Keiji Inafune On Japanese Developers And Why He Left Capcom
In a lengthy interview with Japanese site, 4Gamer, Mega Man creator and longtime Capcom global development head, Keiji Inafune, surprised his interviewer with the announcement that he was leaving Capcom and his reasons for doing so. A commenter on the gaming forum, NeoGAF, has translated their discussion.
In the interview, Inafune speaks about his distaste for the lack of creativity and work ethic in Japanese game design, as well as why he’s interested in western-style game development. The following is a brief summary of Inafune’s views:
On Japan falling behind in game development:
In summary, Inafune believes the Japanese game development community has lost its will to create better games. "More. More. People always want more fun and prettier graphics, right? This is to be expected, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But that’s where a problem arose," he said.
He goes on to say that players’ demands have reached a stage where their expectations are so high, it’s impossible to fully satisfy them. Despite this, however, there’s no "risk" to creating a bad game, for individual developers working at Japanese companies.
"It’s not a system where you don’t get paid your next month’s paycheck if the game doesn’t sell," Inafune stated. "Even if it doesn’t sell, you still get your paycheck the next month. Because people are used to working in such a system, against such competition, the sense of wanting to make a better and better game has weakened. It’s like, "I’m just doing what I was told to do." "
On leaving Capcom:
By leaving Capcom, Inafune hopes to effect a change within the Japanese games industry through his own methods. He reveals that he feels he attempted for several years to restructure the way Capcom develops games, with regard to budgets and innovation, with little success.
This ties in to why he felt the need to resign from the company. As a high-ranking salaryman rather than a creator, he says, he had no incentive to innovate beyond certain limits. Inafune stated:
"For some years, I tried the same thing from within Capcom. Take this for example: I was the head of development. That means I was actually at the top of Capcom. I couldn’t go any higher. So it was best for me to just be a salaryman, not doing anything new so as to avoid failing, not doing anything outstanding, quietly dealing with what I was told. Because if I did anything brashly and failed, I would no longer be in that position."
On western developers:
"They’re also far and away more passionate. That’s one big reason," Inafune opined on western developers.
"As stated before in regards to IPOs, western developers are far more fragmented than in Japan; the lower tiers of western developers, I hate to say, are slaves. In an environment where it’s not unusual to get laid off, you have to do you work well, and make an effort to get noticed, they’ve made advances… Their level of drive is completely different."
And while western developers are rewarded for hard work and innovation, Japanese developers are not, says Inafune. "On the other hand, Japanese developers from top to bottom have the same feeling. Of course they’re not really slaves, but on the other hand, just because you made a hit, it doesn’t mean you’ll see anything for it."
Despite his admiration for overseas working methods, Inafune isn’t hesitant to point out what he feels are the weaknesses of western game developers either.
"[However] you can’t just leave them alone. Even with technical skills, they often lack adequate ideas and concepts for utilizing those skills," he said. "That’s exactly why I’m such a good match for them. (laughs) They don’t have to be a top-notch development studio. I just want to work with a team that has good potential and a positive work attitude."
Interestingly enough, Capcom’s top brass didn’t seem too moved by Inafune’s departure, as Inafune mentions that nobody commented on his letter of resignation: "Even when I submitted my letter of resignation, nobody contacted me about it. (laughs)"
"There should’ve been a, "Hey Inafune, do you have some time?" or, "What do you mean by this? I want to hear it straight from you." Nothing. Zero."
A huge thanks to João for the great tip!