Former Capcom executive Keiji Inafune took the stage at Game Developer’s Conference to discuss the future of Japanese games. While he was still at Capcom, Inafune was critical of Japan’s place in the video game market saying "Japan is dead" during Tokyo Game Show in 2010.
"I said those words to light a fire under the Japanese video game industry before it was too late," Inafune recounted. He painted a grim picture doing his talk emphasizing how Japan lost its will to win and developers have relied too long on nostalgia. "The Beatles were great… but the four Beatles will never get together and make another album," said Inafune when he was talking about how Japanese games were considered by some to be a blast from the past. "We stick to our memories." Inafune said how developers in Japan up rez games and ship out HD versions.
"The fans have expectations, but they don’t just want Mega Man. They want something more," Inafune said hoping to get the audience to understand that they cannot just rely on established brands. He made a comparison to Apple which used to be a computer company and if they relied on sales of products like the Apple II they wouldn’t be around today. Inafune said developers neglected to create something new perhaps because people now running the show jumped in on the bandwagon while Japan was driving out hit after hit.
During development of Mega Man Legends, Inafune’s first game as a producer, he said the 3D title much beloved by fans had many challenges. The Mega Man series was on a down turn and expectations for the game were not high. Press wasn’t interested in covering the game too, Inafune said. "Putting aside the quality, the game [Legends] was a failure from a sales perspective." After working on Legends, Inafune transferred to the Resident Evil team and worked on Resident Evil 2, a sequel to a surprise hit. "At one point Resident Evil [the first game in the series] was canceled," Inafune reminisced. "Nobody believed it would be a success except [Shinji] Mikami."
Inafune stressed he wants to take the "hard road" with his two companies, Comcept (concept planning) and Intercept (game development). He could have stayed at Capcom, but according to Inafune that would have been the easy road. Comcept now has 20 employees and a pig mascot seen in the slides below.
His message, however, felt lost by some members in the audience. After stressing the importance of not simply relying on brands, the first question Inafune got was about Capcom’s handling of Mega Man and how fans felt "betrayed." Inafune no longer works at Capcom or makes decisions about the Blue Bomber’s future. "As with yourselves and fans around the world I am concerned about Mega Man’s future," Inafune answered.
But, Inafune’s entire talk wasn’t about Mega Man or established brands. His take home message to Japanese developers was "we need to think about more than just maintaining brands."