Recently, executive director of Xenoblade Chronicles X Tetsuya Takahashi did an interview with TIME, where he made some interesting comments regarding both the difference between the Japanese and the Western gaming market and the personal preference he holds for Western products in regards to entertainment. He remarked how Japanese culture differs from the West when it comes to games, and how that comes to light when you see that modern Western RPGs are almost all open-world and JRPGs are almost always linear.
When it comes to entertainment like movies, novels, games, and the like, Takahashi mostly picks up Western ones, since they usually turn out to be the kind of things he likes. That made him focus on creating the things he wants to make, rather than adhering to the current Japanese market.
He also mentioned how he’s aware of how mobile gaming is on the rise in Japan and the console market is on the decline – but he isn’t worried about that, as he believes that the people who play a lot of mobile games are not the kind of people who would play his games, even if mobile gaming wasn’t as big. Another reason he isn’t worried is because his games are fit for the global market, instead of just Japan, and he thinks that other companies whose RPGs can compete on the global market do not have anything to worry from the rise of mobile games.
His exact words were:
“Except for a subset of titles, Japanese RPGs are budgeted so they’ll make a profit off sales within Japan alone. It seems to me that building the entire world of the game itself (making it open-world) is considered one must-have element for Western RPGs nowadays, but that just can’t be done in the current Japan scene. But lately, I’ve started to wonder about whether this is really just because of budgetary issues. I think this is probably due to differences in cultural tastes, but in the current situation, it’s difficult to take content created in Japan and have it accepted in the West. As a result, you can only create things scaled to make money within Japan alone, and it becomes this negative spiral.
“Japanese tastes are unique compared to those in the West, so if you focus solely on gamers within Japan, you’ll always find yourself running into this problem. (I think this is easy to see when you notice that FPS-style games sell only around 100,000 copies or so in Japan, as opposed to 10 million worldwide.) This may be a surprise to hear, but I don’t have very much interest in “current” Japanese anime and games, and I don’t play them, either. (I do get hands-on with them for future reference, though, and I still love older games that came out 30 or so years ago.) Most of the movies, TV dramas, novels, and games I pick up are made in the West. I don’t do this deliberately; that just turned out to be the kind of thing I like. As a result, I’ve come to the realization that it’s best to try and organically make the kind of things I like, or want.
“We’re also seeing mobile games flourish in Japan while the console market declines, but the type of audience playing mobile games in Japan now has never bought my games, not since even before mobile existed. I consider the entire world to be my main field of battle, so I don’t worry about that at all. I also think that other companies’ RPGs, those with the potential to fight it out on the world market, aren’t going to be threatened by the state of mobile within Japan. That’s the kind of thought process that led to the completion of Xenoblade Chronicles X, and I hope that people will be willing to give it a try.” — Tetsuya Takahashi