Tokyo Game Show 2018 is being held at Makuhari Messe in Chiba prefecture from 20-23 September 2018. The Global Game Business Summit, which is held on the first day of the event each year, usually had western developers invited over to speak on the state of the gaming industry overseas, but this year, the speakers were Japanese developers whose games were overwhelmingly successful overseas.
The speakers were, in order of appearance, Monster Hunter: World producer Tsujimoto Ryouzou of Capcom, Nier: Automata producer Saitou Yousuke of Capcom, and Nioh director Yasuda Fumihiko of Koei Tecmo Games.
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In the second half of the session, all three speakers came together for a panel to further discuss how Japanese games do overseas, with survey results on how foreign gamers perceive Japanese prepared by the moderator as the primary topic.
The survey was conducted on over 700 foreign gamers, 52% of whom were American, with the others from all over the world. The majority were in their twenties, with gaming histories of over a decade.
In the question where surveyees were asked of game companies they knew of, 7 of the top 10 were Japanese companies (Bandai Namco, Nintendo, Square Enix, Capcom, Sega, Konami, and Sony; The only non-Japanese companies to make it to the top 10 were EA, Ubisoft and Activision). When asked about games they knew of, however, only 4 of the top 10 were made by Japanese developers (Zelda: Breath of the Wild, MGSV, Mario Odyssey, Persona 5). 64% stated that they were conscious of whether or not a game they were playing is Japanese.
The survey also asked about what players liked and disliked about Japanese video games. Characters, creativity, “entertaining”, music and story were overwhelming as the good points (all above 80%), while the bad point that stood out the most was user-friendliness and interface (close to 40%), with game system/balance and graphics close to 20% and originality at 15% next.
Tsujimoto and Saitou pointed out how Japanese and non-Japanese developers have different approaches to UIs to begin with. Tsujimoto noted how the realistic style of foreign games results in a tendency things displayed in the UI, while Saitou used Dragon Quest as an example: Because they want all age groups to play the game, they prioritise not ease of use, but ease of understanding. While having to go through multiple menu windows might result in having to press buttons more times than needed, it is extremely easy for players to understand what is going on. Non-Japanese games however tend to shy from multi-level menus and try to make it so that things can be done with a single button; The trade-off for this is that people who are not used to the controls might not know how to do what they want to.
Yasuda says that they worked hard on improving the UI in Nioh, and that he thinks that there is a difference in consumer tastes between Japan and overseas to begin with. Nioh is an action game with RPG and hack-and-slash elements, and while Japanese users who are more familiar with the RPG genre felt that the game was easier to play with more information laid out, non-Japanese users who are more familiar with the FPS genre preferred it for there to be less unnecessary information on the screen.
Tsujimoto focused on the user-friendliness part of the question, especially controls. Due to Monster Hunter having its own unique controls, they were afraid that overseas players used to FPS games would find them difficult, and tried to improve the controls in World. Through focus testing, however, they found that this was not unique to non-Japanese players, and that anyone, regardless of country, playing a Monster Hunter game for the first time had the same problems.
Saitou pointed out how PC gaming is more prevalent outside of Japan, meaning that players are more used to using shortcuts, which may be what is causing the gap between them and players who only use consoles. He also says that the survey results may also make him consider making changes to overseas releases to have less menus, but also points out how Nier had UI gimmicks as part of its narrative, and that even if that sort of thing is considered, they should not do things that cannot be done. He concludes that it depends on the game, and that the survey does give them enough information to act on, which the others agree on.
Part 2 of the article is available here
Monster Hunter: World – Global Game Business Summit Presentation (TGS2018)
Nier: Automata – Global Game Business Summit Presentation (TGS2018)
Nioh – Global Game Business Summit Presentation (TGS2018)