Many video game publishers based in Japan are attempting to make games for the West even though these same titles may not sell well locally. While there is a divide between Japanese games and Western developed title, it wasn’t always that way. Sonic the Hedgehog itself, perhaps Yuji Naka’s most popular title, had development stints in Japan and America.
In this interview, we asked Naka-san what the secret is to making a video game appeal to the world and his thoughts on the future of the industry.
Before you used to make many core gamer titles, but now you’re making more casual games like Let’s Tap and Ivy the Kiwi. What do you think the challenges are of making a casual game compared to a core game?
It was always my intention to make casual games by making my titles very accessible. It’s just for my earlier titles the core gamers became a fan of them. That wasn’t necessarily my plan. I always wanted to make games that everyone can enjoy, not just a small core audience.
In terms of designing games for core gamers, they can be picky about the graphics and special effects. Right now, games with high budget graphics are not what I’m planning to work on.
It’s interesting that you mention you want to make games for a large audience while at Tokyo Game Show it seems there are a growing number of games that are either intended for the West or primarily focused on the Japanese market. Since Sonic the Hedgehog and other Sega titles have a worldwide fans, what do you think is the secret to making a game that can have universal appeal?
I think these days there are many games with a lot of violence. It’s almost to the point where people think games without violence are automatically boring. Keeping as much violence as possible is really important to having a game appeal to a wide audience.
Also, it’s the core basics of fun gameplay – being able to play the game, find out what works and what doesn’t work as a player. Learning from your mistakes and getting better at the game.
How in your view has the industry changed from when you were back at Sega to now?
I don’t think the market has changed that dramatically. Sure, games have much better graphics and there are touches and polish designers put into the game that they didn’t have to worry about before. I remember ten years ago when we first put online in a game, there was discussion that ten years later all games are going to be online. Here we are ten years later and that’s not the case. There are plenty of games that don’t have online modes.
Other than that, you can see from the Tokyo Game Show floor that GREE has a very large booth, Knowing that they specialize in mobile phone games perhaps that is a way the industry is changing.
When you look ten years in the future, 2021, what do you think will change?
I think ten years later, the various consoles and platforms from Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony may not exist. Instead of buying specific hardware perhaps everything will migrate to software based systems like PC, iOS, and Android.
I’m going to apologize in advance, but I have to ask… what’s going on with Rodea The Sky Soldier?
Rodea the Sky Soldier has been finished for awhile now. My part at Prope has been done. Now it’s up to Kadokawa Games to decide on the release strategy whether it will come out for North America, Europe, and Japan.
Since Wii U will be released next year are you thinking of bringing Rodea there?
It’s finished as Wii title and as of now we have no plans to bring it to Wii U. Rodea was made specifically for the Wii so players could enjoy it by flicking the remote. If we tried to incorporate those controls into the large Wii U controller it wouldn’t be the same. I would really like for people to play and enjoy it on the Wii as I had originally intended.
Do you have a Wii U development kit yet? Are you thinking about moving on to that platform?
I don’t have a development kit right now. [Laughs.] Please ask Nintendo to send me one! Or maybe Bandai Namco Games can send me one. I would really like a chance to play with that hardware. Right now there probably aren’t many development kits.
What about PlayStation Vita?
No, I don’t have one of those either.
We need to get you more development kits! What do you have in your office then?
I have a lot of Wii development kits. I was making a lot of Wii games.
Are you still making Wii games?
No, none right now. I would really like people to play Fishing Resort and Rodea when it does come out on the Wii. I put a lot of time and effort into making those games. I’m proud of my work with these titles, so I can’t wait to see how the players react when the games are in their hands. I hope everyone who plays Fishing Resort gets to be a Grand Angler.