Keiji Inafune On How The Original Mega Man Was Like An Indie Game

By Ishaan . March 19, 2014 . 6:51pm

Keiji Inafune once famously said, “Japan is over.”


The controversial comment earned him a considerable deal of ire, and understandably so, since not everyone understood what Inafune was trying to convey. At the time, Inafune was referring to the fact that Japanese developers had been unable to keep themselves on the map, and to lead the industry as they once did. Ambition, Inafune had said, was lacking.


His opinion hasn’t changed very much from that original statement even today, Inafune shared at a panel during GDC this evening.


Japanese games aren’t doing very well in the U.S. and overall in general. The energy level of Japanese games hasn’t come up to a satisfactory point as yet, and a huge amount of effort is required for Japanese games to get back to where they once were.


Inafune went on to discuss what it feels like to be an independent developer, now that he isn’t an employee of Capcom any more, and is working on Mighty No. 9, which is entirely his own project, being developed in collaboration with Inti Creates. Inafune said that watching indie developers in the west helped him figure out what he could do after he left Capcom, and that he feels his “heart and soul” are a lot more free and healthy now that he’s struck out on his own.


That said, Inafune isn’t necessarily concerned about the usage of the term “indie”.


In a sense, he suggests, the original Mega Man for Famicom was an indie movement of sorts at Capcom. At the time, arcades were Capcom’s main business, and the team that Inafune was part of was simply tasked with porting arcade games to home consoles like the Famicom. However, the team had aspirations beyond just porting existing games, Inafune said—they wanted to create a game of their own, and so they did.


The development team for the first Mega Man game was extremely small, and it wasn’t even housed in the main building of Capcom’s headquarters. (Inafune said the team was “treated as such”.) Instead of adhering to what was requested of them, the team followed their passion, which led to the creation of Mega Man.


The team for Mega Man 1, Inafune said, comprised of just six people, three of which were new hires with no experience or any idea of what they were going to work on at the time. So, in a sense, the passion that led to the game’s creation is where the “heart of indie” lies, according to Inafune.


Oh, and those three new hires, Inafune mentioned, are now working on Mighty No. 9.

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  • thaKingRocka

    “Oh, and those three new hires, Inafune mentioned, are now working on Mighty No. 9.”

    This makes me so very happy.

    • Aristides

      Awesome Avi man. SMS FTW

      • thaKingRocka

        Haha! Thanks, man. I can still go back and play Black Belt any day. It is so simple and so gratifying.

  • Jirin

    I can see that.

    Of course, later on they took these great ideas the original team had and perfected the formula in Megamans 2 and 3. The original Megaman is fun but also has some rather obvious gameplay issues. So I’d say this is an argument for a combination of the small team and big team mindsets.

  • WyattEpp

    I think the strategy of small-team iteration is one we’re going to be seeing more and more as developers balk at the death march toward “realism” and publishers have their epiphany that it’s a good way to diversify. Child of Light feels like it’s cast from this sort of mold.

  • Satori Satya

    “Japanese games aren’t doing very well in the U.S. and overall in general”

    Does Nintendo count as a company that produces Japanese games? Because:

    Top 10 best selling seventh generation console games.

    1. Wii Sports (45.7 million) – Bundled
    2. Wii Play (22.98 million)
    3. Wii Fit (18.2 million)
    4. Mario Kart Wii (15.4 million)
    5. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (8.4 million)
    6. Halo 3 (8.1 million)
    7. Super Mario Galaxy (8.02 million)
    8. Mario Party 8 (6.7 million)
    9. Gears of War 2 (5 million, may include PC version)
    10. Gears of War (4.7 million, may include PC version)

    PS. Numbers mostly from 2009

    • DesmaX

      That’s just one developer

      • Satori Satya

        Yeah. Things are looking bleak for Japanese software makers in the US.

        Looking over the NPD charts, there are rarely any Japanese devs in there.

        EDIT: Just tried looking for successful Western games charting high on the sales lists in Japan. Not that many.

    • GH56734

      Nintendo’s case is very apart from the rest.
      Besides the IP rehearsal part (and the cheap cash-ins) they sticked to creative integrity from day 1 and didn’t shy away from taking risks (it’s just that many of those efforts were sadly Japan-only)

  • Mind0105A

    It’s not about Japanese game or non-Japanese game. It’s all about the game itself and it’s developer. A good developer will make a good game regardless of being Japanese or not. There is good/bad Japanese games and there is good/bad non-Japanese games.

    Each developer should follow his own style and improve it. Also, a good director will help make a good game, take an example Castlevania lord of shadow, Hideo kojima gave guidance to the developer. I remember that I read somewhere before about the team and they said that Hideo Kojima asked questions of whys about their story and then they improve it along the game play.

    So, in the end it comes to the Team itself+Idea.

  • Yan Zhao

    Im pretty sure Japanese games dont sell well in the West because more Westerners dont appreciate most games outside Call of Duty, FPS clone #101, GTA, or Madden.

    • M’iau M’iaut

      Enough. Take the I hate Western developers elsewhere please. Quit judging folks just because they don’t play what you enjoy. Warned.

      • Fen Y

        But…. What he wrote was a pretty accurate statement. It seems quite awful to abuse your mod powers just because you feel personally insulted by someone mention pretty accurate facts.

        He didn’t even put any value onto it – it’s a fact that a loud portion of western gamers claims to prefer generic FPS games, GTA or Madden over non-western games, simply due to graphics. Anything not in a muddy brown starring muscly dudes is seen as girly/”gay” (and thus as an insult, because the average western gamer is pretty homophobic).

        If you disagree, then you clearly have no idea whatsoever about western development. Whenever we have a focus group, and it gets mostly males from 18-25, this is the result. Every single time. The only way to get a different result is if you make huge efforts to diversify your focus group. The last game I worked on nearly got scrapped due to this.

        Ever wondered why there is such a push to make franchises into generic shooters? This is why.

        And it’s a well known problem. Yan Zhao didn’t make it up. Syndicate, X-Com and Legacy of Kain all got crappy shooter reboots because of this. And surely you won’t claim that any of them isn’t crappy.

        Don’t believe me? Why not listen to Jim Sterling, who is quite an ADVOCATE of western games?

        You may not like these facts, but they don’t just go away, not even if you wave your shiny mod powers to silence such facts.

        • Satori Satya

          “it’s a fact that a loud portion of western gamers claims to prefer generic FPS games, GTA or Madden over non-western games, simply due to graphics”

          ^^^ I think that part is not going to give your argument a lot of credibility.

          I stopped reading at that point…. did it get worse?

          EDIT: “Anything not in a muddy brown starring muscly dudes is seen as girly/”gay” (and thus as an insult, because the average western gamer is pretty homophobic)”

          ^^^^ Yep. It did.

          • Trepie

            How does that not give credibility? Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s not true. He was stating a fact. What are the top selling games in the west? (At least here in the US) It tends to be Call of Duty, Madden, other generic FPS, generic super realistic car racing game, etc. etc. Put your hands over your ears (or eyes, in this case) all you want, that doesn’t change the truth.

            And the whole “gay” thing is a bit of a stretch, but it does make a lot of sense. We’ve been making great strides in the US to stop discrimination and homophobia but we’ve still got a long ways to go before you can go on Xbox Live and not get called a homophobic slur.

          • Satori Satya

            You’re not convincing me with those weak arguments, dude.

            For starters, his opinions are not FACT.

          • Trepie

            “What are the top selling games in the west? (At least here in the US)
            It tends to be Call of Duty, Madden, other generic FPS, generic super
            realistic car racing game, etc. etc.”

            Prove to me how that is not fact.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Nothing about the us sales numbers turns anyone into gay hating people going out of their way to keep niche jp games down. Most of them would have no idea about a nisa or xseed title. Just as a jp player of mon mon may not know all us centered games.

            My twitter feed is full of folks mostly from here who play both styles of game. Again deciding that how any one of us defines how all of us game needs to stop. And stop now.

          • Yan Zhao

            Yet you provided zero argument to back your own stance. Ironic.

          • Satori Satya

            Well my stance isn’t entirely based on trying to pass my opinions as facts.Which is what that user is trying to do.

            Therefore, I don’t need to back them up with a big wall-o-text.

            So sorry if you really, really wanted to read some people arguing about something while you sipped your evening tea while stuffing your face with a croissant. But that ain’t happening. Try Gamefaqs.

        • M’iau M’iaut

          The point is those folks can like the games they like, you and the original poster can like the games you appreciate, and I can enjoy something else. All can be done without snap value judgments or even a reason. No explanations are needed from any side.

          So what if the types of games are different. In fact, by Balkanizing ourselves with such comments, we only hurt encouraging others to try a wider range of games.

          We cover many games here from both the West and the East, and many of our community play games from both sides of the Pacific. We ask everyone to respect that and move on if the games being discussed are simply those they choose not to play.

          • TempestTwin

            ” we only hurt encouraging others to try a wider range of games.”

            If one comment that people read on the internet is enough to “discourage” them for trying a wider range of games then to be honest they probably are closed minded anyway, and there is no changing that.

            Last time I checked siliconera was a discussion place for gamers on articles, who are entitled to their own opinion. I understand you don’t want any Jap vs West discussions because they are a never ending circle of bullshit but as Fen Y said he did bring a good point to the table, and it is based on facts. For the record, Yan Zhao never stated that he hated western games, the point was he was sick of rehashed recycled games.

          • Yan Zhao

            Let me be as blunt as I can, you’ve been a moderation nazi for the past week and it’s getting really obnoxious.

            I simply stated an extremely FACTUAL statement, it had nothing to do with my opinion of western vs Japanese games nor did I even mention anything of the sort. Reading my original post, I didnt see anything that insinuated negativity towards western games.

            I wont ask you to improve your reading comprehension so that you wont automatically freak out at people’s comments randomly without warrant, but I will ask that you at least act more professional and stop jumping the gun just because one comment seems to bother you, and only YOU.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            We ask everyone to follow the same rules of civility, not beating the same dead horses and keeping an open mind — not just you. Why does it matter what someone else appreciates or not? Truth is, it doesn’t.

            When you take the additional step to declare folks narrow minded and homophobic simply because of what they play, yes I will take notice, and I will remember. Sorry if asking folks to stop such behavior offends or frustrates you. Such things are the rules we have enforced forever and will continue to do so. If you can’t understand that, you are welcome to move on.

          • Yan Zhao

            That’s great and all, except all of the things you mentioned wasnt even said by me.

            Im still waiting on an explanation on what exactly was “wrong” with my initial post. Because it was simply a factual statement based on my observation from 1 statement Keiji Inafune made inside this article. And most other people agrees and are trying to tell you the same thing. There was nothing uncivil about it, you’re simply trying to make it so to justify your initial outburst.

          • TempestTwin

            Now you have me confused. You are trying to twist the situation about narrow minded and homophobic remarks when Yan Zhao never said any of the sought.

            You warned him on his post saying stating how he feels that people in the west are unappreciative of japanese games, where you said:

            “Enough. Take the I hate Western developers elsewhere please. Quit
            judging folks just because they don’t play what you enjoy. Warned.”

            When he never said he hates western developers or was judging people for what games they enjoy. All he did was state an observation which he is entitled to do so, and siliconera’s rules does not say that he can’t do that. On the contrary, you yourself turned the topic into a West vs Jap discussion because you interpreted his post in that way.

        • Kaitsu

          From my observation. It’s how things are advertised. Nintendo games sell a lot in America because they are advertised. Anything that is popular is constantly advertised. Might No. 9? Do you honestly think it would’ve been as backed up as much as it did if it wasn’t advertised? Advertising increases numbers of sales or just anything in general.

          I honestly don’t think anyone would’ve touched Fire Emblem if it wasn’t for Smash Bros. or advertisement.

          And no, they don’t want an FPS game or GTA or Madden. They want games that they saw in commercials and have been talked about. When you’ve worked in a game department, that’s all they want to know, that’s all they want to ask.

          • TempestTwin

            Yes, it is all about advertising as you said. But that still doesn’t mean that people aren’t annoyed at seeing the same rehashed recycled games over and over that other people purchase.

            If you were to ask me, I would just say to ignore the whole western scene of games if you don’t like them. Who knows what the future holds, games such as COD might fall into the same pit that guitar hero fell in.

          • Fallen_Persona

            That’s not purely true. I think they want games that are both in commercials (bonus for SB) and “cool.” The way I look at it, however, no matter how much you advertise 90% of games, it won’t sell more than GTA or CoD in the US. Why? Many reasons. Familiarity is one of them, but even more than that? A lot of times I think it’s just not easy enough.

            I bet there’s people that gave Fire Emblem a bad-mouthing simply because it’s more difficult than insert random FPS game, and that’s part of the problem, in my opinion.

        • John Diamond

          how’s man gonna make sweeping generalisations calling most western gamers homophobic?

          • Yan Zhao

            He’s not exactly wrong, and I dont think he’s generalizing the whole western gamer population. His statement only applies to those it applies to, which frankly, applies to 90% of the non-gamers who probably havent played much other games outside your typical Western AAA titles.

            I mean, dont even get me started on how many people I had to listen to calling Ash Crimson from King of Fighters XIII “gay” because he had an effeminate design, while the other half thought he was a woman.

    • Anewme…Again

      I think the main reason japanese games don’t sell that well in the west is because Japan and the west have different taste in game in general.
      Japanese developers most of the times make games with only japanese players in mind.
      But the same can be said about western games, not many western games sell well in Japan.

      • Yan Zhao

        You’re correct, it’s a difference of taste, but it’s also a narrow-minded mindset. Almost any Japanese games with Japanese stereotypes or cliches gets ridiculed or get extremely negative hate out of these people that ends up turning these game towards the niche categories. I have no problem with this, but I do have a problem with the mass’s general blind hate towards JP games just because it doesnt appeal to them.

        Fen Y’s post pretty much nailed it in that regard about the homophobic mindset.

      • Ric Vazquez

        True Story

    • TheRealMalek

      Not really “in the West” more “in the US”.
      In europe japanese games are selling pretty well even if market is quite smaller. Sure it’s not japanese numbers, but it’s quite not bad.

      • Anewme…Again

        I don’t know much about japanese sales in the west, but i would think japanese games often sell more in the US than in Europe, if that wasn’t the case US wouldn’t get so many japanese games way before Europe.

        • TheRealMalek

          It’s because the market is bigger not because games aren’t selling well… And operation rainfall ? Does it ring a bell to you ?

          Xenoblades,Pandora tower, bravely default all have been released in europe before US.More over some ps3 sales IN us goes to europe because of import and lower price when importing from US.

          The main true problem of europe is people not wanting to learn english (i’m french so i know how my fellow countrymen react when they see ‘english only’ :p) so if you want to hit most people yuou need to translate at least in 5 languages which is way too much for many companies.

          • Fallen_Persona

            What you just mentioned, about the multiple languages, is why I think Game Companies need to do a better job future-proofing their games. Sure, there’s a big chance it won’t become a big hit, but if it does, are you prepared? If not, then that could hurt in the long-run.

            To be completely honest, this is where a relationship with a manufacturer would be a great idea. I’m sure if you released a game, say exclusive to Sony for example, and it sold well for PS, if you wanted to expand markets you could probably negotiate out a little help from SCEE.

        • Ashton Anchors

          That’s probably because EU players just can’t wait for the damn game to come out in EU so they simply import the US version *i know i do*. It’s not the country’s fault it’s the uneven distribution that covers the real numbers.

      • M’iau M’iaut

        The sales numbers of niche games really have not changed a whole lot over the years. A marginally successful game will do somewhere around 25-40k sales, a title that grabs most of the target audience attention will get 50-75k and one that gets a little beyond the core will reach 100k or more. The sales numbers of a Final Fantasy or Pokemon are as always the rarest of birds.

        The difference is the cost of even the most basic JRPG has gone up over the years to the point that those numbers aren’t as viable financially and the market itself is so much broader and larger.

    • Bobby Jennings

      I don’t know about you. I’m in the US, I love Call of Duty, I love GTA, I love JRPGS. I love Megaman.

      Do you seriously think all westerners like are shooters?
      No they are just really popular. I believe westerners just like competitive gaming. For example, Street Fighter.

      That game sells more in the US than it does at home(Japan)

      All I’m trying to say is, not all westerners are as you say. Most if not all of us are willing to try other games and appreciate them.

      My favorite gaming franchise of all time will probably always be Tales, but I love some GTAOnline and some Call of Duty here and there.

      Also waiting for Infamous: Second Son.

      • Fallen_Persona

        The problem is that your average run-of-the-mill person in terms of the US (you know, that person who doesn’t really game but has one of the consoles and only a first person shooter) has taken over the image of the actual western gamer because there are simply so many of them.

        Personally, I would love to be wrong about the US industry, because I want to go into development.

        I seriously wonder every day whether I should create something actually good, or just create another shooter. And I want to create something good and unique, I just honestly don’t know if it’s really worth it.

      • Yan Zhao

        Obviously Im not referring to everyone.

        I was simply refering to what Fallen_Persona already addressed. The non-gamers who only play maybe 1 or 2 FPS games, and their numbers actually surpass the real western gamers.

        I mean, my original post did say “westerners”, not “western gamers”.

  • almostautumn

    Very cool. Inafune seems like such a level-headed guy. I’ve no idea what his feelings were when he’d left Capcom, but it’s clear he’s really found a bright and enjoyable path now following.
    It makes me think of the True Freedom ending for Catherine:

  • SpardaCastle

    Why don’t they target the Asian territory then (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, etc.)? In Singapore, games like Bravely Default sold out in a few days and I have yet to find any new copies.

  • Ashton Anchors

    Japanese games are bad not because they are japanese, but because they are all about the same thing but with different cover. You played 1 jRPG on PS3, you played them all. Every Tales is basically a rehash of old Tales cliches. Persona 3/4 is milked so hard, Street Fighter is in awe. The moral of the game is always the same *love, peace, friendship and teamwork* And don’t let me start on the *Schoolgirls/Students in video games*

    • Anime10121

      Way to overgeneralize an entire nation’s games…

      Thats like saying all western games are Grand Theft Auto knock offs or Call of Duty clones…(they’re not) :(

      • Ashton Anchors

        Aren’t they?

        On a serious note though, at least western games try to be creative much more often than japanese. Even though Saint’s Row is a GTA knock off as you call it, i actually like it 100… times more than GTA since it has what i need and is different at least in some way from the source material.

        • Anime10121

          And the same can be said about some of Japan’s games. The World Ends With You, Ghost Trick (havent played it, but I’ve heard its an EXCELLENT game), Gravity Rush, Metal Gear Solid, etc etc. I could name QUITE a few games that either deviate from the norm, or as your own suggestion of Saint’s Row, do something FAR better than the games they take inspriation from.

          I mean, you cant really discredit Saints Row, from being a knock off from GTA just because YOU like it when you start making accusations of an entire country never doing anything different :/

          • Ashton Anchors

            I wouldn’t be accusing anything if it weren’t so. And i believe i said that *Japan has it’s moments, just that the West has those more often* And i believe i said that i fully aknowledge Saints Row being a GTA knock off. What it did with the story though, is something GTA will never even allow, which is why it feels new and exciting even though all in all it’s just GTA.

            If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. GTA’s gameplay was really good, why change it. But you can’t have the same story becuse it will get boring real fast. Japanese developers do everything in reverse *most of them anyway* They change the gameplay *Which was perfect right from the start* and leave the story almost untouched *swap names here and there and you’re good to go*

            EDIT: Every japanese game you mentioned with the exception of Metal Gear were first in their series, meaning those were their first attempts to try something different, also all of them incorporate some creative storytelling ideas *Being trapped in own world, a successful attempt at controlling gravity, and i never played Ghost Trick* People dish out crazy money for a game that essentially has about 2 hours of gameplay in it with 20 more hours being the story, Kojima is a great great sorcerer when it comes to storytelling. You see the pattern there? Every game you named, deviated from the stereotypical japanese game story style in one way or another. I can probably count on my hand the number of japanese games that has done so.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Folks, lets not turn this part of the thread into the inverse of the one below. Appreciate the thoughts and actual examples given, but broad brushes from either side can be avoided. Thanks.

          • Ashton Anchors

            I didn’t try to argue, i just explained my way of thought.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Understood and accepted. Thinking when posting is always appreciated. Just not everyone else in this thread has been of the same behavior.

  • Aristides

    I’m glad someone’s in the right path in the game industry :P

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