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Inafune: The Hope of the Japanese Industry?

March 23, 2012 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

2009: "Our game industry is finished."

2010: "...everyone’s making awful games; Japan is at least five years behind."

2011: "... people just aren't hungry enough any longer... there needs to be something that gets that feeling back."

2012: "Time is running out and we should have realized this when I made that bold statement a few years ago."

Keiji Inafune has settled into his role as the doomsayer of the Japanese industry. Since quitting his role as the head of Capcom's R&D in 2010, he's struck out on his own, forming three companies in 2011 alone.

Comcept is devoted to developing new IP; Intercept is more of a traditional game developer, and DiNG -- which is so new that it hasn't yet been reported in the Western press -- is to focus on the goldmine that is social and mobile games. It booted up in mid-December.

But what does Inafune really plan to do? Does he feel comfortable with his role as the main critic of the Japanee industry from within? Can he really run three companies at once? Gamasutra sat down with Inafune at this month's Game Developers Conference to try and get some answers to these questions.

We also wanted to find out what's up with his announced 3DS game King of Pirates (turns out he can't talk about it much at the moment -- beside that "it's starting to shape up to be a really awesome game" -- but he did confirm it has a publishing deal).

In the end, Inafune has to prove himself all over again now that he's cut ties with Capcom. Can he do it? His words suggest, at the least, that he is determined to do so.

Has starting your own company been easier, harder, or about the same as you expected?

Keiji Inafune: So, it was a lot harder than I first imagined, but in the background, there's just been so much fun to be had from starting my own company that even though it was a lot harder than I imagined, it was totally worth doing.

Why is it broken up into two companies? I've read things you've said about it, but can you really explain to me why you have two companies?

KI: [laughs] So, I feel that you don't need to just have one company. You can have many companies, and they can kind of put all their troops onto whatever their focus is.

I've got Intercept, of course, which focuses more on the game production side. And I recently created a third company [DiNG] that focuses more on mobile and social. And I've got Comcept.

There are a lot of different things that I want to do, and I don't feel just focusing all of that energy in one company is going to be enough. I need to put that in different directions, in different companies.

Can you actually manage all three of them effectively as one person?

KI: When I was the head of R&D at Capcom, I was in charge of 900 people. Now with these three companies, all of the staff added up, it's around 30 people, so yes. Easy task.

[laughs] Yeah, but it's tackling very different things. It's not so much the number of people; it's the things you're tackling, particularly moving in new spaces. I know you're working on social and mobile, at the same time you're working on traditional console games. It's a lot to handle.

KI: So, yeah. I only appear that way -- that I'm doing a lot of new things that I've never done before, and that I'm branching out in so many directions that it could be hard to imagine. But that's totally not the case. When I worked at Capcom, I was in charge of arcade, mobile, I was in charge of kids' games and regular console games. What I'm doing hasn't really changed. You know, I was spread just as thin at Capcom, but still I was able to do it very easily. So, it's not too different from what I did at Capcom, what I'm doing right now.

Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

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Glenn Sturgeon
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Great interview Christian!
I think its a good thing that Gamasutra keeps close ties with some of the best in the industry even when no one else is.
Now hopefully Inafune will indeed be able to show the japanese sector a more effective way of how to get things done.

Brian Tsukerman
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I like Inafune's tone, especially in the second to last question. It's the sound of ambition and change, which is refreshing to hear from a veteran. I'm really looking forward to seeing what his companies crank out in the next few years.

Kenan Alpay
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Agreed. The ambition and desire to push a unified vision forward is really great. I admire that he's taking it on himself. I can't say that his currently announced projects float my boat, but if they find an audience, good for him!

Gil Salvado
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At least you can say, that he's pretty sure of himself.

After the metascores of Ninja Gaiden 3, RE:Operation Raccoon City and Armored Core V we've talked about what's wrong with the Japanese game industry, but as well with the one in Germany. Seems it's almost the same. Monetization and copycatting are more important than original game mechanics and prototyping. There seems to be no more space for Innovation and Creativity for the major Developers and Publishers.

What some small studios could have done with the money that those two titles had cost ... gosh, it aches!

Cary Chichester
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Remember that Operation Raccoon City was developed by Slant Six Games in Canada.

Silvio Carrera
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Really amazing. It's nice to see he's going to push the japanese industry, and I do think that Capcom is getting really lost losing all it's brilliant designers.

Jason Hu
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While I can admire the ambition KI is taking upon himself, it comes off as an extreme approach to radically changing the industry. Thankfully the interviewer asked the last question which clarified what he really meant to say. If not him, somebody will have to do it and it just so happens that KI is in a good position to be that somebody.

Jason Carter
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I really like Inafune's drive and tone, it's much different from the current Japanese school of thought. Hell it's different from the current American school of thought to some degree. I think (at a professional level) some of what he says has been lost here in the states.

I love how he wants to make a game that is just his pure idea. Not for the customers, not for the money, simply out of a love and passion for making games. Bravo, Inafune-san, Bravo

Jonathan George
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Inafune definitely has some interesting ideas. They sound great on paper, I only hope that he can manage to pull them off. I remember the transition from Japan having far superior games to the West taking over the market. I'm looking forward to what his companies roll out.