Tabuchi, H., “Japanese Playing a New Video Game: Catch-Up.” New York Times Online. Visited on October 4, 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/20/technology/20game.html?_r=1
This article discuss how Japan is partnering with Westerns in the gaming industry. In the mid 1980s’ through 1990s most game franchises were developed from Japan. Some of Nintendo’s Mario, Pokemon, Sonic the Hedgehog from Sean and Gran Turismo from Sony. Japan is now at least five years behind in the industry. The best selling game was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 which was developed in the United States.
Japan use to define the gaming industry. Part of it’s problem is that they need to appeal to players that are located overseas.
Developers want to try and reach out to the West and collaborate. Collaboration in trying to make games have a more global appeal can possibly generate a bigger target audience. Capcom for example developed Take Shadow of Rome. This 2005 action game was made for European and American markets. Instead of designing over sized samurai swordsmen they designed over sized gladiators.
The interface design are collaborating with people from overseas and learn their culture in order to appeal in the market. They are localizing games for overseas markets. Capcom is looking for foreign talent. They are buying Blue Castle Games and collaborated on the Dead Rising.
It seems like the Japanese game companies are looking to fix a conceptual design problem with interface design solution. Changing the main characters from samurai worriers to gladiators won’t change the conceptual dynamics of the games. It’s a “look and feel” solution.
Modern games moved from puzzle-solving, points-getting, boxy cartoon characters to story-driven, super-realistic, immersive, multi-player environments. Super Mario and Pokemon and Sonic Hedgehog are all about running little guys on the screen, through mazes, getting points, and fighting little battles. While they had a pretense of a story—Mario the Plumber was supposed to be rescuing the princes—these stories were not very relevant to the game play.
Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto are all about narrative. You feel completely immersed in the story. You’re a character in movie, and every play you make changes the story line. This is a Conceptual Difference. Call of Duty would be great even if it were Samurai worriers battling for survival. In fact, it might be even more fun!
Instead of hiring American game designers to change the Interface of the game, Japanese game producers should look to developing high strategy, immersive worlds, and intense narrative for their future products.