The president of Square Enix – the increasingly Western-facing Japan-headquartered publishing empire – has refuted the widely held view that the Japanese game industry is in decline.
The ongoing debate of Japan’s health was sparked back in September during the Tokyo Game Show, when the decorated Capcom developer Keiji Inafune declared: “We're done. Our game industry is finished.”
Katamari Damacy creative Kieta Takahashi was sympathetic to Inafune’s view: "Videogames are seen as a business overall. That’s definitely a reason why Japan is in decline,” he told Develop.
However, Square Enix president Yoichi Wada is thought to be the first high-profile industry executive that’s publicly spoken in defence of the Japanese industry.
“If you look at the numbers alone the market is not declining,” he said. “The perspective might be different for the Western markets because the growth there was significant. Compare that to Japan and our growth curve happened a few years ago.
“But to say the market is declining based on comparable growth elsewhere might not be the right thing to do.”
The support from Square Enix may come as a surprise to someobservers. Yoichi Wada’s is aggressively expanding westward more than any other, first partnering with various European and US studios, then taking a massive leap by acquiring former Britsoft publisher Eidos.
Wada said that these moves were not a reaction to Japan’s alleged decline, but part of a wider aim to be a global company, regardless of Japan’s health.
“The gaming industry is something that will be playing on a global market,” he said. “It doesn't really matter if the Japanese market is good or bad – we must be global. So Eidos' acquisition wasn't related to the welfare of the Japanese market.”
Wada did add a caveat to his supportive statement, claiming that the Japanese market “hasn't been able to appeal as much as it should”.
With the ever-rising costs of game development, publishers have little choice than to build their AAA properties as internationally attractive products. Numerous Japanese developers, such as Platinum Games, has previously spoken of the creative struggle in trying to allure western tastes while maintaining a Japanese signature to games.