Today, the situation is less rosy – many have spoken candidly about how the West has, in some terms, overtaken game development in Japan – but tides look to be changing.
[img :363]According to Enterbrain’s Game Maker Yearbook 2007, there are 195 game development studios in the region. 160 of those are centred in or around Tokyo – the Chiyoda, Shibuya and Shinjuku areas of the capital in particular – with the Kansai region of Osaka and Kyoto second most populated, with heavyweights Nintendo and Capcom making up part of its 18-strong force.
Its biggest employers are Sega, which housed 3,464 staff at the time of Enterbrain’s survey and Square Enix with 3,275, boosted by its acquisition of Taito in 2005. Its smallest is Super Smash Brothers Brawl creator Sora which, given that it only exists for designer Masahiro Sakurai to be able to work freelance, has only two registered employees – although Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has admitted that over 700 staff were ‘borrowed’ from 19 other nearby development studios. Indeed, it’s with collaboration that Japan has always lead, taking up the outsourcing model years before it became popular in the West. The country has also had a long history on promoting key staff behind the games, and heavily promoting new games based on the talent ‘tag team’ behind them.
Game education in Japan is quite advanced, with over 45 institutions offering courses on game development, many of them either entirely focused on games or specialising in other pop media such as comics and animation. These courses are marketed openly in consumer magazines such as the market leading weekly Famitsu, as are job opportunities in studios, helping to get across the message that games careers are viable to both a wide – and young – audience.