The following is what happened this morning at a panel discussion from Tokyo Game Show 2008, featuring some pretty awesome suits. The men in the suits are the President of Capcom, Haruhiro Tsujimoto, SQUARE ENIX's Yoici Wada, and the Chief Operating Officer of Namco Bandai Shin Unozawa, and a moderator.
11:11 AM - Moderator addresses the crowd, and thanks the participants for coming. Talks about the Nobel prize winners that were announced yesterday, and how Japan has awesome scientists, but why is there such economic anxiety? How bad is the economy for the industry? Fukimoto says that there are negative feelings about the economy, but people are always going to need ways to entertain themselves, and to play to escape, so hopefully the economy will not hurt things too much. The key is to release games that cost less and can be played by more people. They need to be aware of the economy and act accordingly, but not to be too pessimistic about the whole thing.
11:14 AM - Mr. Wada, same question. Demand for entertainment is changing, and we need to be able to respond to those changes. We need to avoid a standstill, both with the economy and the gaming industry. Unozawa paints a sadder picture, saying that the next year in gaming is not going to be too good, though he wants to do well.
11:16 AM - The moderator talks to the globalization of the gaming industry, and how it should follow the globalization of the electronics and the automotive industry. How do each of them respond? Mr. Wada? Wada says that the goal is for the entire world to know the name of their company and the names of their titles, and that defines globalization for them. Awareness. And he says they're only about 10% of the way there. Mr. Tsujimoto agrees, but says that they're about 30% of the way there, and that Capcom is pretty well known all over the world, but the entire company must be working toward the same goal for the concept to work. Mr. Unozawa says that they need a stronger mindset for how to bring their product across the world, and how Namco and Bandai's merger helped that out, and how Dragonball is a good example of something that the world loves, but that there are other things that are pretty much Japanese only.
11:23 AM - Wada talks about how the titles they have are popular in Japan, but that their share of worldwide is much less, and hands the mic to Tsujimoto, who wishes for a time when they can sell lots and lots of Final Fantasy games worldwide. Unozawa talks about the need to spend money correctly on advertising and promotion and how big games need more money, but they should know that other games demand less.
11:25 AM - They show a graph of the three companies' numbers worldwide. The men speak to those numbers, talking about how they obviously sell more games in Japan, but they need to make a bigger splash worldwide. Mr. Tsujimoto talks taste, and how they need to adapt games for the market. In Japan, people play games while on trains and traveling, which Americans drive, and, you need to recognize the way games are played to be able to sell them all over the world. They need to make the numbers match Japan in other markets before they can consider themselves a global power.
11:30 AM - Wada makes a joke about how he doesn't want to explain why they're not selling better overseas. He says that the goal, obviously, is a global market, but that you can't focus all of your business on North America and Europe, because it will take the "Japan" out of Japanese gaming. He says they need to be more consistent with interfaces, buttons, gameplay, etc, instead of changing the properties themselves. Mr. Unozawa says that maybe Namco Bandai has too many titles, but they're doing OK in Japan and Europe, and not as well as they hope in the US. Three years after the merger, he admits that there are things they didn't expect. They spent a lot of money on marketing games that didn't play very well outside of Japan. He also says that RPG is very hard to sell in North America and Europe.
11:35 AM - The moderator asks about the evolution of overseas software. Tsujimoto says that the demographics are different than they are in Japan. The age mix is different. The moderator wants to know why Japanese people like American games so much. Tsujimoto says that examples like GTA IV are responsible for bringing foreign market games here, and that Japanese consumers are more familiar with these games as a result. He points to an idea of global convergence, and wants to create opportunities like TGS to help. Wada says that overseas games are really well made, and that they are longer and more exciting to play.
11:40 AM - Moderator wants to know why Japan has lost their edge in world gaming. Do the men believe they are losing their advantage? Tsujimoto says that Japan is no longer at the top of marketing, development, creativity at all. Though Japanese developers possess unique qualities and create unique games, they need to leverage their strengths to make sure they are competing. He says that there aren't enough developers in Japan to compete as well as they'd like. The Japanese community needs to be made broader and more unique.
11:44 AM - Mr. Unozawa says that it's not that Japan has weakened, but that others have strengthened. Also, the data of the overseas market is difficult to understand and hard to react to, so there might be delays in the way they do business. They should go abroad to make sure this data is current. He also says that maybe Japan had it too easy around the time of PlayStation and PlayStation 2, and they were a little bit lax in their development as a result.
11:48 AM - Tsujimoto says that they need to be more open to working with different partners and different players in the space, and they need to embrace new technologies to work for them. Wada stresses the need for community again. The gents talk about smoking for a while. And how to quit. Seriously. Wada talks about how they need to turn outward to get ideas, and not hide their head in the sand and ignore them.
11:52 AM - Moderator wants to know where they see the industry in 2010. Tsujimoto says they need to have more global organization and more confidence in their abilities to make their companies work worldwide. Unozawa says that 2010 is coming soon, and that they need to be planning now for projects that take place then. They need to deliver more quality product to the overseas market. He also talks about HD photorealism going forward, and how Japanese are good at that kind of thing. They need to be creative and interpretive.
11:57 AM - Wada sums up by saying that there will be fewer boundaries in the industry and fewer national borders. The hubs in that network will need to be created forcefully, and will need to choose whether or not this is the path they want to follow. How to ride the wave is important, but creating the wave is just as important. Japan needs to make new proposals and new ways of doing business.
12:00 PM - Moderator sums up the whole discussion by saying that Japan is strong and can be stronger. And that's the end of the discussion.