I think only Island of Dr. Momo has been announced so far, right?
KI: That and J.J. Rockets.
[Ed. note: this interview was conducted during Tokyo Game Show, shortly before the announcement of Inafune's 3DS game KAIO. Island of Dr. Momo is a social game for GREE, and J.J. Rockets is a game for DeNA.]
In terms of your interest in the game space, are you looking mostly at social games right now, or do think there's room to make games on console or PC or another distribution system?
KI: Saying that we're looking just at social wouldn't be correct, though that goes faster than other platforms. We want to pursue everything we'd like to do. There's a lot we'd like to direct to social, as there is to console and PC. If some new game platform comes out, we'd love to try our hand at that as well.
Social games can often be quite different from others in terms of how much a role the monetary metrics play in the core game design. What are the most important points of social game development, in your mind?
KI: The "social" aspect of social games is very important, of course, connecting people to each other. I think that's something that consoles have a disadvantage in dealing with. Even if a game works online, you're inherently working within a limited set of rules.
I think that eventually, we'll see a new kind of game which is neither console nor social, one that overcomes the obstacles that both current game styles have to deal with. I don't know what that's going to be yet, though, so that's why I'm trying to learn more about this market. I know you can't just do the same quick-fire-cash method everyone else does, or else everything's going to be a me-too game.
Do you use social metrics to determine what people are and aren't enjoying?
KI: If you rely on those, then basically what you've got is a set of numbers that don't necessarily tell you anything. Just because you know what someone's favorite food is doesn't mean you really know the person.
So I don't rely on metrics slavishly; I give them quick looks, absorbing them and reflecting them against my own thoughts to analyze what they mean. Game creators have to be really good at that internal sort of analysis; otherwise you're just looking toward marketing data for your game ideas, and a computer can do that. No matter how advanced a supercomputer you have in the future, it still can't be creative or imaginative.
What do you think is the future of large-scale original IP -- new, big games? They're very risky to make now in terms of personnel and money.
KI: Well, unless you take risks, you can't do anything. There's always risk inherent in trying to create any kind of original property, both on the creative and publishing side. How to avoid this risk? You could try cutting costs, but that's not the only solution, either.
The problem with Japan's game industry is they try to recover the costs of producing a game strictly via game sales, strictly within Japan. They literally can't avoid these risks, so they rely on cost-cutting to make up the difference.
Going to other markets, like Asia and America and Europe, helps reduce the risk, but then the creator has to make a product that can appeal worldwide. Also, how can you expand this franchise beyond games? Make figures, some sort of big Disney-style attraction, a movie? The creator has to come up with all of this, and so it's more of a risk for him now. He has to think about far more than just the video game now. So, when you're making an original property now, you have to think about how to spread both the game and the risks involved as much as possible. If you don't, it won't work.