. Instead their so focussed and worried about what will sell to America that they make any old nonsense. While before they made games cause THEY the devs thought it was awesome. It was with that kind of thinking that brought us so many classics and got a lot of us into gaming,

AtheistPreacher
AtheistPreacher

Sorry, I just don't buy this whole "Japanese developers have lost their way" discourse, for a lot of reasons.

1. There are still good Japanese games coming out.  Ni No Kuni, Xenoblade, Dragon's Dogma, Disgaea, Metal Gear, Monster Hunter, Professor Layton, Ace Attorney, Pikmin, Mario, Shin Megami Tensei, Zelda, and the elephant in the room, Dark Souls.  These are all good games.  End of story there.

2. Japanese games haven't evolved.  And western games have?  I don't think so.  Bioshock Infinite had an interesting new story but little notable difference in gameplay.  Skyrim had precious little difference from Oblivion.  And one Call of Duty or Battlefield game is much the same as the next.  People say Monster Hunter doesn't evolve, but it evolves just as much as it needs to, just like all these others clones I've just mentioned.

3. I intensely dislike the discourse of the "western-style RPG," because to me it seems tinged with racism.  Yes, Rockstar and Bethesda came along and defined what is now the "western-style RPG," and that style of game has been much-copied.  But now whenever a Japanese developer makes something similar -- like Dragon's Dogma, which I regard as much superior the boring retread that was Skyrim -- they are written off as simply copying western ideas.

So either their games are bad because they're "not western enough," or they're "western-style" and hence don't really count as Japanese anymore.  What the hell is that about?  First, have people never heard of King's Field?  Japanese developers have made these sort of games as early as 1994.  Second, I think Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and Dragon's Dogma are about the best "western-style RPGs" out there, and they're made by Japanese developers!

4. As this article (http://www.1up.com/features/japanese-games-breaking-west) points out, in many cases Japanese developers are simply catering to local markets, which have very different desires and expectations than the core western market.  Who are we to say that they're doing something wrong by focusing on gamers in their own country?  As the same article points out, the feeling is somewhat mutual, with the Japanese not liking many western games very much.  In other words, a lot of those Japan-developed games were never aimed at you, so just get over it.  Not everything is about what the west wants.

5. And are we really pretending that western games aren't in trouble?  Really?  Half the crap that comes out now are FPSes.  I am so very tired of FPSes.  And this is not to mention that many of the big studios now spend millions developing their games and then lay off most of their staff when they don't sell ten million copies.  And as Atsushi Inaba says:

"There are many Western developers making terrible games, and then you see one like Infinity Ward making a game that sells 20 million and everyone goes, 'hey, Western developers are amazing!' There are tons of terrible Western developers, just like there are tons of terrible Japanese developers. To lump studios together in great masses misses the point."

And let's recall that Inaba not only created Okami, probably the best Zelda-like game ever made (I actually like it better than the Zelda games, although both are Japanese anyway), but is now at Platinum games, which did Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Metal Gear Rising, all good games.

In short, I find this whole debate very narrow-minded and rather silly.  We should be doing comparisons game-by-game, or perhaps studio-by-studio, not region-by-region, because this last casts so wide a net as to be ultimately meaningless.

Mojira7
Mojira7

Haven't played any of them, but didn't Ni No Kuni, the latest Breath of Fire, the latest Monster Hunder, Dark Souls 2, and Dragon's Dogma do pretty well? They were all done by Japanese Devs and are considered great games right?

nathangray
nathangray

Japanese games have stagnated massively, but that's not the only problem. Japan's developers greatly underestimate the commercial appeal of their games, and it ends up being up to fans to translate their games and make them available to westerners. That's a lot of lost revenue, lost advertisement, and lost trust from potential customers. They don't allow a fanbase to develop because they stay in their own market, and make zero effort to expand beyond it. They're isolationist, and when they fall in on themselves they'll have no one else to blame for said implosion. Instead, we get the dregs; the over-used sequels, the cliches, and the portable platformers. It's not enough. 


I feel no pity for the Japanese devs. They're like a child that makes no effort to talk to anyone, then sulks in the corner cuz no one is talking to him.

yuvabuvv
yuvabuvv

Metal Gear Solid anyone?

TohouAsura
TohouAsura

Japanese games have indeed lost their way. Without trying to sound too much like a weeaboo, i'll just say, most japanese games nowadays have fallen into three extremes:

1). The westernized: Games that try to imitate the western culture of games and as such suffer identity crisis ( Have you guys seen the Mega Man prototype game footage?! No need to even explain Final Fantasy, I believe).

2). The extremely moe: Games that focus almost purely on fanservice and jerk-off materials, embracing all the stigmas made on Japanese fictional works.

3). The rehash: Games that have no idea where to go and how to improve, so they just keep making more of the same. Examples: Pokemon, Dragon Quest, Monster Hunter.

Some may disagree with me on these points because they actually like these games, but it doesn't change the fact it's true.

Japanese games used to be the industry leaders in gaming, their games set the bar for all to follow and defined the genres. Final Fantasy gave meaning to the word RPG, DMC1 reinvented Hack 'n' Slash, Shadow of The Colossus was pure art.

I want that industry back.

strayfies
strayfies

@cubuffs I'm a total idiot, is there a nasally gaming podcast for others like me? 

zulwalks
zulwalks

@Devil_wings00 My friends gotten sick of most Japanese turn based RPGs recently. He says its because most RPGs nowadays seem to either force a bunch of useless features that break the game or focus so much on tech that gameplay seems bland or just stick on. He'd rather just stick to older Final fantasy games or just the few games on his Vita. I wish I could say what games he was talking about but....he buys the import ones from Japan....and not a word of english.

JRLennis
JRLennis

@splinter10 I think the problem is that the devs/publishers are too big now to forget about the money.  In the golden age of gaming, studios were relatively small and could afford to take creative risks.  A lackluster title could be shrugged off with a lesson learned.  Now with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, a single failure could destroy a studio or cause extensive damage to even big publishers.  A large part of this expense is just the company's size; the bigger the company, the bigger the overhead - and proportionally less money spent on actual development.

The key to recovery for Japanese developers is to get smaller, and fast.  Not only are big companies woefully inefficient, but they are notoriously slow to adapt to a changing marketplace - and we are seeing more change this generation than at any time in the industry's history.   We may very well see the dinosaurs go extinct.

hochstreck
hochstreck

@AtheistPreacher  

Finally someone who points some of the bias and problems japanese developers face in the western market.

In addition to that, it is amazing to see someone, who actually might understand the quality of some of the recent games from Capcom. Dragon's Dogma is an amazing game, but just because it does not stick to certain western design-standards, it received quite some critique from westers reviewers. 

In my opinion Lost Planet 1&2 were amazing action-games, which also really tried to find their own fresh but nevertheless quite experienced(oldschool) approach, but they too had to suffer from bad sales, because of many critiques, who just couldn't see the brave visions behind these games.

People tend to forget that while western AAA-games often offer elaborate story and presentation, they quite often suffer from formulatic, shallow and bumptious gameplay(Crysis, Call of Duty, Skyrim etc), droopy settings and a lack of replay-value outside of multiplayer. 

Sirkrozz
Sirkrozz

@AtheistPreacher  

And those among many other reasons got me back into retrogaming.

Back to basics can't be bad if the current gaming industry present isn't that good, no matter where on the gaming industry foodchain you're at.

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@AtheistPreacherYes sir, you do indeed sound biased. You are continuously attacking Western games as nothing but FPS crap, huh, seems a bit hypocritical of your first point that "there are still good Japanese games coming out." Funny how that point is one sided.


But I agree neither side has evolved, so many JRPG's are just the same thing rehashed with a different world/story set around the same core principles, same character archetypes and same basis. I can't remember the last time a JRPG had done anything new and exciting. 

And where exactly are you picking up all this criticism? All I hear on this site and so many others everyday is how "Western games suck and Japanese games rule, PS3 is godlike" I swear you are completely backwards. You tiresome fanboys bash Western games left and right but when someone says they didn't like MGS everyone is up and arms and raising hell.

However I did enjoy your closing statement and somewhat agree, but some games are just too different to compare. Not everything needs to be compared. People need to justify themselves and their choice by comparing it to others, and they're probably the very same people that say not to judge others. Human nature I suppose.

But I also hated Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising yet don't care to argue about that.

And to all the people pining about old games, that's nice and all but nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. Best to not judge new games to old, rather you should try and see the new games for themselves and their own merit.

LtReviews
LtReviews

@AtheistPreacher  

Half-life is an FPS. Don't knock a game just based on it's genre. 

You lost all credibility when you did that. Especially since you concluded that comparisons should be done game-by-game.

You obviously don't take every game based on their merit

Mkeegs79
Mkeegs79

@Mojira7 You also wrongly meant Dark Souls since the sequel isn't out yet. Dragon's Dogma did ok. There is going to be some great Japanese titles still but there had been a huge decline in the quality of titles from Japan. I love Japanese games. They come up with the some of the coolest and over the top ideas from stories, characters, and scenarios in their games.

shingui5
shingui5

@Mojira7 DONT EVEN JOKE ABOUT A NEW BREATH OF FIRE

 why did that franchise die? ;{ 

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

@Mojira7 They made a new Breath of Fire?  Man would I love to play a modern entry in that series.  BoF 3 is an underrated classic.

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

@TohouAsura That first one, I think, is the most damning.  Japanese companies seem to think that all we want is grizzled old men and fantasy that is shackled to Tolkien.  In reality, their IDEAS are fantastic, but their interfaces are usually cluttered, or the game rules too artificial.  That's why games like Shadows of the Damned are such a treat - that one is PURE Japan in its story and world, but the game's mechanics are elegant and intuitive.  Why is Monster Hunter broken up into those stupid little sections?  Why not open it up?  Capcom clearly shows with Dragon's Dogma that it's capable of such a game.

Fia1
Fia1

@TohouAsura the best thing is the western industry is as stagnated as the japanese

silvergol
silvergol

@Sirkrozz @AtheistPreacher Back to the basics!.can be so bad because most of these devs have skills and are talented but they keep in portable consoles they dont try more Big consoles and PC.

AtheistPreacher
AtheistPreacher

@Sirkrozz @AtheistPreacher 

...which is why the indie developers are getting so much good press.  They're making great, simple games for a low cost to both the developer and the consumer.  Playing those games is the other way to go besides retro-gaming if you're tired of the triple-A scene.

AtheistPreacher
AtheistPreacher

@WantYouBad

First of all, let's look at what I actually said about FPSes: "Half the crap that comes out now are FPSes.  I am so very tired of FPSes."  That does not mean that all FPSes are bad, just like not all JRPGs are bad, just a lot of them.  Do you not see a difference between saying there are too many games in a genre -- like FPSes -- and saying they all suck?  Pray don't put words in my mouth.  I am not bashing western game developers and never did.  I am merely responding to the idea which this article and a lot of others have suggested -- that Japanese developers are somehow less creative or in more of a rut than western ones.  I just don't like that comparison, for all the reasons I've listed.

You ask me where I'm seeing all this criticism -- well, this article, for a start.  If you really want me to, I will go ahead and find other examples on this site and others that say this kind of stuff about the Japanese gaming industry (not to mention the majority of the commenters here are agreeing with these notions).  On the other hand, when you say "All I hear on this site and so many others everyday is how 'Western games suck and Japanese games rule,'" I am similarly confused.  Where are you seeing articles about that?  Point me to one.  Seriously.  I haven't seen any article in the past few years that talks about how all western game development is stagnant.

Again, I never said all western games suck or all FPSes suck.  If you think I did, then you're reading too much in to what I wrote.  Could I name a lot of great western games along with my list of Japanese games?  Yes, of course I can!  But that wasn't the point, was it, because no one was arguing that all western games suck.

AtheistPreacher
AtheistPreacher

@LtReviews @AtheistPreacher 

Um, I never even mentioned Half-Life, what the hell are you talking about?  All I'm saying is that western game developers are stuck on FPSes in the same way that Japanese developers are stuck on JRPGs.  Doesn't mean there aren't good examples of both.  But let's not pretend that triple-A developers in the west are tons more creative, because they're not.  Indie developers, that's something else.

Mojira7
Mojira7

@2bitSmOkEy My sincere apologies. I meant Fire Emblem not Breath of Fire. My bad.

vampao
vampao

BoF 3 my number 1 jrpg ever.And I have played a lot of jrpg,for almost two decades.

TohouAsura
TohouAsura

@WantYouBad @TohouAsura Resident Evil 6. Outsourced and spread throughout the world, creating incosistencies and endless problems for the game.

DmC -- a blatant spit in the face to the fanbase, threw away alot of what made the games exciting, a good game, but not the Hack 'n' Slash champion that was DMC, given away to a developer that mocks the original franchise.

Final Fantasy -- instead of trying to bring some fascinating new mechanic to the franchise to add depth like they always have, the franchise streamlined, focused more on flasy cutscenes and on-rails battles and development, only one correct way to play the game. Very little party customization.

Mega Man prototype -- Watch it, puke, understand.

 Silent Hill - OH LORD.

Ninja Gaiden 3 -- simplified, loaded with unecessary cutscenes and QTE's, easy, a drag to play, Multiplayer is largely a failure.

To name a few.


Bellum_Sacrum
Bellum_Sacrum

@WantYouBad @TohouAsura The fact that Capcom is outsourcing their games to western developers is enough. Both designed and developed by westerners. The result we all know.

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@Fia1 @TohouAsura I disagree, Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, the huge indie game boom, Watch Dogs, etc etc are lookin pretty good for the West. Afterall this is what killed the Japanese industry.


And SquareEnix is what killed the Final Fantasy series. Along with the main creator leaving and the constant whoring out of FFVII.

JRLennis
JRLennis

@AtheistPreacher @JRLennis @splinter10 I suppose I am at that.  But Japanese developers are in a more perilous position because they can't compete with Call of Duty.  They can't beat the EAs and Activisions at their own game.  They have to innovate in order to survive, and to do that they have to become more nimble as corporations.

I'll go out on a limb and say that the Japanese developers have an enormous opportunity to make a comeback under these conditions, if they're smart.  With the big western studios stuck in a creative glut, eastern studios can position themselves to take advantage of the inevitable decline of the first-person shooter craze.  Diversification would be the smartest move, though I fear the Japanese suits will go all-in on mobile due to the growing bubble in that segment.  If that bubble pops at the same time the FPS genre loses steam, Japan will lose its last best hope of regaining their former dominance in the industry.

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@AtheistPreacher @WantYouBad Oh dear lord, please don't backtrack your statements, it was quite clear you were trying to defend J-games by denouncing Western games, albeit slightly passive-aggressively, you even proclaimed racism. Look through the comments, "Cookie cutter" Western games, "How Japanese games need to reclaim their glory" etc etc. I am glad to see some people voicing their opinions against this Japanese-fanboyism finally. In the past J-games and the PS3 could do no wrong, they are gods the "master race".

And the articles are meaningless, editors are just trying to create a simple solution (and create revenue) for why Japanese games aren't selling as well as they have in the past. To call that serious criticism is a stretch, it's just video game quality journalism (low quality) but when people in comment sections are saying how "Western games are dogshit" that is a bit more extreme. And it is quite normal for a western website to run a story of "criticism" on the Japanese industry, vice versa. Don't shit where you eat.

AtheistPreacher
AtheistPreacher

@WantYouBad

My goodness, you really are reading in what you want to see into my comments.  Presumably they're easier to attack when you don't feel the need to limit your responses to what I actually said.

All I said is that western developers aren't in general more or less creative than Japanese ones, and that there are too many FPSes.  That doesn't qualify as "preaching against western developers."  Saying I did doesn't make it so.  I have no beef with western developers in general, and if you've read my first comment you should understand that -- my whole point is that we shouldn't be making regional criticisms.  It's ridiculous to do so for either the west or the east.  End of story.

And I'm looking at these comments and most are agreeing with the article we're commenting on.  I repeat, show me an article from this site.  Here are two more that are critical of Japanese games in general:

http://www.gamespot.com/news/inafune-on-the-sad-state-of-japanese-gaming-6365702

http://www.gamespot.com/news/japanese-games-need-to-reduce-friction-platinum-writer-6385010

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@AtheistPreacher No, it was quite clear that you were preaching against Western developers. And you can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone who is praising how great Japanese games are and how bad Western games are, just look at these comments.

shingui5
shingui5

@Mojira7 @shingui5 i'm sorry, just  mentioning the idea of a new breath of fire built my hopes for a second, then they were swiftly dashed by the realisation it will never happen. 

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@TohouAsura @WantYouBadAnd I think what you're trying to do seems quite foolish. If you can actually find proof that Western devs ruined the game, great, but would it not be the Japanese devs fault for outsourcing? You can't blame the jobs the US outsourced to China on the Chinese, you must blame those who outsourced.

But I think you're looking at this one sided and trying to dumb it down and simplify it because you are so biased. The slow and steady decline of Japanese games is synonymous with the slow rise of Western gaming, to say what you're saying is too simple. Western developers increasing and the rise of western developed games lowered the demand for J-games, the outsourcing and other greedy attempts helped lower the quality of J-games,  and yes I'm sure there's more.



WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@TohouAsura @WantYouBad Okay good, now show some examples on how it was specifically the Western devs that ruined it, I mean Capcom has been going downhill for a long time now and so has FF as soon as they paired with Enix, it's a little biased to blame it on the West. I want real evidence, please stop being so vague, or at least an article explaining why the Western Devs ruined it specifically.

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@Fia1 @WantYouBad @TohouAsura Japanese industries are also "stagnated" then I suppose, Same thing, different world.What exactly do you want? A new genre of game every few years? There is only so much you can do, I guess games shouldn't be made anymore since the Western and Japanese markets are "stagnated".

Fia1
Fia1

@WantYouBad @Fia1 @TohouAsura it's pretty much the same games/shooters/open world you've played since the release of the Xbox 360/PS3 just with a different paint and graphics, the industry is stagnated

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@Bellum_Sacrum @WantYouBad @Fia1 @TohouAsura Come now, please provide some evidence. And also define why those above mentioned games are "cookie cutter" games. For what once ruled the industry you'd think they could handle production costs eh? Such vague answers aren't very helpful.... I'm genuinely interested.