Now, Xbox 360 fanboys, before you start your raving, I ask that you hear me out on this. Once you get to the end of the article, you can start your horn-tooting. PS3 fanboys, before you start calling Natal a glorified EyeToy, first ask yourself why anyone would want to copy that crap, then note that I have a tendency to be sarcastic, then note that this is not an article designed to bash (or praise) anyone. Just hit the back button on your browser if that’s why you’re here. Lastly, Wii fanboys – who am I kidding, there’s no such thing as a Wii fanboy (editor’s note to self: expect sarcasm to be greatly overlooked here).
Some of you might be aware of recent goings-on in the video game industry, specifically the Japanese market. Last year, annual revenue generated from video games dropped 6.9% in Japan, and it’s the general consensus that it’s going to get worse, the world is going to end, etc., etc. It’s inevitable, but you know it’s bad when the head of R&D and online business for Capcom — one of the most influential and leading developers in Japan, mind you – says “Japan is over.” Yeah, we’re all gonna die.
Thankfully, there’s a superhero who will save us from disaster. Enter Microsoft. One of the software giant’s bigmouths, Aaron Greenberg, ran his big mouth a few days ago while speaking to Destructoid (and I mean that in the most propitious way possible). According to the exec, it’s not all doom and gloom in The Land of the Rising Sun. Enter Natal.
Many analysts and developers agree, in order for the Japanese gaming industry to survive, it must “go West,” meaning it must appeal to a whiter wider audience. Greenberg disagrees to this sentiment.
“Japan is a very important market for the gaming industry and home to some of the video game industry’s leading innovators,” he said. “In many ways, I think what makes Japanese games so special is that not only are these the franchises many of us grew up playing, but Japanese creators have given us the games the world plays. I have spent a lot of time in Japan in the 10 years I have been on the Xbox business and I love the country, the people and their ability to create new experiences that could only come from Japan.”
It’s Greenberg’s belief that Japanese developers should not try to create the next big game, but rather focus on developing innovative experiences for Natal. Gee, he makes it sound like he wants people to embrace his product. Man, this guy’s good at his job.
“The reality of the Japanese gaming market is that it is not the size it once was and at the same time we have seen gaming become the largest form of entertainment around the world,” added the Microsoft exec. “However, I don’t think this means that Japanese creators should be trying to come up with the next Halo or Call of Duty. I think there are ways to leverage their creativity with new tools like Project Natal.
“I also believe that there are ways for some of the popular Japanese franchises to become more approachable for a wider audience as well,” continued Greenberg. “As you know, at TGS this year, we held a ‘Project Natal’ Creators Panel with three of Japan’s leading creators, Kojima-san of Konami, Inafune-san of Capcom [the guy who said it’s over for Japan] and Nagoshi-san of Sega and talked a lot about the future of creativity and their excitement around bringing new experiences to life with ‘Project Natal.’ In fact, all of the leading Japanese publishers have announced that they are actively working on games for ‘Project Natal’ and I can’t wait to see these come to life.”
Greenberg is legitimately optimistic about Natal and the future of Japan. Whether or not both are destined to succeed is yet to be seen. In Japan itself, the Xbox 360’s market share is dismal. It’s still being outsold by a console that’s over nine years old (PlayStation 2). In a country dominated by the Wii and PS3, there’s no doubt Natal will have minimal impact on Japanese consumers, but what does it have in store for developers?
In effect, Greenberg’s disagreement with “Japan must go West” is contradictory to how he thinks Natal will save the country (and by country, I mean video game sector). Japanese consumers aren’t going to be buying the peripheral. Hardly any of them own an Xbox 360, and they aren’t going to go jump up and buy one when it launches. It’s other regions, where Microsoft has a better stranglehold, that will buy Natal, specifically “Western” countries. So in that regard, Japan does need to go West by appealing to these consumers.
All of that aside, Natal will save Japan, and in effect, save the world.
“I truly believe the future is bright for Japanese creators and publishers,” Microsoft’s Minister of Propaganda remarked.
All hail Xbox 360. All hail Microsoft.
Your regularly scheduled fanboy banter will now resume.