Inafune's Massive 4Gamer.net Interview

There has been quite a bit of shock throughout the video game media and Mega Man fandom alike as Keiji Inafune announced his retirement from Capcom last week, leaving many to wonder what would become of the beloved franchise. Of course, while the announcement came as something of a surprise to many of us (foreshadowing notwithstanding), it was less so for Inafune's colleagues within Capcom. In fact, he had given an interview to Japanese gaming website 4Gamer.net prior, one which they refrained from publishing until Inafune was ready to make his announcement.

(And speaking of the announcement, Kotaku reports that the entire blog in which Inafune made his announcement came to an end on November 1st, meaning that the post is no longer there.)

In the time since the interview was posted, NeoGAF member Cheesemeister has taken the liberty of translating the impressively lengthy interview. He warns that the translation may not be perfect, however.

Following are some random, yet noteworthy excerpts from the interview, courtesy of GoNintendo:

KI: Even when I submitted my letter of resignation, nobody contacted me about it. (laughs) There should've been a, "Hey Inafune, do you have some time?" or, "What do you mean by this? I want to hear it straight from you." Nothing. Zero.

...

KI: No. Not a single member of the board of directors understands games. I didn't ask to be a board member, but if you don't have someone who understands games in the position of making those final decisions, there winds up being a business-side that doesn't understand games and development-side that wants to make games. I feel that's the biggest problem Capcom will be facing.

4G: So what are the cons of using western developers?

KI: First, you can't just leave them alone. Even with technical skills, they often lack adequate ideas and concepts for utilizing those skills. That's exactly why I'm such a good match for them. (laughs) They don't have to be a top-notch development studio. I just want to work with a team that has good potential and a positive work attitude.

KI: So if I can, I want to change the Japanese game industry. I don't want to abandon it. After I leave Capcom, I don't want to, for example, just work for EA, Activision, and Rockstar. That would be abandoning Japan.

4G: So if you want to save Capcom, you can continue working on that even after leaving. It seems like there are a lot of people like that.

KI: That's absolutely right. So told Capcom that I'm leaving to start my own company, while still contracting with them, continuing with titles already underway and follow through with their plans. If that was acceptable, I wouldn't be able to work with any other publishers, but I'd have been able to finish what I'd started. However, that wasn't possible. I was told, "That won't be necessary."

With that last comment, it sounds as though Inafune did wish to continue in some capacity with the projects he had recently been involved in, but Capcom felt otherwise.

Some more excerpts:

4G: Why is that kind of environment necessary in order to aim for a global market?

KI: Because that's what the market demands. Japan's game share is only 10 percent. The numbers tell the story. As long as you're making high-budget games, which you can't finish overnight, the only way to make any income is by selling overseas.

However, no Japanese games other than Nintendo's get into the top 50 on the sales charts. So I absolutely want to make Japanese games accepted on a global scale; that's my mission.

4G: People have tended to interpret that as you abandoning Japan in favor of making titles for the global market.

KI: That's not true. (laughs) As long as I'm Japanese, the games I make will all be Japanese games. So when they sell globally, that's helping to save the Japanese game industry. It's not a matter of selling games in Japan for Japan or selling games in America for America. Dead Rising is a Japanese game made in Canada. It's not a western game.

4G: One can recognize the appeal of external developers, but why western? There must be a reason besides cost.

KI: Because of their superiority.

4G: Technically?

KI: Yes. They're also far and away more passionate. That's one big reason. As stated before in regards to IPOs, western developers are far more fragmented than in Japan; the lower tiers of western developers, I hate to say, are slaves. In an environment where it's not unusual to get laid off, you have to do you work well, and make an effort to get noticed, they've made advances.

Naturally, as this is The Mega Man Network, we felt it only right to see if he shared any other thoughts regarding Rockman/Mega Man.

Following from his wish to continue contracting with them above:

4G: I see... Although I don't know the details of that refusal, it might result in some of the titles already underway not ever seeing the light of day.

KI: That's possible.

4G: I wonder if Rockman DASH 3 will be okay...

KI: Looking at the timing, the team members, and the planning done, Rockman DASH 3 is finally on its way. I really didn't want to quit right now... But I can't do it anymore. My will to continue has run out. That's why I had to leave Capcom and strengthen my resolve, as I wanted to help finish working on it from the outside but was unable to.

4G: As you mentioned before, if Rockman sells because Inafune made it, it won't make it out. But if Rockman sells because it's Rockman, the project will survive.

KI: That's exactly right.

For Capcom, it doesn't matter whether a game has the Inafune brand or is made by some anonymous producer. That's ultimately why I made the decision to leave. It's sad to leave, proving that point. It was really sad.

Regarding criticism:

KI: Oh, right. I've always wanted to do movies, asking everyone I talk to, "How about a movie?" but getting told, "I'd also like to, but I'm busy."

I was busy too, but I did it. What's different is maybe that I'm more worried about criticism. You need to be able to accept a certain amount of criticism, but you can't worry about it too much. The reason why everyone keeps making the same titles is that if they're the same titles, they won't be criticized. If I had only made Rockman, I probably wouldn't have been so criticized.

If it's a brand-new game, isn't there always the worry that it may fail or not be well received? Not just games, but also new genres of movies face the same thing.

On being "Keiji Inafune from Capcom:"

4G: But as for the problem of developers turning into salarymen, it must've been pretty difficult in such an environment. You couldn't really change things from the inside.

KI: Right. That's one reason, the problem of management ranks pushing that direction. Numbers, numbers, and more numbers. And one more big problem: the nonchalant way people lived depending on that direction being pushed.

4G: So if you yourself can show by example that it doesn't have to be that way, things will gradually begin to change.

KI: Yes. Like I said before, even I, inside a big publisher like Capcom, within a big umbrella, completely shielded from the rain, couldn't just say this or that. So if I left that umbrella and gave up being a salaryman, I could really try and show my own strengths.

4G: So you could win or lose personally, as Keiji Inafune.

KI: Up until now, for better or worse, I couldn't go beyond being "Inafune from Capcom." That was a rather large problem, and I also experienced awhile ago that when the results were good, it was thanks to Capcom, thanks to Rockman. It wasn't just in the company saying so, but all of the players as well. (laughs) Capcom, you know, Rockman, you know. But when it was bad, of course it was, "What are you doing, Inafune? Don't screw it up!" This too, was said both by people in the company and by players. (laughs)

4G: But isn't that the case with any product from a big IP made by a big company? In the case of Final Fantasy, if it sells it's thanks to the IP, and if not, it's the makers' fault.

KI: That's right. That's exactly why I want to prove that something can sell because it was made by Keiji Inafune.

4G: Proving that should be easy.

KI: Yeah. After I leave Capcom, if a Biohazard or Rockman title doesn't sell, there's the proof. Time goes by very quickly, but in maybe 3 years or so... I can't really say, maybe sooner than that, I'd like to have my proof.

There is much, much more to the interview, and you can find the full translation here at NeoGAF.