Siliconera talks to Tokyo-based indie game developer Ojiro Fumoto about the state of the doujin game scene, and how he’s both a part of it, and seeing attention in the west.
The same reason why the bigger devs in Japan aren't dominating: because they have taken too long to embrace 3rd party middle-ware. The Japanese have always prided themselves in making their own in-house game engines. But after the last gen, the cost of making HD games and the time required to do it skyrocketed substantially. America and Europe embraced middleware to cut costs and development time. Japan didn't. The only companies who thrive there (other than Nintendo) are Capcom, Atlus, Arc Systems, NIS, Namco, Square (who is embracing it more), Level 1, etc--and ALL of those that I mentioned utilize 3rd party engines, scripting, and middleware. So if even top-dog companies need to rely on it sometimes, how much more would indies. Indies in the West already use these tools that's why we have more AAA and more Indies than Japan. Ironically many Japanese devs have moved onto mobile--not even realizing that they are still utilizing browser based flash and other 3rd party tools anyway. Why not just use more heavily modified versions of Unreal Engine, and the plethora of other tools? Maybe they need better documentation and user support in their native language (?)
"Indie games (or doujin games) have not had the cultural upheaval and attention boost in Japan that they have had recently in the west. But why is that?" Because they aren't as dumb and easily influenced by 'nothing' versus consumers in the west. Ever since this generation started, all this indie talk has made it seem like that's the main focus of gaming this gen when I don't know anyone who goes "i just spent $400 so I can play downloadable indie games." So much, that now you'll see 1080p and 60FPS being the talk of this gen. Last gen it was HD and 3D. All these selling points continue to take you away and more away from the fact that all that matters are GOOD GAMES - which this generation so far is seriously lacking. It's why wiiU sales are finally picking up in the region. IT has enough decent games to warrent buying and at the end of the day, that's all gamers care about: decent games. Not this indie agenda push I've had my Xbox One & PS4 since launch - haven't bought an indie game, still.
So because the current consoles have more games than ever in under one year of release, but suddenly when there's no game that appeals to you it's 'lacking'? No, PS4/Xbox have record breaking sales because they released core mainstream games first, and that's all the mainstream audience cares about: mainstream games. Not niche titles that only a handful of people buy or gives maximum internet credibility appeal to N4G readers but never translates to sales. The Japanese indie scene isn't big, not because the people are better than the "dumb and easily influenced" people of the west, but because they don't have equivalent matured channels to hype indie games or circulate them via digital distribution; instead rely on internet word of mouth or face-to-face conventions. You haven't looked at the big picture.
The indie scene not being larger in Japan is due to a cultural core belief of "for all" rather than "for me". The people of most eastern cultures have the traditions of placing family and country before their own personal needs. You're still expected to grow up and get a job in the family business, or to get a normal job helping the larger publishers. To sit and say, "I'm going to not get into the family business or uphold family tradition and instead focus on what I want to make and what I want to do", goes against cultural influence in Japan. Also, culturally, the Japanese are a shy people. The saying, "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down", comes into play here. You don't do anything that would help you stick out or become noticed, and often defer credit to others. I don't know if it was the film "Indie Game" or a short film based around the creator of Mega-Man in a video about Might No.9 development, but the cultural issues stopping young developers from taking the risk are talked about.
First, the article doesn't answer that question. Secondly, I think the answer lies in the pressures of Japanese society. There is enormous focus in Japan on getting good grades to get into a good college to get a good salary at a good company or a good government position. What's more, failure is much more public in Japan; school grades are posted on the school bulletin board publicly, everyone knows who the top kids in the class are and everyone knows who is flunking out. Even more than that, the "cool" kids in the school are usually the ones with good grades; in the US the kids with good grades are usually outcasts. But to be the popular kid, you aren't just good at schoolwork, you're also a good athlete and have the right personality too. This relentless focus is good in certain ways, Japan is a much less violent country than most and more community-oriented than most too; but in certain ways this focus is bad as well. Aversion to failure means that most Japanese people are averse to trying things that are risky, and being an indy developer is definitely risky.
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