If you were an investor, who would you chose to invest in: the developer who is devoted to making products that match the traditional concept of video games, games that sell only to a hardcore niche; or the developer who publishes casual "games," products that are widely bought by those only briefly familiar with the medium? It's no contest. Casual games are just too good of a moneymaker to pass up. It's hard to justify dumping millions of dollars into developing a hardcore video game when it's easy to churn out another Brain Age
clone or illustrated kanji dictionary. Because of this, traditional games have to walk on eggshells. The developer may be willing to innovate within a series, but the fanbase is most likely going to reject any changes to a familiar formula. So what choice does a developer have to do but lean on the conservative side and release a rehash of a previous game? Western gamers were surprised at how generic and unoriginal Mistwalker's Blue Dragon
was, but it was precisely what Japanese hardcore gamers wanted: more of the same. On a similar note, the recently released Devil May Cry 4
is getting good reviews, but it is nothing we haven't seen in previous installments of the series.
So what is my point here? To put it simply: the rise of casual games is seriously damaging the Japanese gaming market on a level not comparable to that of America. As a result, they are quickly becoming unwilling to innovate, leaving Western developers to pull ahead in creative ideas. Numerous Japanese developers have lamented the state of Japanese gaming and acknowledged current Western superiority, including Goichi Suda, Yukio Futatsugi (Panzer Dragoon
, Phantom Dust
), and apparently most of Konami, as they have outsourced the development of major titles like Contra 4
and Silent Hill 5
to Western teams. Even Nintendo has handed over the reins of the beloved Metroid
series to Retro Studios, centered in Texas.
Are Japanese developers incapable of making some truly great games? No, and I hope to see great things come out of Atsushi Inaba, Shinji Mikami, and Hideki Kamiya's Platinum Games studio in the vein of Capcom's shuttered Clover Studio (another victim of the rise of casual gaming). However, Japanese developers seem less and less willing to forge their own path in a crowded market.
Necros didn't write Rantoid last week because he was busy being a student at Syracuse University. When he isn't swamped with work, he appears as a regular on Failcast.