It sounds like I'm not the only one worried about the state of the gaming industry, particularly as related to Japanese games. Joystick reports via Develop, who in turn is writing (good Lord, what a chain--did I leave anyone out?) on an interview published in a recent issue of the behemoth weekly Japanese gaming magazine, Famitsu. While I won't insult your intelligence by quoting verbatim what you can read elsewhere, the main gist seems to be that Resident Evil 5 producer Jun Takeuchi (with a production record including other games in the RE series and Lost Planet) has concerns about what sells and does not sell in Japan. Mainly, he thinks it's a sad, sad world when Japanese can't make games that other Japanese will buy.
I agree with him, to a huge extent. Strangely, though, he might be missing the point a little; it isn't as if Japanese games aren't selling in Japan. Monster Hunter and its iterations tear up the PSP charts, and of course the Wii is just as big there as it is here. I can't even imagine when their forces combine with Monster Hunter Tri. Japan will probably lift right out of the ocean and ascend to Heaven in a great monster hunting orgy of joy and ganbatte. What he should really be concerned about is the lack of a home in Japan for games like The World Ends with You, which sold piteously few units in its native territory yet sold so well in the States that Square Enix had to reprint it beyond their modest first run, even at the exorbitant $39.99 pricepoint.
Instead, the main undercurrent of Takeuchi's statement is his anxiety for a future where Western games swoop in and take over the Japanese game charts. He says Japan is "the last big marketplace" for Western publishers, implying (maybe correctly) that it's their goal.
He doesn't mention how Japan continues to trump up Westernization in its game design in order to appeal to a Western audience (he doesn't mind Japanese games selling in the West, but he doesn't like Western games selling in Japan?), which appears a bigger problem to me. Historically, Japan has had great success in adopting other cultural traditions and making them wholly their own. The Meiji Restoration was all about Westernizing, which we also saw after WWII (forced or not), and millenia before that, they borrowed extensively from China (art, architecture, food, even a writing system) to marvelous effect. I sometimes wonder if it's the same with video games, though; I've always enjoyed distinctly Japanese games most (though, again, their original foundation may have come from the Western Atari craze), and their absence this generation is what bothers me more than the thought of Western developers dominating the diet of Japanese gamers. Frankly, that's comfortingly unlikely, and if it's Takeuchi's only worry, I can mentally send him a confident pat on the shoulder (and he can mentally send me back an awkward, horrified expression).
He has some encouragement for Japanese fans, saying that Capcom has yet to really announce its plans for 2009 and hopes to surprise us soon. Fingers (and toes) crossed that the surprise is awesome Japanese games and not Capcom farming their franchises out to more Western developers as they're doing with the Wii installment of Dead Rising, which looks, frankly, abysmal. "You don't need to buy Western games, Japan, because Japan is now making Western-style games! Surprise!" That's not a quote from the interview, just a quote from the Takeuchi of my nightmares.
Jesse Dylan Watson is scared to finish Persona 4 because he's not sure how long it'll be until another great Japanese game is released here, and his backlog is full of... gulp... western games.