In the most recent issue of Famitsu, the magazine published a fairly lengthy interview with several top developers in the Japanese game industry.
In the interview they talk about the current climate for AAA game development in Japan, and what they think the future will be like. While the interview is too long to post here in full, we’ve gotten the juiciest pieces via Japanese blog Hokanko-Alt.
(Editor’s note: pictured above from left to right)
- Cygames: Toeishi Ashihara
- Platinum Games: Hideki Kamiya
- Square-Enix: Yoshinori Kitase
- Koei-Tecmo: Akihiro Suzuki
- Sega: Toshihiro Nagoshi
- Koei-Tecmo: Yosuke Hayashi
- Bandai-Namco: Katsuhiro Harada
- CyberConnect2: Hiroshi Matsuyama
Toeishi Ashihara (Cygames)
- Normally known for developing mobile titles but recently opened a studio in Osaka for PS4 development. Most of the staff grew up with consoles so he doesn’t really see it as such an odd thing.
- Doesn’t really see it being a huge source of profit for them though.
- Not planning on porting mobile games to PS4
- Using an internally developed engine.
- Thinking about developing a free-to-play title.
Hideki Kamiya (Platinum Games)
- With Scalebound he’s trying to create an expansive open and photo-realistic world that’s several generations ahead of what he tried to do in Okami.
- Really, really interested in virtual reality.
Yoshinori Kitase (Square-Enix)
- Message boards like 2ch seem to break games into categories like “HD Games,” “MMO,” and “Online Social” and while Mobius Final Fantasy is a game for mobile, it’s really more at the level of a AAA game as technology wise it’s not all that different from Final Fantasy XII.
- Things really started to heat up internally when they first got the new PS4 dev kits and started to think about the things they could do.
- When developing AAA titles they take into account each team’s strengths and distribute accordingly.
- Square Enix’s belief is that we need to be there to develop high-end mobile games or else they’ll be left behind.
- While the PS4 is doing quite well outside Japan, things could still go either way. It’s possible you might see the announcement of a new Final Fantasy title at a mobile conference sometime in the future.
- The best outcome of having their teams make AAA titles like Final Fantasy XIII is making more consumers who want to play AAA games. In that respect they consider Mobius Final Fantasy a success.
- Estimates smartphones will match the PS3’s power in about 6 months to a year, but battery life and heat will be a big problem.
- Not just power but smartphones have their limitations just like consoles do.
- Square Enix was able to make the graphics in Mobius Final Fantasy what they were because of what they learned making Final Fantasy XIII.
- There was a big difference in what they could do on mobile using Unity when making Mobius Final Fantasy. There were two areas in particular where Mobius FF differs from other mobile titles: materials and shaders. He also mentions the quality of hair on the characters, and the use of various development tricks as well. The budget was much lower than your typical consumer title so they were hesitant to buy tools. For example, they pretty much had one guy working on the backgrounds, and 3 people on character designs.
- Has a fear that games are trending towards a very realistic open-world style. Going in that same direction is going to be really hard.
- There’s talk that Western companies will take over the mobile market if they get really serious about it.
- Really likes FIFA15.
- Has been watching Chinese developers and feels they’re really strong.
- Worried about future investment in AAA titles within Japan.
- Square Enix President Yosuke Matsuda thinks that along with Mobius Final Fantasy on the mobile side; Final Fantasy XIV, Kingdom Hearts III, and the Final Fantasy VII Remake will be their chance to turn things around for AAA development in Japan.
- This will be not just in sales, they need to exhibit the value in such games.
- Believes Mobius Final Fantasy has the ability to show people that AAA games aren’t just for consoles.
- Wants to use ads to really surprise people who aren’t into gaming that much. (Editor’s Note: We covered these next bits from Kitase in a previous report)
- Tetsuya Nomura and the rest of his team are still working on their vision for what they want the Final Fantasy VII remake to be. While we’ve seen how it’s progressing visually, they’re working on how they want the battle system and other parts to play out.
- They’re not opposed to making changes to the battle system, just working on the direction they want to take things.
- Normally when you remake something like that it turns into more of an Action RPG but they want to retain the feeling of FFVII while pursing different ways of surprising you.
Akihiro Suzuki (Koei-Tecmo)
- Is glad that it’s relatively easy to utilize the power of the PS4.
- They’d be happy to stop putting out cross-gen titles when it comes viable to only do current-gen development.
- Their internal devs aren’t just working on game engines but also researching technology for future titles. Is hopeful of a technological breakthrough.
- The control schemes between mobile and consoles are too different so he doesn’t see them converging.
Toshihiro Nagoshi (Sega)
- Is really grateful the PS4 has a lot of power that can be utilized relatively easily. Right now the biggest issue with making games is the business side rather than the development side.
- Developers don’t have a prediction for when enough people will shift over to current gen, allowing them to gradually shift away from cross-gen development.
- All that power allows them to make really beautiful and fluid games but it costs a lot of money which causes a lot of uneasiness. Ultimately though they don’t want gamers to have to worry about such things and just be able to enjoy the games.
- Despite the PS4’s graphics being certainly better when compared to the PS3, he doesn’t think it’s that huge of a leap.
- While they plan on being able to release only on PS4, they can’t say anything concrete.
- They estimate that sales within Asia will double that of Japan and things will start to change.
- The Yakuza series is first and foremost a game for Japan, so you can’t pin all your hopes and dreams on such a Japanese game.
- We need to think of high-end consoles as something necessary to keep us moving forward.
- In a world where PCs and smartphones exist, game consoles kinda occupy this weird little place in the middle.
- Can’t imagine what things will be like 10 years in the future but doesn’t see an easy path for game consoles.
Yusuke Hayashi (Koei-Tecmo)
- When making the decision to develop for consoles or mobile they went with consoles. And while they will be developing for mobile in the future, consoles are more their forte.
- Current-gen consoles are very easy to develop for.
- Each dev team takes their research and filters it to other teams through the internal research division. Eventually this will probably take form in a new game from a new team sometime in the future.
- They need to take a systematic approach to development to compete against Western titles. (Editor’s Note: We covered the next bit in a previous report)
- There are several PS4 exclusives currently in development, though you won’t see them until after 2016. They’ll steadily be able to add features that weren’t possible with cross-gen titles.
Katsuhiro Harada (Bandai-Namco)
- Has really been inspired by the things he can do with the new consoles.
- Jumped at the opportunity to do something with Project Morpheus now that this generation has made VR possible.
- The amount of AAA titles that can cost upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars seem to be increasing in the West but decreasing in Japan.
- Japanese titles that not only sell well in Japan but also worldwide seem to be limited to long-running numbered titles.
- Over the last 10 years, Japanese devs seem to have lost the spirit to compete worldwide when it comes to new titles.
- It’s hard to get those who like to play games on smartphones to want to play traditional console games. We need to get them to think that they’d rather play with a controller.
- Being able to make controller-based games that make people want to play them will determine if touch controls will supplant them in the future.
- It’s getting hard to notice an improvement in graphics, current-gen consoles currently reflect the power high-end PCs had 5 or 6 years ago.
- Graphics tech has steadied out as of recently so good art design has become even more important.
- It’s hard to explain to people in an easy to understand way about what’s so great about VR.
- Has seen more graphically intensive mobile games doing well recently, which probably has to do with customer’s demand.
- Fighting games haven’t really changed all that much but network play and tournaments have allowed new possibilities.
- Harada also wants to keep doing stuff with virtual reality.
Hiroshi Matsuyama (CyberConnect2)
- They debuted a version of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 at an internal event but didn’t have much time for development left so they decided to delay it.
- It’s kinda hard to differentiate what’s different with the PS4 version at first but the graphics and new system allow it to shine and really come to life.
- Predicts the Japanese game industry will never be on top again, so they need to find a new way of challenging things.
- While people constantly have their smartphones with them, they still watch dramas and movies on TV, so when you look at it like that he doesn’t think things have changed all that much.
- They’re working on 3 new titles but they’re not all anime-styled. One is a more photorealistic shonen-manga style game, another is an answer to your typical anime-styled game, and the last is neither but they’re thinking of making it styled like an anime that’s popular with middle-school kids.
- They’ve got a close eye on virtual reality.
- Those who work in the game industry aren’t the types that just play on their smartphones. Please believe that they want the home console to thrive and allow them to continue making their dreams a reality.