The Japanese game industry has shrunk over the last three years and the creators of Kirby and Yakuza think that the lack of new ideas is to blame.
The West used to look at Japan as the paragon of business-saavy but now it appears that the Japanese videogame industry is in a deep slump. Enterbrain, publisher of the Japanese game magazine Famitsu, reported today that consumer in the island nation bought 493 billion yen worth of videogames and consoles in 2010. That’s $5.9 billion for you non-natives and non-mathematically inclined and that translates to a 9 percent decline from 2009, marking the third consecutive year of shrinkage. The question is: Why? Is it just the world economy or is there something rotten in the state of Japan? Masahiro Sakurai, designer of most Kirby games and the upcoming Kid Icarus, on the 3DS and Toshihiro Nagoshi, producer of the original Shenmue game and the Yakuza series, think that there needs to be a shift away from endless sequels.
“Looking at the industry as a whole,” Sakurai said, “I feel like it’s getting harder than ever to find something really new out there. Original properties are far less common than once upon a time, and I think this era we’re in with strong franchises going on for ages and ages has lasted too long.”
“There are some new properties coming that I’m looking forward to, but I don’t think anyone’s expecting them to become instant hits any longer,” Nagoshi said. “That’s a bad thing, really, the fact there’s zero chance of success with new titles. We need more successes along those lines, more people thinking ‘If that publisher can hit it big with this sort of thing, then I bet we can do it, too!'”
“I think ideas like that are what we need more of in the game industry right now,” said Sakurai. “Relying so much on this steady line of games and sequels is something that needs to change. We’re at the point where both gamers and devs expect that if a game sells, a sequel’s inevitable.”
Sakurai thinks that so many sequels is keeping new gamers from picking up the hobby. “If you haven’t played a game series, then you can’t fully enjoy the sequels, and that trend makes games less accessible than other forms of entertainment. It’d be nice if we could do something about that to give games more common accessibility.”