Speaking with Eurogamer at a round table event prior to the Smithsonian’s “The Art of Video Games” exhibit, Konami’s Hideo Kojima gave his views on the lamentable state of the Japanese video game industry. In response to Keiji Inafune’s rant at the GDC, in which he accused Japanese game developers of laziness and complacency, Kojima says “I think the problem really is more about where people are looking and who they’re targeting. A lot of creators are just focused on Japan and the Japanese market and aren’t really aware of what people around the world want.”
He says that Japan has fallen behind technologically because fewer Japanese students are studying abroad where the newest technologies are being developed, but that even regaining the cutting edge they once held will not be enough to bring Japan out of its rut.
He argues that the real problem with the Japanese gaming market is its narrowed, insular focus. “Game creators now are creating games based on the culture they know, targeted at Japan and Japanese cultures,” Kojima says. “So they set it in places like Shibuya or Shinjuku or somewhere else in Tokyo. And it’s not something that appeals to people outside of Japan. Because Japan doesn’t look outside of it’s borders then technologies don’t come, creating this vicious cycle.”
“In contrast to that, most Western studios approach things from more of a Hollywood standpoint where they’re looking at making their games a very global success and looking at how they can sell them in various markets. From the very beginning they have those goals and are able to get the proper budget and commit the proper technology to it.”
Despite the astute contrast, Kojima makes sure to point out that he isn’t setting Japan in opposition to the west, or vice-versa. “I don’t want to break this down to a thing where it’s Japanese games versus non Japanese games. The key is it has to be a global game, it has to be something made for everybody. I want to get rid of all those barriers.”
Of course, Kojima wouldn’t be Kojima without making at least one absurd yet awesome comment, and he delivers this one as his finale: “When I think of my studio I think of it as the Starship Enterprise. The Enterprise had people from all races – even Vulcans! I want my studio to be like that. This is my Enterprise. It just happens that the captain is Japanese and the ship was manufactured by Konami, but it’s a multi-cultural staff.”
Here’s to hoping Konami recruits a few Vulcans to save the Japanese gaming industry.