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Yoshiki Okamoto: Japan's Game Maverick Speaks
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Yoshiki Okamoto: Japan's Game Maverick Speaks

May 2, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 7 of 8 Next

CN: I'd like to ask about the PlayStation 3, since you've been mainly working with that console recently. First, from a market perspective, how successful do you feel it's been in Japan, America, and Europe?

YO: I think it's on the up and up. Last year wasn't easy, though. Things have been better recently, so I'm not as worried. Isn't that how the PSP's been lately? It had a real rough patch for a while, too. So maybe the PS3 will follow a similar pattern.

CN: But even though the PSP itself has been selling really well globally, the games haven't been. Any thoughts on why that is?

YO: Hmm, I wonder what the situation is in America.

Shinichiro Kajitani: I think game sales in America have been low for the PSP since launch.

YMG: Have they been selling well in Japan?

YO: I'd say so. I think the games have been selling pretty well.

SK: There have been a few titles that have sold over a million copies.

CN: But not even Crisis Core sold a million recently.

SK: That might be because it's not a very good game.

YO: Whose interview is this, anyway? (laughter, apologies) He used to work for Square Enix, so he's always really harsh with his criticism.

CN: I'd also like to ask about the PlayStation 3 from the perspective of development. We all know that it's a difficult platform to work on, and that the techniques learned for working on the PS2 don't apply. How do you find developing for the PlayStation 3? Do you think Sony is good enough to make it a platform worth working on?

YO: They've actually been very good about giving us the support we need. As to how difficult a platform it is to make games for, that's a bit of a tricky question. They've sort of taken care of us, after all. From an ease of development standpoint only, I'd say the Wii is easier to work on. Not that we've released any games for the Wii yet.

CN: Isn't it tough to make a success out of a Wii game as a third party developer? If you look at third party games in Japan, and America as well, they don't seem to sell very well. It seems to be all about the Nintendo brand games.

YO: Okay, now we're getting into dangerous territory. (laughs) I mean, you hear rumblings about that sort of thing every now and again, but nobody talks about it very loudly.

CN: People say it loudly in America...

YO: Chalk it up to culture, but in Japan we don't really discuss things like that openly.

CN: If you can't say what's true, though, doesn't that create problems in the marketplace? Don't bad decisions get made when people don't recognize that these things are true?

YO: Looking at the way things are right now, it is a fact that first-party Wii games are the only titles selling well. But if the first-party titles are selling, third-party games should be able to sell too, so long as their creators have a good working relationship with Nintendo.

I think the problem is a lack of understanding between third-party developers, like us, and Nintendo, and this relationship needs to improve for the games to improve. Also, as a developer, when you admit that Nintendo's games are selling well, you also have to face the fact that the games you've made that flopped haven't been good enough.

CN: We've been talking with Japanese developers like Masaya Matsuura, who say that the bubble has burst for the DS in Japan. Looking at the market do you think that's true?

YO: You just don't ask any easy questions, do you? (laughs) How am I supposed to answer that? I mean, let's say I'm thinking "What, the DS? Oh hell yes, it's over and done with," I can't very well say that, can I? That's the most devious thing anyone's ever asked me! (laughs)

But actually, and again, and this is those whispering voices saying this, but you've started hearing the phrase "Atari crash" pretty frequently. People are talking about how the second "Atari crash" is around the corner. And Nintendo is the one that has to figure out a way to stop it. In Japan we often say that history repeats itself, and it's going to take some serious effort to keep it from happening this time.

Japan had its economic bubble in the late eighties, and that burst. I think some of the same things are happening in the American economy right now. Like, they're going to have to do something to prevent it. It's foolish to keep making the same mistakes people have already made.

So, Nintendo's going to need some sort of strategy to deal with this. I think it's a fact that the market blew up more rapidly than even they thought it would. And the faster something expands, the easier it is for it to deflate again, right? I hope they come up with a way to avoid this with the DS. But for one thing, there are way too many titles out all at once.

CN: Right. So you're seeing companies like [stationary company] Kokuyo making games. You mentioned Atari, and that's the same thing that happened in America in the '80s. Companies that didn't make games started making them, and that created the problem.

YO: And it's happening with the DS in Japan. All sorts of companies that have never made games before are getting involved. I mean, the cost of development is really next to nothing. And what about this flood of "brain training" games? Can they really keep that up?

Nintendo put a lot of thought into the original, and ran some really cool commercials for it. But some of these companies just slap something together, put the word "brain" in the title, and release it. There are a ton of them, and barely any of them are interesting.

Article Start Previous Page 7 of 8 Next

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