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Originally published Monday, December 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Cultural hurdles to cross in gaming

Keiji Inafune, a noted Japanese game designer and head of Capcom's research and development, recently visited Airtight Games in Redmond. Here are excerpts of an interview where we talked about the globalization of the game industry and "Dark Void's" potential:

Keiji Inafune, a noted Japanese game designer and head of Capcom's research and development, recently visited Airtight Games in Redmond. Here are excerpts of an interview where we talked about the globalization of the game industry and "Dark Void's" potential:

Q: How does Airtight fit into Capcom's effort to increase its presence in the U.S. and Europe?

A: We're a Japanese publisher. It's natural for our emphasis to be on the Japanese market. It's this, really, that we're trying to break up through this strategy of working with overseas developers.

Working with creators and having our creators talk with creators in places like Airtight — what we're looking to do is better understand the differences and approaches to making games and in doing so take on more of a global mindset and be able to better make games for a global audience.

Even though we can intellectually make a decision to make games for a global audience right now, we don't really have the cultural fit to be able to do it right now. Our hands don't quite follow our heads quite yet.

Q: Are you going to have Capcom team members come to Airtight, and vice versa?

A: What I'd like us to reach is a mutual understanding, a meeting of minds, then move on to the next step.

Q: I've read about how you've tried with games like "Lost Planet" to develop Western-style shooters that may appeal to Japanese gamers. Is "Dark Void" part of this effort?

A: There is a wall for overseas games to be successful in Japan. There's hurdles to go over in terms of user tastes, differences and gaps.

With regards of "Dark Void," there are lots of elements that will be well received in Japan, but we've also got to consider the best way to arrange them for a Japanese audience.

Q: So will "Dark Void" do well in Japan?

A: Well, we're still making the game. There's potential for that.

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Q: Along those lines, how about the Xbox — will it ever be really popular in Japan?

A: They've been having a hard time of it since the launch in Japan, but lately it seems to have found its feet and the Xbox is selling a lot better now. Between this year and next year I think we'll see a lot more 360 games shipped in Japan.

Q: Will there ever be universal game types, or do different regions have such different tastes they'll always need locally developed games?

A: Two points here. The first is making games interesting and a lot of fun. People who make games should have this as their first objective.

The second point is that if you try to please all the people all the time, then often you'll lose sight of who your target is. It's best to have a clear focus of who your target is.

In doing so we often find users in, say, Asia and Europe will have different tastes, so you have to take that into account as well.

— Brier Dudley

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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