A Crunk TGS Report

Some of you may remember Andrew Vestal, one of the guys who once ran the GIA. He's now living in Japan and recently attended the Tokyo Game Show. While there were also 'Western' games shown, he took a closer look at the 'local' productions and wrote a report for CrunkGames, which might as well be considered as editorial on the state of the Japanese gaming industry. To him the TGS was a "sobering and somewhat depressing experience."

Why? Read on...

This isn't to say that there was nothing worthwhile on display - a lot of games looked great, and there's a handful I'm really looking forward to. But underneath the flashing lights and song and dance is an industry that's scared, because it has no idea what it wants to do with itself or where it wants to go.
The announced Final Fantasy VII-based movie is one of the examples Vestal elaborates on as he's under the impression that Square Enix don't really know what to do with that product. Oncoming 3D action games such as Phantom Dust are covered as well. They look impressive, but...
...there's an increasing disconnect in these games between what the player does and what appears on the screen. You tap a single button, and lightning comes crashing down from the sky, noisily incinerating your opponent into sparkly particles. Cool. But why? As Dave Smith of IGN said of Taito's Bujingai - a game starring ex-visual kei star Gackt - "you just press buttons and rainbows appear all over the screen." It's overwhelming, it's exhausting, and once the initial flash wears off, it's empty.
Seeing that the companies are apparently trying to create better looking versions of the same thing again and again he concludes that they are "busy environment mapping the deck chairs on the Titanic." Of course, there are exceptions and you may or may not disagree with him, but I think he isn't completely wrong. It's not like some of the arguments he made couldn't be applied to other genres and parts of the industry as well.

Last week Gamefront also mentioned an interview with Yoshiki Okamoto, the ex-managing director at Capcom who brought up similar points and criticized the sequelitis in the industry. He considers it a partial result of companies focusing on shareholder value and short term profits. While sequels may be successful they're also restricting what appears to be a shrinking market (Japan) in his opinion. The constant pressure to produce sequels and to established another hit series was one of the reasons he left Capcom and now founded a new company. However, Okamoto also partially blames customers as many of them seem to have very conservative purchase habits, thus making it more difficult for new/innovative games to find their way into the market.

- Spunior


I wish I knew what it would take to shake up the industry and force a creative renaissance. Everyone (aside from shareholders) says they want less sequels and more innovation but what does that mean exactly? What are you looking for a new property to do that a sequel can't?

You know what I wish for? I wish graphics got easy. I wish graphics weren't such a large part of game development. I mean, what if the next-gen consoles we're so intuitive that the graphics practically made themselves and developers could focus more man power on AI, story, music and gameplay?

I think games would get better if graphics were easier.

And they called me crazy with my Japan Ego Check post.



However, Okamoto also partially blames customers as many of them seem to have very conservative purchase habits...

Well, yeah.  When games are fifty bucks each, most people can't afford to buy more than one or two a month, if that.  Why shouldn't the take the "conservative" guaranteed approach of buying a game they know they'll like versus taking a $50 chance on a "new/innovative" title they haven't heard of?  Maybe if the games were $10-$20 a lot more people would be willing to take a gamble on the smaller publisher's innovations.

This comment makes it seem to me this guy just does not understand his business.  His customers do not have an unlimited amount of money they can just throw around but decide not to buy his games just because the customers are "conservative".

I think that moving to cinimatic 3d games is going to make us buy even less games. These games cost more to develop and produce than other titles. That is why I'm getting mroe gungho about the GBA.



Another important issue is that as we, gamers (with jobs!) grow up and acquire responsibilities, we don't have the same amount of time to devote to gaming.

So I imagine shorter and shorter games that you can immediately get into will become more popular very soon...?

But I do agree - I don't think Rez sold well enough to warrant a sequel. Many gems like that are buried between three tons of Final Fantasy X copies.