GDC 2012: ‘Mega Man’ Co-Creator Keiji Inafune Pretty Much Thinks Japanese Games Are Doomed

During his GDC talk, “The Future of Japanese Games,” the former Capcom producer maintained his pessimistic outlook for Japanese game development after famously saying last year that it was “game over” for the Japanese development industry.

Inafune, who spoke through a translator worried during his talk that he might lose some of his Japanese fans as well as possibly making some enemies back home in Japan. Nevertheless, for about an hour, the producer with a long list of credits including Dead Rising, Resident Evil 2, and Lost Planet talked about the difficulties he sees as an over reliance on nostalgia and insularity in the Japanese development scene. While his speech was light on specific prescriptions for how to fix what he views as the major ailments of Japanese development, Inafune was nonetheless passionate in his belief that Japanese devs needed to be “hungry” and more willing to create globally appealing titles.

Inafune started the chat by telling the audience that usually he avoids preparing remarks, preferring to speak instead from the heart. But in this case, he would work from a script, going back to his comment from last year and explaining that before his departure from Capcom, his was one of the only companies in his mind that was targeting a global audience. Inafune cited Lost Planet, Monster Hunter, and Onimusha all as titles that appealed to a wider audience while competing on the global stage, targeting their respective their respective consoles early in the hardware life cycle.

On the nostalgia point, he called many of the current major IP releases “blasts from the past,” likening them to Steve McQueen or the Beatles: you could still enjoy and appreciate them and find them important, but they were throwbacks to an earlier era and not representative of anything new. He cited HD and up-res’d versions of classic games as the new go-to for Japanese developers. He says that many companies still have great brand power, but no one is willing to do anything more with them beyond exploit their nostalgia factor. Devs need to build, not just maintain IPs, Inafune elaborated, pointing to Apple as a company that continues to build progressively on its legacy.

When asked by an audience member if there were any Japanese game companies that were competitive in the manner which he was proscribing, Inafune said he’d have to hold his tongue, not wanting to make any more enemies when he returned home.

“Time is running out,” he warned.

It’s Inafune’s belief that the decline in Japanese game development dominance is the result of how easy it was for them to “win” in the past and a current inability to recognized that their industry is struggling now. “To win,” he elaborated, “you must first acknowledge your loss and prepare to start over.”

For his part, Inafune says that he chose the hard route in leaving Capcom to start up his new indie developer Comcept, with a focus on developing IP without layers of approval or huge decision-making chains. Right now his team is working on King of Pirates for the 3DS as well as social games, and let slip that his team was also developing something for the Vita.

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