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When developing a shooter, a lot of teams have a long history of it, and advanced technology and institutional knowledge. Do you feel you're playing catch-up, to some extent?
TN: That's true, to be sure, and to be honest, I don't think we can all of a sudden beat all those developers at once with a single game. However, I feel like if someone like myself doesn't try to take what I'm good at and bring it up with the competition, the gap between Japan and Western developers is just going to get worse. This is where video game culture really got started, after all, with Nintendo. I do feel like I'm fighting for my pride here, and I think we can claw our way upward.
We've seen a big shake-up lately, with high-powered Japanese creators leaving companies, most significantly Inafune from Capcom. You're still at Sega, and it seems like you're satisfied there.
TN: Well, I don't know if I'd call myself all that high-powered [laughs]. It's hard to say whether the trend is a good thing and for everyone's best interests, but a creator needs to be someplace where he can shine the brightest, and that's not necessarily always going to happen by going it alone.
It's not that I'm satisfied at Sega so much as I really owe one to Sega -- they taught me how much fun making games can be. I doubt I would leave this company in 10 or even 20 years. Unless something really drastic happens, I'm not going to leave on my own volition.
One thing I've heard some Japanese creators say is that there's been a lack of fostering young talent in the industry; that younger generations of creators aren't fulfilling their potential because they lack the opportunity.
TN: I think the fix for that is pretty obvious, like with any industry. But the problem is that if something gets screwed up, there's hardly any room for mistakes any longer. Raising talent, I think, requires you to be more forgiving of mistakes, and that sort of goes against that, is all there is to it. I understand how the industry works, but that doesn't mean I think it's right.
It seems like the industry survives off such thin profit margins that experimentation in general is hard to do.
TN: I wouldn't say the margins are that terribly low, but I think things have changed very rapidly in the business and a lot of places are still trying to figure out the new reality.
What reality is that for you?
TN: There are several different ones to deal with. You have the Xbox, which is massive in the U.S. and a very small player in Japan. You have Sega, which I think has really recovered a lot of ground and credibility over the years -- especially across Asia -- but the genres in which we've prospered are not the sorts of things that hit it big elsewhere. There's a gap between what we've done and what we can do, and I think we can bridge that gap.
How much oversight do you personally have into Sega's strategy from the Japanese development side?
TN: In terms of console development... how to put it? I guess they take my opinions pretty seriously. [laughs] It's kind of embarrassing to tell my friends that, though. For our Japan strategy, at least, I get to speak my voice on our software lineup and so forth; the final green light, if you will, in where to put resources.
It'll be interesting to see what your final say results in, then.
TN: Absolutely! Something that sells more in America. [laughs] We'll try our best.