Inafune Offers Japan "Winning" Advice
Keiji Inafune, co-creator of Mega Man and CEO of Comcept, took the stage today at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California to give a presentation titled "The Future of Japanese Gaming." The always outspoken Inafune opened up the talk by recalling his now infamous description of the Japanese video game industry as being "over." While his pessimism regarding the current state of Japan is still intact, this time he offered some constructive criticism alongside it.
"I said those words because I wanted to light a fire under the Japanese video game industry before it was too late," Inafune said. "So what is it we’re missing in the Japanese video game industry? What I think it is, and I think it’s pretty easy, is the conscious desire to win and come out on top."
Rediscovering the desire to "win" became the focal point of Inafune's presentation. He insisted that Japan has become too comfortable in its successes and that resting on its laurels has allowed competitors to rise above. The secret ingredient, he said, is struggling developers discovering the desire to improve themselves. He offered a story from his days back at Capcom to back up his point.
"15 years ago I was working on Mega Man Legends," said Inafune. "It was the first 3D Mega Man title for PlayStation. I was very excited, very passionate, and very confident about this game. As such, I did everything I possibly could as the game's producer. However, it was not an easy road to success. The Mega Man series was slightly on the decline, and perhaps the expectation levels were not as high as the previous games. Therefore, we weren't able to sell or promote the game as we expected and failed to attract an audience."
"Putting aside the quality of the game, at the end of the day the game was a failure from a sales perspective," Inafune admitted. "Mega Man fans I know are looking forward to a next installment in the series, but we shall see what happens. Back in those days nobody probably would have asked for the next Mega man Legends, though. That experience is my biggest failure and biggest treasure in my video game career."
"Soon after I had the chance to work on Resident Evil 2, and I think I can say that project made me what I am today," Inafune stated. "Why would I think that? Because the game was successful, the production quality of the game, or it was a major franchise titles? No, none of the above. As many of you know, Shinji Mikami directed the original Resident Evil. The game was a major success and we decided to work on Resident Evil 2. While Mikami worked on the game, as the producer it was my job to sell this game to people around the world. With Mega Man Legends it was challenging to book around appointments and interviews. Nobody was interested in hearing about a new Mega Man title. However, the scenario was completely different with Resident Evil 2. Interviews and inquiries came pouring in, and Capcom also poured in tons of marketing dollars."
Inafune insists that without experiencing the humbling failure of Mega Man Legends, the success of Resident Evil 2 may have gone to his head. Having struggled with Mega Man Legends allowed him to see how important developing new brands and sticking through challenges can be. Additionally, watching Shinji Mikami struggle with the original Resident Evil, which Inafune said was almost canceled, inspired him to work through the hardship instead of banking on existing franchises.
"What we're missing in Japan is the desire to win and the tenacity to succeed," said Inafune, driving home the focus of the entire presentation. "I promise to introduce a new 'hero' from Japan. That is what we’re missing. We’re missing a hero."