Mega Man Creator On How Kickstarter Could Rejuvenate The Japanese Gaming Scene

Keiji Inafune discusses crowd-funding campaign for Mega Man-inspired Mighty No. 9, hopes for a future where indie games rise to prominence.

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One of the biggest headlines from PAX Prime this weekend was news of Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune launching a Kickstarter campaign for a Mega Man-inspired side-scrolling game called Mighty No. 9.

Speaking with GameSpot following the announcement, Inafune explained that this project not only has implications for his own career, but for the Japanese game development scene altogether.

Inafune, an outspoken critic of the Japanese game scene, said the industry in the island nation has "gotten worse," but could turn around if developers latch on to new ideas, including Kickstarter.

Check out GameSpot's full conversation with Inafune, facilitated by a translator, below.

So many projects today have a way of leaking ahead of schedule, but Mighty No. 9 was kept a total secret until yesterday. How did you do this?

I told everyone there would be some big trouble if they let any of this information out, number one. But probably more than anything else is the fact that it's a Kickstarter. If this was us working with a publisher, then people would be checking trademark, patents [and] stuff like that. But they don't naturally assume that I would be doing a Kickstarter. Which is great. And then on top of it, it's a smaller development team, so there's less people that you have to keep in line. If it's a publisher that's got 900 people, the idea that leaking out becomes a lot easier to fathom.

Speaking of publishers, then, do you think Mighty No. 9 would be possible through a traditional publisher relationship? Did you actually pitch the game to a traditional publisher?

"I think if I was going to pitch it around to publishers, the odds of it being approved are not very high."

No, this project was right from the ground up meant to be a Kickstarter project so it was not something that we put together and pitched around to publishers. I think if I was going to pitch it around to publishers, the odds of it being approved are not very high. And the reason why is up until now, every time a publisher has talked with me about making a game, they've always given me the feedback that they want it to be an Inafune-like game. A game that really feels like something that Inafune-san has his heart and soul in. And unfortunately, that largely depends on who it is talking about what franchise I've worked on.

So for some people, Mega Man is a very Inafune-type of game. For some people, Dead Rising sounds like an Inafune type of game. For some people, it's now some social games that I've made. That's what they feel is the best correlation between me and the game. So because there's so many different opinions, because opinions vary, ultimately every time I'm told that, I was like 'Which Inafune are you looking for?' And therefore, I think probably more publishers would want me to do something in a different direction, not a 2D, side-scrolling game. They would probably look at a younger, a smaller independent studio to try and do a game like this. And me pitching it would probably be an overall minus, not a plus for them.

The game is now more than 70 percent funded, less than 24 hours after you guys announced it. How does that feel? Did you expect it to be so successful right away? [Ed. Note: The Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter has since surpassed its $900,000 goal]

At first when I saw it, I was like 'Yeah, this is a really good speed that we're getting some pledges.' So I was really happy about it. But with Kickstarter, you never know. You can spike out really early and then all of a sudden, there's just a lull and you don't get anything for a long time. So I don't want to say ultimately I'm satisfied with where we're at. I want to clear that first goal and then go on to some of the stretch goals and make this an even more robust experience and just get it out to more platforms, I want to have more content in the game itself, and I want to be able to show people things like the documentary that are going to ultimately show the different side of the Japanese development.

This project is one of the first [Kickstarter] projects from a Japanese developer. Why do you think the Japanese development scene has been reluctant to use Kickstarter or crowd-funding in general so far?

It's not that they don't want to use it, it's that they don't know what it is. They probably know the word Kickstarter, but they don't know exactly what it means, what it is, how it works. There's just too many unknowns. One of the things I want to do with this project is hopefully achieve a level of success that gets enough PR, gets enough eyeballs, gets enough information out there, that Japanese independent developers will see this as a potential option.

Has Capcom reached out you about [Mighty No. 9] considering there are quite a few similarities to the Mega Man series? Have they acknowledged that this project exists in the 24 hours since it's been announced?

No.

It is very in the vein of Mega Man, but what do you think will attract non-Mega Man fans to this new project?

"Even if you aren't a fan of Mega Man, you'll be a fan of this because of the game balance and the different innovative features that it will have."

So ultimately, the conceptual stuff that we've shown initially at the launch has been something that is more akin to basic 2D side-scrolling game, Mega Man-esque atmosphere to it. But that's because that's something we know people are familiar with. They'll look at it and they'll understand, they'll get it right away. Rather than trying to explain something that people have no idea what it is and there's lots of confusion that comes with that, giving them a shell, a package, guidelines, a framework to understand what it is and then describing the new pieces [and] the innovative areas, as the campaign goes on, is something that we feel will pull in new, non Mega Man fans through some of the things that we're doing, for sure. Even if you aren't a fan of Mega Man, you'll be a fan of this because of the game balance and the different innovative features that it will have.

Would you go so far as calling it a Mega Man spiritual successor?

There are lots of ways to refer to something like this. The phrase spiritual successor is always one that's been interesting to me because it involves the word spirit. By that rationale, I probably have more Mega Man spirit than anybody else considering I have been attached to more projects, done more tasks when it comes to creating different Mega Man characters, games, et cetera. So by that rationale, if this was going to be referred to as a spiritual successor, yes, it has the spirit of the father of Mega Man in this game, without a doubt. However, it is its own game. And I am creating it not to be another Mega Man, but to be its own original title that just relies on the learnings of what I have built on from previous games like Mega Man.

On the Kickstarter campaign [page] there are stretch goals of platforms like the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the Wii U. But there's no mention of the 3DS, the PlayStation Vita, or other portable platforms. Do you have any plans for portable platforms for Mighty No. 9?

When it comes to what we have not shown on the stretch goals, and there are always question marks, there's always what's further ahead. We really can't say. That's got to be something that's a bridge we cross when we get there. I will say this: we are listening to the fans, we know the history of what these sort of games has been as far as being on portables and whatnot. But largely, again, it's going to have to come down to at what rate it looks like the game is being funded and that will then, of course, increase our options, along with listening to what the fans are really looking for.

This game was announced here at PAX. What's compelling about this show in particular?

If you think about what PAX is, it's really a user-facing event. It's not about the business side. There's no sales teams. It's basically, the business side is pulled away and it's just creators getting to talk with their fans. And when you think about what Kickstarter is really trying to do, to allow creators to directly interface with their fans, PAX is like an event that allows that to happen. And so being able to announce a title like this, and seeing the fans' reactions right there makes this the perfect venue for announcing a Kickstarter.

Switching gears a little bit, I know you've been very vocal about the state of the Japanese game industry. What do you make of it today?

Ultimately, it's probably gotten worse than when I was talking about it before. And that's a shame. But there are options out there. And there are many options that Japanese independent developers can pursue to gain more control, to own their own IP, et cetera. And Kickstarter is one of those fantastic options. And so, one of the reasons why I was interested in doing this Kickstarter wasn't just because of potentially being able to connect with the fans, but also potentially being able to show other Japanese independent developers that there is a way, that there are options. That OK, maybe the Japanese market wasn't what it used to be, but there are still lots of great solutions that if you've got really good content, you can get people to stand up and listen and support it and give yourself a lot of options to help improve the Japanese industry, for sure.

"Ultimately, it's probably gotten worse than when I was talking about it before. And that's a shame" -- Inafune on state of Japanese game industry.

Another thing we're heading into now is the next generation of consoles. This space is very much heating up right now. What do you make of these new consoles, considering we didn't hear anything about them in your plans yesterday.

Everybody in the gaming industry is interested in the next generation of consoles. So, of course, I have a lot of interest in what's going to happen, how it will shake out, what it means. But since I have nothing to announce as far as working on next-gen consoles, there's really nothing more I can say other than they look cool.

Budgets for these new games coming up on these new consoles…teams are in the hundreds, the budgets are in the millions. Millions of copies need to be sold to break even. Do you think this is a healthy model for the industry going forward?

About around the PlayStation 2 era, this was already becoming a hot topic, because budgets were exponentially increasing. Teams were getting larger, development periods were getting longer. And honestly, most developers don't like that because it means, if you're one man out of six people, you can do a lot on the production, you get to have a lot more say and control. You really feel like you're part of it. But if you're one person out of a team of 200, some animator doing the leg of a main character, then it doesn't seem like you're as much a part of a tight nuclear family. It's a much bigger thing. And then the production itself is going to take several years to finish one. So you're going to have one creator who can potentially do ten games in one year and have another creator who can't even finish one game in one year. And your time on earth, and certainly your time as a creator/developer, is limited.

"The scary part is you have games like Call of Duty and they make enough money and they certainly get enough press and media coverage that people start to see that as the standard, the gold standard for what games should be."

And so, if you're forced to do five-year games, maybe you do eight games in your entire life and that's it versus somebody with a smaller budget can do a lot more. The scary part is you have games like Call of Duty and they make enough money and they certainly get enough press and media coverage that people start to see that as the standard, the gold standard for what games should be. And they expect those sorts of games, but what that does is that sets expectations unrealistically high for the amount of budget and sales that can actually occur to fund these sort of titles. So I hope, at some point, that we'll have a bigger shift towards indie games, towards smaller games being something that are more profitable, that are more widely accepted that people can tell the difference between these AAA, super-expensive [games] and some of the indie titles and still really get behind an indie title and support it.

You've talked before about creators needing heart and emotion over simple knowledge or technique to excel in the industry. Why do you think this is?

"At the end of the day, we're human beings; flesh and bone and blood. And it's going to be our hearts and our souls that connect us to the other creators that are on the frontlines with us building these games out."

When you think about technique, technology, what a person's skills get them, there are a lot advantages that come with that. But at the end of the day, we're human beings; flesh and bone and blood. And it's going to be our hearts and our souls that connect us to the other creators that are on the frontlines with us building these games out. And if it comes to a situation where the build isn't looking right or you need to finish something in time, it's going to be your hearts working together, the support, feeling like a family.

These sort of base feelings are going to get you through the tough spots of a development cycle. It's not going to be someone being an especially great programmer. And I've experienced lots of teams where it has had incredibly talented people on them but they've been unable to make a good game because they were missing that soul. So being able to connect to your fellow creators and even moreso to your fans on a heart-to-heart level will forever be stronger than just having a certain programming skill or an artistic skill.

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Discussion

110 comments
ORB1T4LOne
ORB1T4LOne

It's impossible, the "japanese game scene" is feeding gamers with the same games since 30 years and they all turned to crap IMO. I loved playing Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, Sonic and many others, but when I see these games now, my reaction is "WTF ! That's NOT the games I was expecting AT ALL ! 

Xx_Kares_xX
Xx_Kares_xX

I love Megman and Keiji Inafune.... but Kickstarters are bullcrap... I will gladly pay full price once the game is actually a product, but I lost a lot of respect for the man. I miss the good 'ol days where people actually got their OWN funding for their projects. Hell, there are still people today who put years into projects on their own time and money and THEN sell it once it's complete. It doesn't help that this is Keiji Inafune and he could get funding ANYWHERE without taking advantage of his fans... I lost a bit of respect for the man, I've got to say. I can't wait for the next Call of Duty to be run by kickstarter... or more likely for Capcom and Square-Enix to cling to that notion to bring back 'old fan favorites' that they just can't find the money for...

Diablo-B
Diablo-B

Im looking forward to this. Hope they port it to the vita. But couldn't they have made a better name then this. Like Mighty Man or Silver Steal. Those 2 only took me less than a minute

Buck_Swaggler
Buck_Swaggler

I respect this guy much more after reading this.

Hurvl
Hurvl

"The scary part is you have games like Call of Duty and they make enough money and they certainly get enough press and media coverage that people start to see that as the standard, the gold standard for what games should be." Lol, even Inafune is wary of the staggering success that is CoD and how that affects the industry. I don't know if there's something called "too successful", but when something is so successful that other companies try to copy it at the expense of doing other games, it becomes a problem. A copy is rarely better than the original after all.

cousinmerl
cousinmerl

so does anyone here notice no.9 thong?

Adavanter
Adavanter

The commenters over at Mighty No.9 pointed me towards an amazing JRPG that striving not to be a stereotypical game. It has amazing talent in from the composer from Final Fantasy to many industry veterans spanning dozens of epic titles like Halo 4, Crysis and even Valkyria Chronicles. It's only got 6 days left! With some amazing stretch goals left it could use some more attention! It's already met it's goal and sitting at $716,000. Let's push this sucker further!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1300298569/project-phoenix-japans-indie-rpg-feat-aaa-talent

fede_pyro
fede_pyro

so, it's megaman, without megaman?

Quezakolt
Quezakolt

Well, that is great and refreshing to hear. I hope it succeeds.

toddx77
toddx77

With all the fan art, videos, and memes I think it is safe to day Mighty No.9 is going to be unofficially canon to Megaman as well lol.

PinchySkree
PinchySkree

They have been releasing crap 1st party titles so long, why not?

kohle36
kohle36

Credit where credit's due. Nice job Eddie, would like to see more of this in the future. Not always at PAX with industry members on hand, I know, but there's always other ways to answer questions

DukeMagnum
DukeMagnum

oh yes, if only every japanese game creator would leave the companies they work for to start a kickstarter with the goal of essentially recreating a franchise under a different name and adding yet another title to the 20+ games already in the series... then, my friends, the japanese gaming industry might experience a rebirth of creativity!

Rizer
Rizer

Does this imply that Kickstarter funding my be the key to regaining creative freedom for game devs? Maybe, maybe not. Ether way I'm all for this project. I hope it stretches to the PS3. 

AlonaLight
AlonaLight

And I've experienced lots of teams where it has had incredibly talented people on them but they've been unable to make a good game because they were missing that soul. So being able to connect to your fellow creators and even moreso to your fans on a heart-to-heart level will forever be stronger than just having a certain programming skill or an artistic skill".... This is the fucking truth man. These days they are rushed and make a finished game for the release, period. This is truly a worthy game to support. Cant wait. 

Atragon
Atragon

You didnt have to change Megaman! You just had to make a new revamped Megaman game!! But, I'll take this.

senjutsu
senjutsu

Already backed the game, can't wait to play it. In 3 days they got 1.4M$, I really hope that in the 27 next days they can get the 2.5M$ goal to have console versions! ^_^   They already said they are considering to add next gen consoles as well since everybody's been asking for those, lol. Would love that as the game is coming in 2015.

Arawolf
Arawolf

daahh . .  Megaman ya se convirtio en un personajito de Cartoon Network.

telaros
telaros

@Xx_Kares_xX He went to kickstarter to be able to own his own IPs. He left Capcom 3 years ago. Kickstarter has actually funded a LOT of great indie titles that have lead some to remain independent now and not be forced to sell you bits and pieces of a full game back to you filled with ads.

Kickstarter lets the CONSUMER choose what games they want to invest in. Eventually, if it goes well, they will become less and less reliant on Kickstarters to continue to make games they want to make without a big publisher breathing down your necks and goggling up all your original creations to sit for however long they want.

Kickstarter is a road to independence. Developers have no control over their creations. And once it becomes popular, it becomes harder to do what you want, because then you get forced to make what the publisher wants, in the way the publisher wants it 'improved'.

While I personally don't believe his game should cost anywhere near as much as he's gotten so far to make a game with that level of graphics and design, he does have a lot of high commission people working for him and they are used to being paid 1300-2500 just to draw you a picture for gods sake. Humility isn't their strong point.

But the base to make a game of that level of quality does average around 800k-1mil. Now, you can have a game that takes you 4 to 5 years on your own with a small crew to make a game like this without funding, or you can invest and get a game that normally costs 40-60 bucks anyways on a console that may or may not be good, for like 20 bucks.

eBegging has done some good. It's been going on long before kickstarter became a thing, it just happens to make things easier for all involved though and helps gets you more exposure.

Snaptrap
Snaptrap

@Xx_Kares_xX Unfortunately video games do become obsolete and it's not easy to get funding from anywhere for a game like this. Kickstarter offers a simple alternative to avoid all the hoops that even someone like Keiji would have to go through to get it. There's probably a dozen other people from classic franchises that have done this.

GhostGK
GhostGK

@fede_pyro Capcom murdered the little guy.. They think it's too "old-school"

petran78
petran78

@DukeMagnum I wish the same would happen to Street Fighter and Resident Evil as well, even with different characters.

We'd certainly get better games

Rizer
Rizer

@DukeMagnum Well, people work better when they are doing what they love to do.  Sure in this case it might be a mirror image of a previous title he created for a company, but what is significant is that it's totally up to him that he wants to try it. He can stick with an old formula or try something new, it's his decision to make. Whether or not his choices were successful, nobody but the gamers will hold him up or shoot him down by voting with their money. I'm just staying that, from a creative stand point, because the choices he makes are HIS choices, he is more likely to put in that extra effort to impress. 

Sure this title might not seem like something original, but it does point to the fact that creators get a more solid say in their own work if they choose the kickstarter funding method.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@DukeMagnum I can't click "like" enough times on this comment. 

GhostGK
GhostGK

@AlonaLight It's Publishers' fault.. I think all developers are passionate about their games but it's not easy to do what u want when u're on their pay-check.. Can't blame the publisher too much though, It's their job to dish out games & it's developers' job to make the game as good as possible under pressures..

ziqi92
ziqi92

@Atragon Impossible. Inafune left Capcom a long time ago and, when you enter the workforce, anything you create becomes your employer's property, not your own. From a legal standpoint, only with Capcom's approval can there be a Megaman game.

kohle36
kohle36

@Arawolf Cual prefieres, eso o nada? Porque parece que Capcom ya se olvido de Megaman

Eraldus
Eraldus

@Findy37564 I know right? It's awesome! but I can understand your lack of words due to how happy you are...


Robertle419
Robertle419

Because if this game turn out successful he could actually expand it with out having any restrictions 

Xx_Kares_xX
Xx_Kares_xX

@Snaptrap  I know other people have done it.. and that's ridiculous as well. It's ebegging. The fact that people are dumb enough to throw their money at something that's not even garunteed to be completed (and CERTAINLY not garunteed to live up to expectations... see the Ouya) blows my mind. This repeated pattern is setting a new standard and it won't be long until NOTHING is made without kickstarters...

Adavanter
Adavanter

@cousinmerl @Adavanter Project Phoenix. I gave a link right to it. I think that's partly why it was overlooked. It's name seems generic but the talent is anything but. Nobuo Uematsu doing the music? I mean wow.

neroist
neroist

@Xx_Kares_xX @Snaptrap There are soooo many games that are coming from KS that in no way would have been made today. In fact the big Publishers are looking at lower budget games now or older style games that don't fit the modern template and formula.

Bringing back cRPGs. Introducing games back, with complex and deep systems to the like of d20 systems. 

Devs getting to own their own IP and not have to adjust them to please the shady practices publishers make them put into their games. No more pubs saying "that's too complicated"  or "make it more action" or  "Bigger boobs" or "that is not child friendly and will not sell as much tone it down".

The people that put money into KS projects are taking a risk, but we will get to be rewarded with the benefits. Calling them stupid is stupid it self IMO. Those KS funders are trail blazing for a better gaming community at their own risks.

cousinmerl
cousinmerl

@Buck_Swaggler @cousinmerl @Adavanter i hear its coming to the UK in 2014, despite the fact it came out in 2012.

I sometimes wonder about the Japanese, if they care enough about sales outside of japan. (bravely default that is)