Most Japanese games “aren’t very good games”, says Vanquish writer
PlatinumGames man on everything that’s wrong with game development in Japan today
You’d think a man working at a Japanese game development studio would be a big fan of Japanese games, but apparently not. Jean Kellams, a writer at PlatinumGames – the people behind Vanquish and Bayonetta – reckons that most games coming out of Japan these days just aren’t all that anymore.
“The problems with Japanese games aren’t that they are [Japanese] games or that they are Westernised games. The problems with [Japanese] games are simple: Most of them aren’t very good games. People don’t buy those. Most games from anywhere aren’t good. That’s why exceptional means exceptional,” he wrote in a lengthy Twitter essay on the topic.
“Most Japanese publishers/developers can’t invest money/manpower enough to compete with exceptional Western productions. Risk is too high. It costs money and sweat to make things stand out, but it also raises the risk. Then marketing is crazy expensive after that.”
Adding that “games sell on spectacle”, Kellams criticised the market mentality that automatically disregards triple-A launches for their own sake.
“They sell because they are good,” he said. “They match great production values with great execution on great ideas. They sell on easy to understand themes.”
He went on to say that Japanese games need to improve on engaging meaningfully with players and, as he described it, “reducing friction”.
“If we have the best ideas, we need to make sure you don’t have to wonder why. Friction means you need to look at a character and identify with what that character is supposed to represent. Friction means never underestimating the intelligence of your audience. Culturally, Japanese design is about being inclusive. They don’t want anyone left behind, so they will add friction to an experience. Except then you move at the pace of the slowest one in a group. It bogs the experience down for people who already get it.”