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Itagaki: Japanese devs lack social skills

And execs don't know what they're doing.

If Japanese developers want to better compete with Western studios they need to hone their social skills, according to former Team Ninja boss Tomonobu Itagaki.

In an interview with Gamasutra, Itagaki argued that many Japanese creators lack a sense of humour, making it more difficult for them to operate on a global stage and successfully promote their work.

"It's important to have the skill to express what you're doing, what you want to do - you know, express yourself. I'm talking about social skills," he explained.

"Japanese developers, they don't have the necessary social skills. The American social skills, European social skills.

"You know, maybe they don't have humor; they don't know how to joke around. Maybe it's a problem with their manner. So if those people don't have those necessary social skills, and if those people are the ones who are developing the game, no matter how much they try to make globally accepted, globally popular games, that work in different cultures, that might be very difficult."

Itagaki also laid into the way upper management operates within the Japanese games industry, praising suits at new paymaster THQ for being better informed on how the game-making process works.

"The head, the guy I'm involved with, is [THQ's EVP of core games] Danny Bilson. As you know, he can make movies, he can write novels, scripts, he can do TV, and he can do games as well, and also he's a businessman as well. He's that kind of guy, so it's really fun to do business with that kind of guy.

"I think it's rare to have a guy like that. But then again, in the US, more so in the US than in Japan, I think there are a lot of top management people who actually know how to make games. I think there are more people here like that, than in Japan. I think it's a good thing.

"You to have talk about money, when you're doing business. That's the business aspect of it. But at the same time, those guys know how to make games, so they also know that it costs money to make good games - especially good games. So those two aspects are on a direct one-to-one relationship.

"In Japan, management people, they sort of pretend they know what they're doing," he continued. "Those management people, they say, 'I love games,' but they don't know how to make them.

"So the kind of instructions that they would give to the employees would be, 'Okay, you've got to make it by when, and it has to be within this budget, and you have to sell whatever many copies.' It's the opposite of the practical. It's not practical."

Following his split from Team Ninja and Tecmo back in 2008, Itagaki's new Valhalla Game Studios outfit is currently working on action title Devil's Third, which is due for release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in early 2013.

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About the Author
Fred Dutton avatar

Fred Dutton


Fred Dutton was Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.

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