Shuhei Yoshida Talks About Making Industry Leading Games in Japan, Aided by Sony Santa Monica’s Allan Becker

Shuhei Yoshida Talks About Making Industry Leading Games in Japan, Aided by Sony Santa Monica’s Allan Becker

SCE Worldwide Studio president Shuhei Yoshida has been working very hard in the past years to bring great games to PlayStation platforms, and can be considered one of the men that is driving the current positive trends we’re seing with the PS4. Mark Cerny calls the whole thing “Shu Yoshida’s Master Plan,” but what plans does Yoshida-san have for Sony Computer Entertainment’s Japan Studio?

Today he explained just that as part of a long interview on the Japanese tech website AV Watch. Here’s a summary of the most relevant points outlining his plans to make industry leading games in Japan, able to support the PlayStation platforms.

  • With the first PlayStation, Sony has been lucky. They were newcomers in the industry and had a very shallow experience in game development. That was countered by the fact that third parties supported the consoles with games like Ridge Racer, Resident Evil, Tekken, Final Fantasy VII or Metal Gear.
  • Unfortunately in the past few years the profit margins have increased in the mobile market, so leading Japanese publishers started to shift a lot of resources there. There’s also the competition of Nintendo’s portable, so PlayStation has become at times unable to host amazing third party titles.
  • While third parties drove the market, there were also first party genre-leading titles like Gran Turismo, but those were comparatively pretty rare.
  • In a market with the present circumstances first party titles able to drive the market need to be made by the World Wide Studio, born from the Japanese side.
  • In the past when the Japan Studio wanted to make a game, then the marketing side would come in and ask “How do you plan to sell this?” On the other hand in the West discussion with marketing is done at an earlier stage.
  • In the same fashion now the Worldwide Studio meets with the SCEJA marketing team every week to discuss issues together like they were in the same team, improving communication.
  • That has begun with Gravity Rush, Tokyo Jungle and Soul Sacrifice, and a system in which the studio and the marketing team can demonstrate their power together is being put gradually in place. While this still didn’t produce a smash hit, Yoshida-san feels that with further effort they’ll be able to produce titles for which they can say “We want to make a sequel” and able to drive a platform.
  • They’re getting better, but they’re not quite there yet. The western side of the studio has been very aware of the need of “supporting the platform,” and that consciousness is beginning to appear in Japan too.
  • Japan studio will be the one to invest most in the Vita, in order to make titles able to drive the platform.
  • PS4 will be adopted over time. Western studios have made big investments in technology and realistic graphics. On the other hand Japanese games are more focused on story and gameplay, so high-end graphics weren’t necessary. That’s not something that can improve in a short period of time, so things will be gradual there.
  • To drive the change Allan Becker, who founded the Santa Monica Studio, has been made head of the Japan Studio.
  • Becker is actually half American, Half Japanese and has been raised in Japan. He speaks Japanese fluently and he embodies both the American and Japanese cultures. He loves the Japanese culture and the most creative Japanese games. He really loves PaRappa the Rapper for instance. That’s why he accepted without reserve.
  • Santa Monica Studio is a very unique studio that can creates titles representative of the platform like God of War, or work with indies in titles like Journey. Recreating that developer-friendly environment with a variety of views is the aim of shifting Becker from Santa Monica to the Japan Studio.
  • Becker is a man that works behind the scenes, reluctant to go under the spotlight, but his history with PlayStation is extremely long, since the very beginning. When Yoshida-san was producer of Crash Bandicoot for the Japanese side, Becker was the producer on the American side.
  • Now Yoshida-san, Becker and another of the most relevant men behind Crash Bandicoot, Mark Cerny (even if Cerny is an external consultant) are working together again on Knack. They all have a strong attachment to the PlayStation brand, and are strongly determined to make it succeed.

That sounds quite the plan, doesn’t it? Of course we’ll have to see if “Shu Yoshida’s Master Plan” will really work, and will bring Sony’s Japan Studio to new levels of success. Personally, I loved almost all they made recently, so things are already looking quite good.

That said, I can’t wait to see the results of the changes Yoshida-san described, maybe starting with Freedom Wars, of which we didn’t see too much recently, but that looks really promising.