Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What lies beneath

Edge Online published a rather interesting interview with Yasuhiro Wada, the former Natsume prodigy who created HARVEST MOON, now chief officer in Marvelous Entertainment. Some days ago, Wada has posted a highly controversial message in the company blog stating how the Japanese gaming market is shrinking and has lost touch with the demand for quality and originality. In spite of the negative responses to this statement, the fact remains that for the first time in years, an agent of the industry has recognized that the current lack of innovation in games has driven away many of the passionate players from older generations.

Marvelous Entertainment has been responsible, among others, for some of the best Wii and DS releases of recent memory, from NO MORE HEROES to OBORO MURAMASA YŌTŌDEN, including LITTLE KING'S STORY and LOL (ARCHIME DS): additionally it has developed intimate relationships with some of Japan's most notable studios like Grasshopper Manufacture, skip, Cing, Town Factory or Arte Piazza.

However the company still struggles with financial drawbacks which often come as a surprise in light of the positive reception from critics. As an expert in his field and a person who seems to be aware of the subtleties leading to the actual state of gaming in Japan, Wada presents a rather challenging series of opinions: furthermore, judging by his company’s clean record and increasing relevance in the actual market, this is a rare case where the theory about exploring new fields of game design is effectively backed up by practice.


Carlos L. Figueiredo said...

It's good to know that someone within the videogames industry still has the good sense to point out what has become obvious: the lack of creativity of the industry as a whole. In the Japanese case the situation is even more frustrating, for they traditionaly set the standard with a strong investment in new and refreshing projects. Nowadays, for example, the once visionary Nintendo is a mere cash register releasing facelifts of old concepts and making games for casual players instead of the core gamers who led it to worldwide fame. Small companies are ailing or dead and the great game designers are finding it hard to obtain funding for their works. It's strangely contradictory that the videogames industry is presently the most profitable of all entertainment industries and the games themselves are becoming less and less innovative. The massification of successful concepts, even if they are quite innocuous, is deteriorating the general quality and originality of the final products, as well as compromising any artistic pretensions.

niL said...

Very true, -- glad Wada-san said it. There have been many successful 'independent' situations in other industries, and with what mr.Wada has stated:

How do you see this actually happening for games in the [near] future?

Dieubussy said...

What do you mean niL?

niL said...

lol Sorry! I put it in a kind of dumb way..

With the lack of creativity indicated by Wada, vast disinterest, and no doubt the lack of encouragement on the part of publishers in the games-industry, -- it all sounds so bleak. There must be some way for developers to beat this! And, of course, one can think of many successes in independent operations: film, music, various software companies, et cetera.

To play 'hypothetical': how do you think that would be possible, given the current economic climate? How can they open their industry? Also, how could a genuine Geisai situation emerge?

Dieubussy said...

If you take a good look, Japan has had more creative impact in the field of videogames than any other nation. For so many years this country has produced and exported an unusual number of quality videogame experiences. It was one of the few countries to actively recognize the position of game designer as a creative or even artistic career. It is, then, natural that some moments of crisis exist, even if just to remind both game producers and players of what is essential. There are always serious problems around, depending on whose perspective you analyze matters.

What does seem disturbing about this question is the fact that it is not directly about economics. Games are selling well in Japan, as they always did. The last few years broke new records, even. The issue Wada brought to the table was deeply related with demographics: and he's not the first one to point out that there is a very important group in the nihon game playing community that is abandoning games, as Toshihiro Nagoshi also mentioned some years ago. Without the support of this precious group that has brought balance to the industry, companies with such a specific focus on certain games and game genres might soon be extinguished. Wada spoke mostly because he is suffering the consequences of this situation first hand.

I certainly don't see how a Geisai situation could emerge, that being a showroom for traditional (not mass produced) arts. However, games are associated with similar events in Japan for many years now and most videogame launch events don’t seem so different from a work of art being showcased in a Geisai event. Although I agree that if there was some reinforcement of the idea of games as objects of art there might be the chance to persuade another group of cult followers capable of investing money on quality videogames. Let us see where TGS might lead us.