“Thinking back on the last couple of years, there were [so] many smartphone games, that it seemed people had forgotten about the artistic or high-definition games.”
– Veteran game dev Tetsuya Mizuguchi, speaking about the recent history of the Japanese game industry.
Japan has long played host to a vibrant game industry, but in the past two years it seems devs in the region have had a string of international hits, ranging from Persona 5 and Nioh to Nier: Automata, Resident Evil 7 and Breath of the Wild.
That’s the premise of “Ebb and Flow”, a new documentary published on YouTube this week by Archipel (the folks behind the Toco Toco series of videos profiling notable Japanese creators) that aims to explore the past, present and future of Japanese game dev.
If you’re at all curious about the topic this is well worth a watch, as it features conversations with everyone from Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi to Yakuza series frontman Toshihiro Nagoshi and Nier: Automata director Yoko Taro about why the Japanese game industry is changing, and how Japanese devs work differently than some of their counterparts abroad.
“The development environment in the West is more systemic than it is in Japan,” says Taro (via English subtitles) at one point. “Every job is clearly assigned, middleware is streamlined, and everyone has learned how to use it. Level designers know exactly what they need to do. It’s designed in a way to curb trouble from occurring. On the other hand, Japan has failed to form this kind of systematic environment, and we’re still in the stages of trial and error. ”
You can hear more of his comments, as well as input from other devs and the folks at Tokyo-based localization firm 8-4, in the full video.