Dear Japan, don’t pursue a ‘Global Audience’. It’s bullshit.
on Jan 25 by

Dear Japan, don’t pursue a ‘Global Audience’. It’s bullshit.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard people tell me that the Japanese games industry is dead, dying, doomed or, in the case of Phil Fish it– ‘just sucks’. And you don’t exactly have to be Phoenix Wright to unearth strong evidence and vocal criticism from some highly respected Japanese developers. 

 

Keiji Inafune for example, or Hideo Kojima – both hugely respected figures who have pointed to a number of factors surrounding Japan’s supposed decline.

 

What are these factors?

 

Technology is one, and to be fair, I think that’s a given. With the exception of something like Kojima’s own Fox Engine, Western development tools are way ahead of Japan – our games look better, our game world’s are richer, bigger and offer greater choices and freedom.

 

 

What else? Continually flogging the same brands over and over? Fair comment – but who isn’t guilty of this? You don’t have to be a Japanese studio or publisher to be guilty of that particular ‘crime’ – lets face it, if a game does well, you’d be insane not to make another. After all, everyone’s in this for the money, right? We all have to eat. This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to Japan.

 

So what else is supposedly indicative of Japan’s development death knell? Perhaps the most common criticism is Japan’s reluctance to make games for a ‘Global Audience’. Japan is, apparently, guilty of making their games ‘too Japanese’ – of only catering to a domestic audience.

 

It’s this need to pursue a ‘Global Audience’ that I not only have a problem with but, would argue, is a ‘bad thing’ with long term repercussions for the industry as a whole…

 

Before I go any further though, can someone please explain to me what this ‘Global Audience’ is?

 

If it exists, surely there must be an individual out there that best represents it – some kind of freakish ‘Everyman’ who encapsulates the tastes and desires all games developers should aim to please in the pursuit of maximising profits.

 

 

Find me this ‘Everyman’, and I tell you now – I will kick him… IT… square in the vaginal nutsack. For such a being must be both genders simultaneously, all races, religeons and sexualities combined. It must be…

 

oh, hang on…

 

wait…

 

…that’s right – IT DOESN’T EXIST, YOU MORONS!

 

There is no such thing as a ‘Global Audience’ – only ‘what a lot of people happen to like at this particular time’.

 

Now, I’m not against a game trying to appeal to as many people as possible – it makes perfect sense, but unfortunately, in the pursuit of this mythical Global Audience developers and publishers alike all too often make the same mistake – misconstruing ‘reaching a Global Audience’ as ‘just make the game more western looking’ or worse – ‘borrowing the success of others’ as ‘Mass  Appeal’.

 

 

 

This essentially involves looking at ‘what games sell the most copies’ and then attempting to emulate it in some way. Not necessarily copying it wholesale, but just trying to borrow the look and feel – to nestle your own game alongside it – to make it more palatable to the millions of people who bought whatever game is currently riding high at the top of the charts.

 

It’s the equivalent of watching a Justin Bieber DVD, learning some of his dance moves for an hour or two, before breaking into his house and then proceeding to rub yourself against him while he sleeps – in the vain hope that some of his scent, sweat and dead skin will make you as popular as him.

 

 

What does this approach mean? What if we were to follow it to it’s logical conclusion? It means that everyone will be making games for the same person. Striving to reach the same goals, thematically, aesthetically, culturally and technically. All our games will look the same, be aimed at the same person – we’ll be voluntarily entering into a process of cultural homogenisation, and where’s the fun in that?!

 

There are few better examples in gaming of this process in action than gaming’s love of Zombies. It’s a topic, long-time readers will know really gets on my nerves. Zombies. Fucking Zombies everywhere. At one point I felt that, somewhere along the line, we were putting Zombies in just about *everything*.

 

Yakuza, Call of Duty, Ninja Gaiden, Red Dead Redemption – even Suda 51 – who, lets face it, can usually be relied upon to run riot with unbridled imagination, managed to squeeze out a couple of games out with zombies in them. Did I miss the memo that suggested ‘putting Zombies in it’ would guarantee success?

 

 

 

Had we really run out of ideas to the point where Zombies were the only option? Of course not – it’s just people couldn’t be bothered to think of anything else.

 

So what’s the answer? If you ask me, there are only a handful of things that have truly global appeal – quality, innovation, imagination and fun. When you boil it down to these core elements, there’s no such thing as a ‘Japanese Game’ or a Western Game’ – only ‘good games’, and ‘bad games’ – perhaps we should be spending more time on that distinction, more than anything else.

 

There’s one little Japanese company that has done okay for itself in the pursuit of these fundamentals. Never once pandering to anyone else, copying anyone else, following any particular regional trends. They forge their own path, and sure they stumble from time to time, but still they stick to their guns – say what you like about them, it’s a philosophy that commands the utmost respect.

 

 

ILJG runs the I Love Japanese Games Facebook Page.

His views are not necessarily those held by Rice Digital or it’s partners.

 



  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Warboss-Aohd/100003803614469 Warboss Aohd

    i feel az though da Japanese Game Industry haz fallen……but not fer da reasonz ya fink.

    Granted you make some valid pointz, dere are a few thingz i feel as though contribute to dere downfall.

    1. Over-Reliance on overused tropes. (If i can point out 10 JRPG tropes dat aren’t gameplay related in da first 30 minutes, yer doin’ it wrong)

    2. Storylinez dat everyone an’ dere Gretchenz can see a mile away. (oh look, dat humie iz actually yer father, it’z not like Star Warz an’ a thousand other storiez have done dis……oh wait)

    3. Over-Reliance on Fanservice, cause let’z face it, relying on dis to sell gamez iz just pathetic.

    4. Poor advertising (though this iz geared towards da publishers in dis case, i mean most people in da west haven’t heard of most of these gamez, get da word out!)

    5. Character personalitiez dat have been used so much dey actually have names (Tsunderez bein’ a major offender……..not to mention terrible characterz in dere own right) as well as certain character stylez (I’m lookin’ at you Moe.) Stop Panderin’ ta people.

    6. Lack of Originality, some companies (Atlus, Level 5, Monolith) have avoided dis issue, but so many gamez from Japan these dayz just ain’t original anymore. i Mean, when was da last time we saw a game like Okage: Shadow King where da goal was dat you are da minion of what is basically the Big Bad o’ da world. Be Creative, don’t be afraid ta make something bizarre, maybe a JRPG where you ARE the Big Bad or somethin’.

    Then dere are the issues wit’ some companies’ management and treatment of employeez, Executive meddlin’, ignorin’ da fanz, so many thingz i could go on to describe.

    • http://twitter.com/Japan_Game_Love I ? Japanese Games

      All good points there for sure. I just hope Japan doesn’t fall into the trap of thinking that if they make their games more like western games, then it’s a solution to their problems. I look at something like Lost Planet 3 and it’s kinda sad that they feel they have to compromise…

      • http://twitter.com/MarcusDelby Marcus Delby

        Am I the only looking forward to Lost Planet 3?

    • http://twitter.com/Sweet_Chi_chan Chi chan

      I really enjoyed your post Warboss but if you are trying to talk like a warcraft orc then you should be saying ‘Me’ not ‘I’ (~???)~ lol!

      • http://twitter.com/Zanetsu Simon Perman

        I think it’s supposed to be a Warhammer40K orc.

        • http://twitter.com/MarcusDelby Marcus Delby

          YEAH Chi Chan! Get it right! *roll eyes* ;)

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Warboss-Aohd/100003803614469 Warboss Aohd

        Warhammer, not Warcraft.

        If i woz a Warcrafft orc, i wouldn’t have a cockney accent.

        Also Orcs from Warcraft are az intelligent if not more so den da filthy humies of Azeroth, so dey would be speakin’ in a way dat humies wouldn’t be complainin’ about.

        • http://twitter.com/Sweet_Chi_chan Chi chan

          Oh boo, (???) my regional knowledge of Orc accents has failed me! Please forgive me!!

    • CirnoTheStrongest

      1. ‘Tropes’ is a word created by fans and merely points out the harsh reality that nothing really can be considered ‘original’ anymore because everyone has done everything. You can only put a twist on what has already been done.

      2. I fail to see this as a point, because it really fits with #1, Every storyline you can think of has been done. And, also like point 1, though I didn’t say it in that point, this is an equal problem across all game developers.

      3. Cry me a river. Plus, this ‘over-reliance on fanservice’ in the games I’m sure you’re thinking about actually only serves a very very tiny portion of those games, and it’s really the marketing that involves the fanservice.

      4. Poor advertising is a very valid point, but that’s only for localization. In their country of origin these games get loads of advertisement that would put game advertisement in the good ol US of A to shame.

      5. See points 1 and 2. Plus, it’s just that these personalities have been given a name. They’ve always been around, and always been in games. Even ‘Western’ games fall prey to this. Also, the majority of times these characters actually have much more to them than those personality types, just people only seem to latch onto that which has been given a name.

      6. See points 1, 2, and 5. And again, this is a ‘problem’ that plagues the creative world in general. Also, how would it be original to have a JRPG where you are the ‘big bad’, when it’s already been done before?

      I’m not saying that the Japanese industry doesn’t have problems, I just really don’t think those points you listed are really ‘problems’ so much as a sign of how much time people have been on this Earth.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Warboss-Aohd/100003803614469 Warboss Aohd

        Da Western gamez do use dem, this iz true. But not nearly as much. I can practically predict an entire JRPG plot within’ da first few hours. Granted da Western gamez aren’t much harder, at least dey take longer to figure out. Most o’ da Time.

        An’ yes datz a fan name, but wot else would ya call ‘em?

        • CirnoTheStrongest

          Western RPGs problems tend to be ‘main’ characters that feel like nothing but observers. Because they try so hard to make it customizable, that they forget to make the character a part of the story actually.

          Of course there are those that don’t fall prey to this. Just like there are JRPGs that don’t really fit into the things that many JRPGs tend to have.

          ‘Trope’ is just another word to encapsulate ‘cliche’. I don’t really like that word much either, but that’s because the effect of ‘cliche’ is much less effective on myself, because I can play any game and always feel like it’s ‘fresh’ and ‘new’. Cliches don’t really affect me like they do most people.

  • http://twitter.com/Tony_Iron_Stork Tony Stork

    The Japanese game industry is about as dead as my love of chocolate coated peanuts, ie. not very!

    True the industry is certainly changing and many Japanese games are taking on a more eastern/western hybrid style in both game-play and aesthetics but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it certainly isn’t across the board.

  • http://twitter.com/Nikuman_Anman2 Nikuman Anman

    I agree with the article and I think one of the problems is the way the internet has evolved.

    As you said, a Global audience doesn’t exist and it’s impossible to please everyone. However, digitally people can create a good representation of a Global audience through the use of user data. If you pool all the user data and create a ‘figure’ to represent them, he/she/it will have a vaginal nutsack (as you put it). At the same time he/she/it will tell you exactly what he/she/it wants.

    What makes this figure even more useful is the fact that you can cherry pick populations to create it. If your making the next Call of duty, just pick out all the people who have an interest in shooting people and see what the data says. I mean, who needs to come up with a game when the data tells you how it should be made?

    The result of this scientific approach is a lack of innovation and a large selection of similar games. I think this is what people are getting fed up with. What people want is something new and exciting.

    To do this creators have to have the guts to push their ideas through and investors need to have the balls to gamble their hard earned cash on new ideas rather than user data.

    • http://twitter.com/MarcusDelby Marcus Delby

      huhuh… you said ‘vaginal nutsack’.

  • CirnoTheStrongest

    “There’s one little Japanese company that has done okay for itself in the
    pursuit of these fundamentals. Never once pandering to anyone else,
    copying anyone else, following any particular regional trends. They
    forge their own path, and sure they stumble from time to time, but still
    they stick to their guns – say what you like about them, it’s a
    philosophy that commands the utmost respect.”

    True, but they’re not the only company that can have that said about them.

    They’re just the only ‘big’ company that that can be said about. There are plenty of smaller companies like Falcom/Gust/etc that have always maintained what makes them so unique, while improving a great amount.

  • Hodei

    true, sometimes we need those games, but most of the times (at least i) need some different games that open my mind? (more or less)

  • http://www.facebook.com/lionassault2 Thongchat Thongyai Na Ayudthay

    A Fanservice in Japan Game is even more worst that just Killing anyone in the game and I can’t watch these Japanese Anime now because it fulfill with girlies and some of niche thing And japan didn’t know how to speak english for almost. I still Support them but please tone down the japan niche meter to medium or less on those game, give them a Localize it to Western or Just put something exciting fun like a K-Pop Addict.. But Rarely to find K-Pop in Japanese Games. To Be Hornest.. Japan Game = Lot of Good Games but Still doesn’t dominate media masket like Korean Pop alway became popularly for all global market

    P.S Don’t let Mario, Sonic Down because of otaku element..

  • http://www.facebook.com/emireeffectium Stray Sheep

    As the way the article is written, I agree with it. However, I can’t say that there is no such thing. There is always a global audience based factors. Global Audience means a certain culture across the regions: US, England, Africa, Aussie, and etc… could watch or participate in interaction of items across the world. Not everyone has to like it, really, but they want everyone to like it.

    And an example, no animes appeal to just one culture/region. Naruto and Bleach is a clear representation of just a global audience. Some of the non-English VO release get that same respect across the internet. Though not the best, proper, and illegal way to show it, but it at least shows that there is an global audience out there.There are also countless Video games, more noteably: MS Gundam Extreme Vs, that people buy from Japan that people still question why they haven’t release Gundam Extreme Vs. as a US/Global Release.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002122219047 Joshua Lowtun

    Well we still have from Software that stick to there original style with the dark soul series.