The producer for Dead or Alive has told MCV that controversy over the series’ approach to female representation may be the result of a cultural clash.
Asked whether the growing discussion over female representation in the games industry had raised questions during development about the game's approach to female characters ahead of the release of PS4 and Xbox title Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, Yosuke Hayashi, the leader of developer Team Ninja and producer for the game, dismissed any concerns.
“Our characters, male and female alike, are created in a fantasy setting and are using extraordinary abilities to compete with each other in a clearly light-hearted, over-the-top universe,” he stated.
“Their abilities are very balanced and we want to present all of them as dynamic, strong, sexy and confident.
“In our eyes, every fighter has the same potential.”
A roster filled with scantily-clad women has been a staple of the Dead or Alive series since the franchise’s creation in 1996.
The infamous trait was heartily embraced in the Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball set of titles, in which the female characters of Dead or Alive are invited to an island to compete in the titular sport.
The content of the series particularly came to light ahead of the 2010 release of Dead or Alive: Paradise, after the ESRB issued a ratings summary describing the game as containing 'creepy voyeurism' and claiming it portrayed 'bizarre, misguided notions of what women really want'.
The ratings summary was later changed, with the ESRB claiming it had been posted in error and should not have 'improperly contained subjective language'.
Hayashi stated that the differences between Japanese and Western culture may be one reason why Dead or Alive’s female characters could spark staunchly different receptions in each region.
“What is important to remember here is that Dead or Alive is a series developed in Japan, where the interpretation of beauty is very different to that of Europe or the US,” he explained.
“There is a cultural barrier between what appeals to our fans in the East and what to those in the West so, of course, we are taking that under consideration in our development and marketing.
“As far as Dead or Alive is concerned, our philosophy is to try and make a game that our fans can enjoy, in both the East and the West, and regardless of gender.”
Games journalist Cara Ellison responded to Hayashi's comments by criticising the lack of Japanese titles featuring similarly titillating male characters to have made it to western shores.
"Yosuke Hayashi has neglected to mention that Japan has a huge number of games and comics dedicated to objectifying male bodies that the western publishers have neglected to bring to us," she told MCV.
"The only recent western games company that has indulged western audiences that might be sexually attracted to masculine bodies has been Voltage Inc's series of dating sims for Android and iPhone – and they seem to be doing extremely well.
"If Dead or Alive wants my money, it can start to include bodies like this."
Game designer and artist Sophia George added: "I don’t believe that people take issue with these games because of different beauty standards, but because they find the character designs degrading.
"When I look at games like Dead or Alive, I tend to find that the female characters are sexualised. Male characters, although also portrayed unrealistically, are not designed to titillate players in the same way. I think it’s this imbalance that can make people uncomfortable."
Helana Santos, programmer at development studio Modern Dream, suggested that Team Ninja should be free to design Dead or Alive titles as it sees fit – and that consumers should be equally free to choose whether to purchase and play the games.
"I believe that as game developers we should have freedom to express creativity in all forms whilst responsibly recognising its consequences," she explained.
"There are now markets for many types of games and players should have the freedom to choose whether to embark on the developer's journey or not."