Increases in the realism of video games are limiting the ability of Japanese games to appeal outside of their home country, according to the president of Nintendo.
"Because the expressions in games are becoming more and more photo-realistic, I imagine that the cultural differences in acceptance have started to be reflected more clearly," Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata told a group of investors in Japan last month. "I think this is the reason why western users tend to prefer software created overseas than software from Japanese software developers."
Iwata said he has seen the influence of Japanese-made games decline in the past thrree or four years, since the decline of the PlayStation 2. "Nintendo is doing what overseas software developers do not do, so Nintendo's software is selling relatively well also in foreign countries, but for the software oriented to enthusiastic game players, such as Call of Duty, the ones created by overseas developers are more mainstream in the overseas markets."
While Iwata didn't name any games other than Call of Duty to explain his theory, it's true that, during previous generations of gaming hardware, Japanese-made games, be they Resident Evils, Metal Gear Solids, Final Fantasys or others, were more consistently topping sales charts. American and European-made games appear up there more often now, specifically the likes of Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed.
The graphics theory, which Iwata made clear is just one possible culprit, is interesting, but it doesn't seem like it will translate into Nintendo, say, making more realistic-looking Mario games. "Of course, Nintendo will continue to run a business by creating Nintendo-like games," he said, "but we will not be able to meet the various tastes of consumers by only doing this, so I feel that it will become necessary to reinforce the development resources in the foreign countries. Therefore, I hope we will be able to show you something like that at E3."
E3 is when Nintendo will show playable versions of its new 2012 console. What might be running on it? Iwata's comments let the imagination run wild and suggest that, if there aren't great-looking Western-made games on it, Nintendo's got a problem.
Financial Results Briefing for Fiscal Year Ended March 2011 [Nintendo]