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The Philosophy of a Ninja: Tomonobu Itagaki Speaks
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The Philosophy of a Ninja: Tomonobu Itagaki Speaks

October 1, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

So what do you think of the current state of the market? With so many different platforms, what do you think of the fortunes of those platforms? Will they all find their success with different audiences?

TI: Before I talk about the industry in general, I'd like to just comment a little bit on why the DS was able to be as successful as it was. When I announced my support for the DS three years ago, when it was first announced, I envisioned several things. One thing that made me happy was to see the success of this hardware that I have chosen. That was something that was pleasant -- but one thing that has been disappointing is seeing that the kind of experiences that I envisioned at that time have not really been realized in the form of true "game" games. There are not so many of those out on the market.

Though I understand the reasons behind that: because developing a game for the DS is like a tenth or a fifteenth the cost of one developed for a home console, so I know that a lot of developers out there who do not have the talent or the backing to be successful on consoles are putting their weight behind the DS. Of course, Nintendo is very strict with their approval processes, so we have not seen a lot of truly crappy games come out on the system, but it is just a matter of fact that when you are dealing with small budgets like these, you are going to reach the limitations of what you can do.

So now that we are in this market where there are a glut of relatively low-budget games that are filling up the marketplace, the market may be ready for a more serious, more refined experience. We are right at this turning point in the portable space, where we will be launching this Dragon Sword game, and this may be exactly what people out there are looking for. They may be tired of all the "training" games, and looking for something more substantial. Or maybe not. We won't be able to tell until we actually throw it out there and see how people react.

I think that there is a feeling among the people I talk to this year that the "training" games have reached their limit, and that the bubble may burst soon. There are way more "training" games in Japan than there are in America; they didn't seem to take off there. What do you think the audience of the DS will be a few years from now?

TI: It's been three years since we announced our title, so it is true that the market has definitely matured. Maybe I should have tried to figure this out earlier! But, you know, from here I think that the market definitely will mature. Whether it really becomes a reliable market for years to come is going to depend on the stability of all the titles -- all the people who are playing the games, and what they are looking for.

Looking back at the GBA, it was relatively stable. We'll just have to see how it unfolds over the next few years. I am definitely looking at companies like Square Enix and Konami; those are the companies that are bringing out really game-like games for the DS, and I hope that they continue to do so. We will just have to see, and hopefully we will find a happy medium where the entire market is finding something they want to play. Metroid Prime: Hunters was developed in America, and it was pretty fun as well.

It's interesting that you mentioned Square Enix, because definitely, looking at their booth this year, you could see a clear division between their strategy for DS -- which could be considered their main strategy -- and then their future titles, which were for the PlayStation platforms. Titles like Crisis Core, they have Kingdom Hearts upcoming, and Final Fantasy for the PS3. There is becoming a clear division; do you think that the whole industry is dividing like that?

TI: I think that's a bad trend. To give a war analogy: it's a much more stable to have both aircraft carriers and battleships in a single formation. One of the bad tactics that the old Japanese naval forces had was to put their aircraft carriers in front, and put their battleships behind. But what you have to do is take your weapons and put them in a single formation, in order to be as effective as you can.

Do you think that there are too many platforms to support right now? Not just for Team NINJA; obviously, you pick very specifically what you're going to do. But in general for the industry, do you think that we have too many different platforms going right now?

TI: Do you think that there are too many publishers of game magazines and websites in America?

Um... interesting question!

TI: Sorry! Sorry to answer your question with a question -- that was just a joke. I think that the more you have, the better. The more pieces of hardware you have, the more you find different philosophies being introduced into the market. That helps us stimulate the entire industry. Plus, competition is always good; it keeps people striving. So I think it is good to have so many different platforms.

What do you think of the competition between the PlayStation 3 and the 360? Especially since as of now, the rumors are starting to circulate that Microsoft is considering pulling out of the Japanese market, whereas Sony is starting very slowly to gain a foothold at the same time.

TI: Do you think that the 360 is going to withdraw from the Japanese market?

I'm not sure. To withdraw completely and cease production, that doesn't seem likely. But probably, I would think that Microsoft would look at Japan more as a talent base, to create games that could sell internationally, rather than compete on a one-to-one level.

TI: Well first of all, if Microsoft withdrew the 360 from the Japanese market, I would not have any way to let my daughter play the games I make, so that would be a big problem! Well, of course the game I am making right now is rather intense, so I do not think that I could let her play it either way...! Joking aside: as long as there are guys like me here, we will continue to have Xbox titles coming out of Japan that are going affect the entire global market. So I don't think that they're considering withdrawing.

That being said, I think a key to my titles is that I don't aim them specifically at the Japanese market, or any market. I aim my titles at the world. So, I think that of all the strategies that one can take when developing a game, the one of choosing to make a title for the global market is certainly one of the most effective strategies.


Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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