Keiji Inafune’s Advice To Young Video Game Developers

By Spencer . May 3, 2013 . 6:01pm


On top of planning Soul Sacrifice and developing Kaio: King of Pirates, Keiji Inafune also teaches young game designers. He hosts a class called "Inafune Academy" where other game developers, typically graduates from other video game colleges, attend to learn about game design from Inafune. Speaking with Siliconera, Inafune talked about what the key to success is for a console developer, a mobile game developer, and shared advice for young game designers.


The video game industry is going through a big change this year with smartphone games becoming more popular, especially in Japan where GREE dominates the market, and a new wave of consoles like PS4 and the next Xbox. How do you think the industry will change?


It’s very difficult to say how things are going to change. The idea I have in mind is smartphones and the next generation of consoles should be in different spaces. Also, consoles should be more creative when it comes to business models. You should be able to have free to play and other models that we didn’t have before. Console games used to only focus on a $50 value, but there can be other kinds of games moving forward since there are many different options for players.


Where is Comcept and Intercept going to focus on? Handhelds, consoles, or smartphones? All three?


I want to stay aggressive and do everything. There is a lot to learn from each platform and you can translate that knowledge into other platforms. If you keep creating on one side you might get better at that, but you may miss out by not learning about what else is out there. I hope we will be successful on all of the platforms we work on.


What do you think is the number one thing to be successful as a console developer?


The most important thing for success is being able to show a brand new gaming experience. It has to be something players haven’t seen before. Because the investment is so big players expect a new experience.


And what is the most important thing for a mobile developer?


The key to success for a smartphone game isn’t something that’s necessarily brand new. People that play smartphone games tend to want to play something they’ve seen before. "Oh, this is something like Mario or this is something like another game I remember!" Players are happy with something they are familiar with and doesn’t scare them off. If it’s something they know and easier to play or lite, that motivates them to continue to play, so that’s probably the key to success for a smartphone title.



I was watching the Inafune Academy videos and in the first one in the 3rd semester you told all of the designers you want to see a brand new idea. What new ideas that you’ve seen have inspired you as a creator?


Yes I’m teaching that and of course I am always looking for brand new ideas. I tend to want to be the creator who comes out with new ideas. From what I’ve seen from everyday life and various meetings I haven’t seen something that shocking. Most of the ideas I’ve seen within or outside the academy is something I could have imagined first.


Let’s say a young designer has just graduated from Inafune Academy and you’re handing them their diploma. What advice would you give them about the industry?


From teaching in the academy, I see that the students are smarter than before. They have a lot of techniques they learned from school and all of them tend to be knowledgeable. I would tell these young creators don’t end up small. You’re young and starting your career. Be daring. Be adventurous. You’re allowed to make mistakes.


Don’t try to be smart and end up wrapping yourself up into a small package. Break out of your shell and try to do things.


I see that’s what you’re doing since you started Comcept and that’s exciting. However, with respect to the way studios are set up in Japan there are layers of structure for big budget games. Do you think that’s more difficult since teams are larger than when you started developing games?


A lot of the participants in the Inafune Academy come from a video game development school. As you said, publishers and the game industry is so systematic most of the game schools they raise students to fit these systems. That’s why I gave the advice I did. Knowing about the structure, I would like young people to break out of their shells. I will keep saying that because raising average students to fill seats will make the industry boring. Nothing new will come out of it. In my days, there were no systems you’re were either stupid or you’re a genius. There weren’t any systems and we were able to create a lot of great IP back then. There needs to be that daring spirit for people to create something brand new.


That reminds of words I heard from another developer who said, fail and fix.


I was very fortunate because in my days I was able to learn from trial and error so many times because it didn’t take as long to create one game. I was able to fail as well as succeed by the sheer number of projects I tried were so many more than what young creators can do these days when it takes three to five years to create one game and sometimes it doesn’t get published. It’s impossible to fail with so many titles. I feel rather unfortunate for young people these days.

Read more stories about & & on Siliconera.

  • ShadowDivz

    I wonder if he also wanted to say “Also, don’t join capcom. I left for a reason” and then laugh to pass it off as a joke.

  • Kioku

    They MAKE games.
    We PLAY them!

  • Foxeh Shihōin

    this was a great read, thanks for posting this!

  • So FPS’s are like smartphone games?

    • Ibi Salmon

      They are if you think about it. They show up constantly, are played for only a little while, and then are dropped once another arrives.(At least that’s the case with Call of Duty these days.)

      The only difference is that smartphone games know they aren’t worth much while most FPS’s think they’re worthy of a full $60 price tag.

      • Paradox me

        Most games are ‘if you think about it.’ Hundreds of games are released each year and even those with ridiculous amounts of hype behind them quickly lose steam following both their release and the approach of the next big thing.

        While you could argue that multiplayer FPS are easily replaced, the same applies to multiplayer games in general. ‘Casual’ gamers sink more hours into multiplayer games than ‘core’ gamers do even the longest singleplayer games, exhausting the relatively limited amount of content provided. People would move on to something fresh with or without annual Call of Duty games.

        As for these games’ value, it’s entirely subjective. To FPS fans, a ~10 hour campaign and multiplayer component they’ll play regularly over the next ~6 months for $60 is a steal. No different than a 45 minute, $40+ Cave game being worth it to shoot ’em up fans, or $40+ fighting games that exist almost entirely for competitive multiplayer.

        Not to mention the FPS genre is actually more diverse than folks give it credit for. Beyond military shooters you’ve got atmospheric singleplayer affairs like BioShock with storytelling that’s as good or better than many RPGs, hybrids like Deus Ex and System Shock 2, so on and so forth.

        • 3rd person shooters>FPS. Unless its a horror title.

        • Ibi Salmon

          Good point. I’m not saying that the FPS genre is bad as a whole. It’s just that a majority of them seem to play all the same and make the player do the same thing over and over again.

          The good FPS games(in my opinion) do one of two things:

          1. Adds to the basics of an FPS game. The examples you mentioned as well as The Darkness series are good examples of that. They allow the player to do more than just shoot stuff.

          2. Make shooting things rewarding. If you’re going to have us shooting things, then the least they can do is make it seem like we’re accomplishing something(like some old-school shooters like Doom or even the early Call of Duty games.)

          Any FPS that doesn’t do at least one of these things isn’t getting a purchase from me. Again, that’s just my opinion.

  • Sekai-jin

    Interesting idea with Free To Play model on console. Its like a demo for a game, so the player can test whether the game fit their taste before buying that.

    But execution of this must be followed with availability of full game at fixed price, $60 so that people that play the free version and like it, can buy the full game at normal pricing. And not paying $0.99 for every upgrade, which can end up costing $500 for all upgrade..

    $500 for all content in free to play game? Especially when other mobile game with full content cost at most, $20 (Infinity Blade). That is way too much.

    • sandra10

      The problem is execution – publishers are putting massive paywalls behind every available action to the point where their free-to-play games are just glorified demos. But that’s not what the freemium model is which is supposed to give away the majority of the service/product for free and charge a premium for the little that’s leftover (only the core customers will pay for that anyway).

      If they did it that way where they give away the majority of the game for free (say 90-95%) and only a small percentage of the users pay for anything then $500 for all of the content doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

      • Barrylocke89

        But I guess the counter argument that companies are making that make them afraid to take the leap is “Well if the majority of the game is free and only a few aspects are for pay, what’s to make the customer pay that much for what’s left over?”

        This style of Free to Play is very interesting, but in some ways I think a lot of the games that use it may need to be made somewhat differently so that it can take that style of collecting cash to its advantage. It may prove to be more complicated than “Take X game and remove Y features”.

        This is one of the reasons why I’m interested in PSO2. It’d be my first time trying out a free-to-play game of that sort of scale, and I’m curious to see how I, a non Phantasy Star fan (I’ve played a couple of the traditional jrpg style ones and PS0 on the DS) might react to what’s being offered to me for cash that I wasn’t initially spending.

  • TheExile285

    Keji is man

  • Дмитрий Гермес

    Very good interview, thank you. Even a little sorry Keiji …

  • NimbusStev

    “I would tell these young creators don’t end up small. You’re young and starting your career. Be daring. Be adventurous.”

    This is actually the opposite of what I’ve heard from a lot of other developers. Normally they tell you to start out small so that you don’t get in over your head. I’ve heard it’s better to have a small, short but complete game rather than a crazy, overly-ambitious idea that never gets finished. Though I suppose the real key is balancing between the two extremes.

    • MogCakes

      Inafune’s point of view seems to be ‘don’t be afraid of failure, you’re not at the stage where failure will ruin your career yet so take that opportunity to let your passion flow’

      • NimbusStev

        Which is a very cool message, to be honest. I think that’s why I’ve been so interested in indie games lately. These young developers aren’t afraid to try ideas that are completely out there. They come up with some really unique stuff.

    • 60hz

      i think ‘small’ was a mistranslation, it probably should have read as conservative i’m guessing… that is you can still make a game with low overhead that is not conservative (katamari for example).

  • Asuna Ilano

    Oh God, I wanna enroll to that academy so freaking bad. >.<

Video game stories from other sites on the web. These links leave Siliconera.

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos