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


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.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.