The last time we spoke the Japanese market was in decline – has there been a recovery?
Nintendo's DS and Wii attracted a huge amount of new users into gaming. As a result, Japan's gaming market has actually greatly expanded.
How is the Japanese market performing in general, and what are the key drivers for its success currently?
On top of the fact that the DS and Wii are still enjoying steady growth, there are emerging signs of Sony's platforms picking up. The PSP market has been dramatically improved with the success of the Monster Hunter series. Also, the hot-selling Metal Gear Solid 4 is fuelling the PS3 market. I have great expectations on upcoming third-party titles to give further impetus to the PSP and PS3 markets.
Nintendo has been the driving force behind any growth that has occurred, would that be correct?
I believe that's correct without any doubt. Nintendo's console and handheld have brought in a large number of new gamers. The success of this strategy allowed Japan's gaming market to make a solid recovery from its slowing trend.
Are PSP and PS3 performing in line with your expectations?
The PSP has already started to show concrete signs of progress, thanks to Monster Hunter. As for the PS3, its penetration pace has been slower than I expected. Its higher price tag and software development difficulties have been major causes for stalling the growth of its installed base. However, these problems are gradually being resolved. If the console gets another price cut by the year-end shopping season, I believe its penetration pace will become accelerated.
Has there been a shift toward handheld gaming in recent years, given the success of DS and PSP?
Compared to console gaming, where you have to sit in front of the TV for a long time, handheld gaming is more suitable for today's busy lifestyle. Handheld gaming was only a supporting player in the past, but I expect it to take the main role in the future gaming world.
Has Xbox 360 made any impact in Japan at all? Is the console ‘too American' to succeed?
I think there aren't as many gamers allergic to games from overseas today as there were in the past. Instead, hardcore gamers are paying avid attention to Xbox 360 titles. I consider the 360 should have a wider variety of games under its belt to become more successful as a system.
How do you think Nintendo will keep up the momentum on Wii? Do you think peripherals like the Mario Kart wheel and the Wii Fit board will be increasingly important?
Nintendo has proved that a peripheral can open a new way of gaming with its Mario Kart and Wii Fit. I hope physical games like these will continuously come out to propose new gaming experiences. As for the future of the Wii, I believe third-party titles will take on greater importance for the system's further development, since a line-up that only has similarly-flavoured games would possibly lead to fans' boredom. In this context, I have great expectations on Capcom's Monster Hunter 3 for Wii.
How important do you think the platform holders' online
I'm keeping a watchful eye on the network strategies of the three platform holders. Nintendo's network strategy is very interesting. I'm impressed with their activities based on their good understanding of users' needs, like Virtual Console and WiiWare. As for Sony, I'm keen to find out how high the quality of PlayStation Home will be able to reach by its launch.
With Microsoft and Nintendo already starting to gain a foothold in this field, I would kind of like to see the latest comer, Sony, exceed its competitors. What will be the outcome? I'm just curious.
Is it becoming easier for titles developed in the West to break into the charts?
I think there are an increasing number of Western game followers in Japan, compared to the past. Although the number is still small, I believe it will grow in the future.