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Western developers - Rodney Dangerfields of the Console World?

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View Poll Results: Where do American/Euro developers stand in today's gaming world?
Western developers definitely lead the way now.
16
37.21%
They're about equal to the Japanese.
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30.23%
Western developers can pitch themselves in the ocean for all I care. Their games have no appeal.
6
13.95%
Josh Hinkle.
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18.60%
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Western developers - Rodney Dangerfields of the Console World?

Old 12-10-02, 02:09 AM
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Western developers - Rodney Dangerfields of the Console World?

When is the "Western game developers are inferior" mentality going to disappear from the console gaming world? I was speaking with a buddy today and he was blasting all Western developers in the usual "Japan rules all" mentality that has been out of date since the mid-'90s. He was a major gamer during the NES & SNES days and I'm sure that's where his attitude developed from. But even then, his last console was the N64, where the only games he ever loved were the Brit-developed Goldeneye and Perfect Dark!

And I still see this here too. I ask you, what are the major killer apps this season across the consoles? Metroid, GTA Vice City, and Splinter Cell. All of which originate outside of Japan. While Japanese developers deserve all of the respect they get, I do think that a lot of the major Japanese games have been the same ol same ol or even just plain bad lately. Except for very specific hardcore gamers, I question whether any non-Japanese gamer could live on a console served only by Japanese games anymore. Which of course is another way of saying Western developed games are now a crucial part of the industry.

And this doesn't even touch on the PC world, where practically every console "innovation" can be traced back to an old PC title, usually in an obscure French adventure game with a bizarre translation.

So what do you think? Western developers on equal footing or even superior now? And if not, what games do you play?

Last edited by ipkevin; 12-10-02 at 02:19 AM.
Old 12-10-02, 08:50 AM
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I think western dev houses can put out good stuff. It's just that there are so many putting out crap it brings down the image of the west.

Metroid doesn't really count as their was a lot of influence from Nintendo.

Also, shouldn't Halo be on this list?
Old 12-10-02, 08:54 AM
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I think you actually should count Metroid Prime because Japan really didn't have the infatuation with the Metroid games that us Westerners did, which is why Nintendo farmed it out to a western team. They may have given a lot of advice and suggestions to Retro, but obviously I think the majority of credit goes to Retro. Can't wait to see what else this team can do.
Old 12-10-02, 09:27 AM
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The funny thing is how much the Japanese cater to the Western World nowadays in games. Would there have ever been a Metal Gear Solid 2 (and the supposedly upcoming MGS3) if it wasn't for sales in the US and Europe of the original MGS? Same goes for Metroid, which is an absolute dud in Japan but the Western World eats it up. A lot of things that come out of Japan nowadays are geared toward the West. Many Japanese games sell better in the states than in Japan (examples: Resident Evil re-do for GC and Devil May Cry on PS2).

Western Developers are good at certain markets. Sports is easily where the Western World excels (outside of Winning 11 by Konami, which is the best soccer game available), including skateboarding, BMX and all the major sports.

RPGs are pretty geared toward Japan, Strategy games are mostly Western based (PC wise), FPSs are easily Western based and platform games are starting to even out. Naughty Dog, Insomniac Games, Oddworld Inhabitants, etc. have all brought the Western platform game up to levels of the Sonics and Marios, although they will probably never be popular in Japan.

I guess you really have to have an open mind about this kind of stuff. The world changes, sometimes people's ideas have to change with it.
Old 12-10-02, 10:35 AM
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Originally posted by jeffdsmith
I think western dev houses can put out good stuff. It's just that there are so many putting out crap it brings down the image of the west.

Also, shouldn't Halo be on this list?
I think the Japanese put out plenty of crap too, but that doesn't seem to affect their image.

My opinion is that western developers are just as good as the Japanese, but at different types of games.

I agree that Halo should be on the list too.
Old 12-10-02, 11:31 AM
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I await the next Mahjong+dating sim+rhythm/music RTS FPS Online Sim.
Old 12-10-02, 03:01 PM
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From an American gamer's viewpoint, the Japanese seem to take making games more seriously. Just like with their animation, it's more of an art form, not just something to pump out for little kids to enjoy and their parents to suffer via their pocketbooks. They seem to be well organized (better management perhaps?) and do a great job. Having said that, I do think the Western developers are getting to that level, but Japan still beats them. Plus, the character designs for Japanese games just flat out rock!

Sure Japan makes [email protected] games too, they aren't entirely perfect, but not nearly as many [email protected] games that Western developers make and end up in the clearance bin all too soon. It isn't always there fault, though, a lot of games get put out too early or don't have enough people involved to who care enough to make it a real quality game. It's just a job and they are pumping out merchandise. "Metroid Prime" is a rare exception, it looks and feels like something from Japan. I've had absolutely no problems with this game and can't get enough of it!

Maybe this is an ignorant comment, but Western thinking is like "Money first, quality product second." Just look at our movie industry and almost everything else involved in entertainment.

I have a couple of friends in the gaming industry and I hear horror stories all the time. They are fanboys of Nintendo, et al.
Old 12-10-02, 03:28 PM
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With the exception of Nintendo, for the most part I prefer "Western games." But.. I like Nintendo's games quite a bit more than any others, western or Japanese.. so I guess it all evens out..

I think both sides are lacking in innovation the last few years.. so it's not that Western developers have gotten so much better, but Japanese developers have gotten so much worse.
Old 12-10-02, 05:51 PM
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On balance, I definitely feel like Western developers have caught up and in some ways exceeded Japanese developers. I've read several interviews recently with big-name Japanese developers who have admitted as much. They have defintely noticed that the West has caught up to them and know something must be done if they wish to compete in the future. Hopefully, this will help drive innovation by both groups of developers.
Old 12-10-02, 08:45 PM
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Originally posted by Tamrok
On balance, I definitely feel like Western developers have caught up and in some ways exceeded Japanese developers. I've read several interviews recently with big-name Japanese developers who have admitted as much. They have defintely noticed that the West has caught up to them and know something must be done if they wish to compete in the future. Hopefully, this will help drive innovation by both groups of developers.
Yep, let them try to outdo each other. Only makes better games for us!
Old 12-11-02, 01:26 AM
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I think that the reason western developers have come into their stride in recent years is because consoles have become more and more similar to PCs. In Japan personal computers never really caught on in the general public, they have always preferred console gaming to computer gaming. In the west computer gaming has always been very popular, and now that the consoles are basically just PCs designed specifically for gaming (think xbox), the western developers who have been playing and creating computer games for the past 20 years are thriving. First Person Shooters (Doom), Third Person Action/Adventures (Tomb Raider), Real-Time Stategy games (Warcraft) are all western creations.
Old 12-11-02, 02:53 AM
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This is hard to put into words, but I feel (and these are large generalizations I admit) the Western approach to 3D graphics is what has really helped them pull ahead. They used it to create truly and utterly new gameplay experience, rather than just pretty-up the graphics. Core to this is their tendency to use 3D to create "go anywhere, do anything" worlds, or at least give the *impression* that you can. That sense of freedom. I think this is a natural expectation when you see an all-3D world, that you should be able to do anything within it. And in constantly pushing in this direction, it makes a lot of their output seem fresh and new because it just wasn't possible before. The gameplay changes, or at least it feels like you are doing a lot more than you ever could in the old 2D games. It's a revolution.

Contrast this with the Japanese approach to 3D (and again, major generalization there and I'm sure you can find some significant counter examples). Their games are exquisite, they use the 3D to create better-looking vistas than ever before, and there are definite gameplay refinements. BUT, the whole package still has that old school 'they're very obviously leading me along' flavour to it. It's an evolution, rather than a true change.

Compare Half Life to Metal Gear Solid. MGS is great. It's exquisite and virtuoso. BUT it still felt like an old school game with a new coat. I was still limited and obviously led along like every game since the Atari. OTOH, Half Life was like nothing I had played up to that point. I wasn't watching the movie, I WAS the movie. I was making it happen & the cinematic flair evolved out of my actions. The feeling of openness, of me exploring and making it happen felt at its core to be a new style of game.

And that feeling of freedom extends to all sorts of genres now. Even racing like Smugglers Run & Midtown Madness. There's just more emphasis on being open. Sometimes it can be cosmetic, sometimes it affects the gameplay (eg, a chance to explore/invent instead of just hone what's already given to you). Whatever. But the result is the games feel fresher to me.

In terms of games as art (which is basically trying to give a game heart and soul and feeling, instead of it just being a cool product, right?), I do agree the Japanese have it all over Western developers. The possible exception is the French and their so-called "French touch" (possibly because, as I've been told by a Frenchman, everyone in France considers themselves an artist ).

Last edited by ipkevin; 12-11-02 at 03:05 AM.
Old 12-11-02, 03:29 AM
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Western all the way!
I will never play another Japanese RPG, all graphics and cut scenes, no real combat. Gimme Baldurs Gate or Morrowind anyday.

Sports is not even a contest.

Shooters and combat stuff seems to all be better by us also. Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, Mechassault, Metroid, Vice City.


All the Japanese market seems to put out now is weird cutesy stuff. Some of it is very good but not really my bag anymore.

There are exceptions of course, the Japanese still make the best fighting games. US fighters are usually very gimmicky.

Frankly though we are very fortunate to live in a time where there is competition between three GREAT consoles + PC gaming, with developers all over the world providng us with their different influences. Makes for a lot of quality product no matter where it comes from.

Last edited by Ginsu; 12-11-02 at 01:39 PM.
Old 12-11-02, 08:00 AM
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Western games has been on up abit but ever matching quality and artistic fantasies japanese come up with will never happen. Maybe joe6pack is happy, those get new madden every year and grab shooter like quake. But games that have something to say, worlds you'd love to live in and music that makes just load game up and listen are all heavily japanese. I would admit a japanese slump latey but that will pass in time and they set another standard yet again. There is Not more of turn off then when new console system comes out without major japanese support.
Old 12-11-02, 08:23 AM
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Originally posted by madara
Western games has been on up abit but ever matching quality and artistic fantasies japanese come up with will never happen. Maybe joe6pack is happy, those get new madden every year and grab shooter like quake. But games that have something to say, worlds you'd love to live in and music that makes just load game up and listen are all heavily japanese. I would admit a japanese slump latey but that will pass in time and they set another standard yet again. There is Not more of turn off then when new console system comes out without major japanese support.
BS.

Japanese devs have been at the console game longer and there are more of them. That's all. Western devs have been playing catch up in the traditional (non-PC) console genres and are really making progress. I bet in 20 years we won't even think about where a game was made.
Old 12-11-02, 08:39 AM
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I took a look at my recent game purchases and it looks like 3/4 of my games are still from Japanese developers. However, Western developers are catching up and certainly have the ability to put out quality games. Halo, Grand Theft Auto, various Sports games, ect have been very good. I'm not sure where to put Metroid Prime, but Retro should get a lot of the credit though I know Nintendo stepped in to give them direction and make sure the game was perfect.

With either East or West its a case of time. You can tell when the time was put into to make a quality game. I think the thing thats hurt the Western developers is the large number of games that are rushed out the door to make a quick buck. Acclaim has probably single handedly done more to hurt the reputation of American Developers than any other company.

The poll questions are a bit silly. Western developers are still a bit behind overall, but in a few years it will probably all be even.
Old 12-11-02, 02:20 PM
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LOL, did not know Atari was japanese developer
Old 12-11-02, 08:23 PM
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Originally posted by Ginsu
I will never play another Japanese RPG, all graphics and cut scenes, no real combat. Gimme Baldurs Gate or Morrowind anyday.
I totally agree with this. The closest thing I like from Japan that is an RPG is Zelda, but that's not really a RPG is it...
Old 12-11-02, 10:55 PM
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I'm in total agreement with you, ipkevin. My view on the whole Japanese vs Western games issue:

The Japanese used to be the center of the gaming world, and they may still think that they are, but most of the development innovation is coming out of Western development studios. There may be the occasional Jet Set Radio, but the true innovative games pushing entirely new boundaries, showing a glimpes of what's to come of future gaming, are coming from Western developers. The Japanese give us Final Fantasies. Western developers give us Fables and Deus Ex's and Morrowinds. Japanese developers give us Metal Gear Solid. Western developers give us Thief and Splinter Cell. Western developers are the ones breaking new ground in multiplayer. They're the ones breaking new ground in AI. They're the ones bringing us the revolutionary open-ended games. The list goes on. You'd never see a Japanese developer try something as revolutionary and ambitious as BC or Fable. Japanese developers rely on formula and what's familiar more than anybody else in the world. They may have most of the popular franchises in the console world and much better art teams making more stylistic games, but they're not the ones innovating in the gameplay realm anymore.

There's just a lot of cookie-cutter development in Japan. You very rarely see Japanese developers break formulas and try to revolutionize genres. They rely far too heavily on styles of gameplay that people are familiar with, and are too afraid to innovate and do something truly different. The RPG genre is a perfect example of this. I loved RPGs back on the SNES, and enjoyed a couple the first few years of the PSX days, but they've all become so disgustingly goddamn derivitive of each other that I can't bare to play another. Update those damn battle systems for crissakes! RPGs from Japan are still using the same basic battle system structure developed over a decade ago around the hardware constraints of the time. It'd also be nice if they tried to change the horribly linear, hold-your-hand structure of the game, and where the story-telling isn't properly integrated with the gameplay element well, and the entire world and almost everything that happens in it is static and doesn't react to the player the way a game of this generation should.

Which leads me to another thing-- Japanese games may be much more stylish due to their larger/more talented art teams, but I think they let it get to their heads. RPGs are an example, and games like MGS are an example. The MGS games may be nice experiences, but I don't care what anyone says: as games, their gameplay absolutely pales in comparison to stealth games like Thief 2 and Splinter Cell. (And yes yes, Splinter Cell has its flaws, but if you want to get into gameplay flaws, I could tear MGS2 to shreds) Konami fills the game chock-full of so many story elements that they take over the game and make it more of an interactive movie than a true gameplay experience. And with it obviously being the focus of their development, they build the gameplay elements around the story, instead of the other way around. The "cinematic" yet crappy-for-gameplay camera angles being an example.

And I feel that way from most every Japanese games I play. Sure there's Nintendo, and the Sega developers (whose credit as a "top, world-class developer" seems to be less and less deserving each year), but most of the "good" Japanese games these days are primarily style over substance, with really tight, derivitive gameplay. I feel no 'freshness' from them, and often put down the controller wishing the development of the gameplay were put in the hands of a Western developer who might have tried to make the gameplay itself unique and fresh, not the feel and style of the game. Style over substance.

As a gamer, I like new experiences. Chalk that up to my perhaps relatively low attention span with most games, but I don't like always playing the same thing, and new experiences require new ideas and gameplay formulas. Besides the occasional rare, great game from a company like Nintendo (I say that because they're just one developer who takes time with their games, not because most of their games aren't good), I just don't get that from Japanese games. Just look at Steel Battalion... it's considered by many to be one of the "great innovations" to come out of Japan recently, but what is it really? A mech sim with a s**tload of buttons. Any new actual gameplay innovations? Nope. All the games I've played lately where I felt I was playing something new and at least somewhat innovative were Western developed, and the same holds true for nearly everything I'm looking forward to. My most anticipated upcoming games are titles like Fable, BC and Halo 2 because of the groundreaking, revolutionary experiences they'll offer. Will we ever see games of that innovative caliber out of Japan? Will we ever see them make any strides in open-ended gameplay like Western developers have been and are doing? Are they ever going to release any games that truly break new ground in gameplay that will be heralded as true innovations to pave the way for future games to come? Not for a very long while, I'll bet. Because, despite that the notion of Japan being the center of the gaming world is still so deeply permeated in the gaming community, and that Japan has many mega-popular and easily identifiable franchises for them to rely on, Japanese development is stuck in an innovative and creative rut. One which they are failing to confront and trying to compensate for with better and better art direction and through polishing up dusty, worn-out gems. For the time being, it's outside of Japan where all the innovation and true creativity is breeding.

Maybe if Japanese developers started focusing their resources and energies on exploring new compelling and innovative gameplay experiences instead of on flashy style and super refined art direction, they would manage to live up to their reputation as top innovators in game design.

Christ that was long.

Last edited by tha_dvd_man; 12-12-02 at 01:09 AM.
Old 12-11-02, 11:37 PM
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Originally posted by darqleo
From an American gamer's viewpoint, the Japanese seem to take making games more seriously. Just like with their animation, it's more of an art form, not just something to pump out for little kids to enjoy and their parents to suffer via their pocketbooks. They seem to be well organized (better management perhaps?) and do a great job. Having said that, I do think the Western developers are getting to that level, but Japan still beats them. Plus, the character designs for Japanese games just flat out rock!
I already touched on this, but Japanese developers take games more seriously in the art department. That doesn't mean they take games "more seriously" as a whole, and I have more respect for a developer who puts more of their time and resources into the gameplay of a game rather than the art and stylistic elements.
Originally posted by darqleo
Sure Japan makes [email protected] games too, they aren't entirely perfect, but not nearly as many [email protected] games that Western developers make and end up in the clearance bin all too soon.
More games total = more crap games as well. I'm more concerned with the number of quality, original games that are made; I could care less if there are 10 or 10,000 crap games.

Plus, some games are crap because the developers suck, some games are crap because of little direction or bad management or having to make a game based on a license and having too many restrictions/deadlines/etc from the publisher, but most importantly, some games suck simply because they didn't live up to their potential. It's much harder to make a truly unique and innovative game than it is to make a derivitive, cookie-cutter game. And while that style of development will produce some of the most memorable, revolutionary games ever, it will also produce many disappointments. But again, I'm concerned with the great games, not the failed ones.
Old 12-11-02, 11:43 PM
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Originally posted by madara
LOL, did not know Atari was japanese developer
Atari was an American company, not Japanese.
Old 12-12-02, 02:35 AM
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giggle~thank you
Old 12-12-02, 03:40 AM
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Originally posted by tha_dvd_man

There's just a lot of cookie-cutter development in Japan. You very rarely see Japanese developers break formulas and try to revolutionize genres. They rely far too heavily on styles of gameplay that people are familiar with, and are too afraid to innovate and do something truly different.
I disagree, though japan gets way more games released than the US, there are tons of innovative games in japan IMO, but many of them probably don't appeal to Western audiences so you don't usually hear about them. I have never seen anything in the US with the originality of Chu-lip or Mini-Moni Shaka-tto Tambourine! Da-pyon! (thats one whole title, its a long one ), or even Zettai Zetsumi. You use Halo as an example of groundbreaking revolution, but Halo is not innovative, its another derivative FPS. What makes it a good game is that the talented developers took the idea and refined it to perfection, and thats what makes it a great game. All in all it comes down to which kind of games you like to play and the eye of the beholder, I prefer turn based RPG's over the PC kind, but then again i'm not a PC gamer and the two are completely different genres.

But to get back on topic, I think Western developers are definitly making their mark. Heck the PC and graphics card industry is driven by PC games. To sum it up: I think that Western developers are just as good as Japanese ones (although at different types of games)
Old 12-12-02, 05:42 AM
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I've been pretty disappointed with the big Japanese devs (Sega, Capcom, Konami, Namco) so far this gen and only Capcom has me excited about 2003 right now. Everyone else just seems so complacent about anything outside of sequels for the most part. Stagnant genres like Japanese RPGs just need a good kick in the ass.
Old 12-12-02, 10:18 AM
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You use Halo as an example of groundbreaking revolution, but Halo is not innovative
Wrong, I used Halo 2 as an upcoming groundbreaking game. Go read about what Bungie are doing with Halo 2. It will indeed be groundbreaking. No time constraints now......this will be their original vision.

Even so, Halo had unprecedented AI for its time, and incorporated elements such as two-sided large-scale battles and significant vehicle use into a single-player FPS campaign, which was quite new. All the while with extremely tight and polished gameplay.

I have never seen anything in the US with the originality of Chu-lip or Mini-Moni Shaka-tto Tambourine! Da-pyon! (thats one whole title, its a long one ), or even Zettai Zetsumi.
Please describe them.

Most of the time when I see an "innovative" game out of Japan, the type that barely or doesn't even make it to the US, it's usually just a new level of quirkiness wrapped around the same-old gameplay mechanics. The Japanese are good are presenting old ideas in a new and more stylish way, but again, they can hardly touch Western developers when it comes to innovative, revolultionary gameplay ideas and game world structures such as new levels open-endedness and freedom, interaction, AI, deeper intuitive gameplay, new levels of multiplayer, etc.... things that actually set a new standard for gameplay and shape the way games are made in the future. Western developers are doing that right now, Japanese developers are not. It's the Japanese who have to catch up with Western developers in actually breaking new ground in gameplay and the way games are played.

You could argue that Japanese games are unique and perhaps better in their own way that suits their own culture, but the notion that they're making better, more universally appealing games than everyone else in the world is just asinine, and nothing more than a relic mindset from the early-mid 90s. If it weren't for their big-name companies with big-name franchises and the mentality that Japan is the center of the gaming world created from the 8/16-bit era, Japan as a game development community would be a shell of its current self.

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