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The growth of the indie scene, and the importance of indie games, has been one of the defining facets of the games industry over the last ten years. The explosion of digital distribution, a raft of new platforms (hello Steam, hello App Store!) and a lowering of the general barrier to entry for making games have all been factors, and it’s made for some exciting – and entirely novel – gaming experiences.

インディシーンの拡大、そしてインディゲームの重要性は、過去10年を経てゲーム開発の一面として位置付けられるようになってきている。激増するデジタル配信、数々の新プラットフォーム(こんにちわ、Steam、App Store!)そして、ゲーム開発入門しやすくなるような様々な障壁の低減は、それら全ての要因を担ってきた。また、いくつかの面白い――ことノベルにおいて――ゲーム体験を生み出している。


When I think about my favourite indie games, however, very few of them are Japanese. I think about games like Braid, The Stanley Parable, Journey, Fez, Rogue Legacy and Papers, Please… and they’re just the tip of an absolutely enormous iceberg. When I think about Japanese indies, on the other hand, far fewer games come to mind.


思い浮かんだゲームは何かといえば、"Braid"、"The Stanley Parable"、"Journey"、"Rogue Legacy"、そして、"Papers, Please"などなど。もちろんそれらは全く持って氷山の一角ではあるが。



Yes, we’re talking about one country versus indie projects from all over the world, but Japan has traditionally been such a powerhouse in the world of game development that that kind of comparison can be justified. After all, if I think of all the games I loved as a teenager, a disproportionately high number of them are from Japan.




Japan’s importance on the gaming world stage has certainly diminished greatly since then, but should we be surprised that independent games from Japan haven’t made more of a global impact in recent years? Why is this that? What’s the scene like within Japan? And how are things changing?


しかし、日本の独立系ゲーム会社がここ数年、世界的に影響あるものを作ってこなかったとなれば驚くべきことではないだろうか? それはなぜか? 日本国内のゲームシーンはどうなっているのか? そしてそれらは変化してきているのか?


These are complicated questions, and as an outsider looking in, all I can really do is give you some food for thought, based on conversations with numerous game creators working in Japan. I should also say, right from the outset, that my first proper introduction to the Japanese indie scene was back in July when I attended BitSummitin Kyoto, the yearly indie games expo. It was a great show, and brilliant starting point, but at the same time, it’s a show established by ex-pats, with a large proportion of ex-pats exhibiting. It presents, in other words, a skewed – albeit fascinating - window into that world. Even so, simply highlighting just how many Westerners there are in living in Japan making games - beyond the well-known outfits like Dylan Cuthbert’s Q-Games and Giles Goddard’s Vitei - is interesting in and of itself.


また言っておかなければならいこととして、そもそも私の日本のインディシーンへの妥当な入口としては、6月に行われた年に一度行われるインディゲーム展示会である"BitSummit in 京都"に遡る。


それでも、単純にどれぐらいの日本に住みゲームを制作する欧米人がいるか(よく知られたDylan Cuthbert氏の"Q-Games"やGiles Goddard氏の"Vitei"の他にも)を示したことは、それ自体が興味深いことだ。


I’ve been working in games in Japan for about six years, now,” says John Davis, one of the BitSummit founders. “I started at Grasshopper Manufacture, doing PR there, and then came and moved here to Kyoto to work at Q-Games with Dylan Cuthbert. And while I was there, James Mielke, who used to be editor for 1-Up and EGM as well, he also came to Q. And after a year there… Mielke had this idea – ‘I want to do a Japanese indie games festival.’”

「現在、日本のゲーム会社に6年ほど勤めています」ビットサミットの発起者の一人であるJohn Davis氏はこう語る。「グラスホッパー・マニファクチュアの広報に始まり、Dylan CuthbertとQ-Gamesで働くためにここ京都に移りました。その折に、以前は1-UpやEGMの編集者をしていたことでも知られるJames Mielkeが同じくQ-Gamesに来ました。そして数年が経ったころ、Mielkeがこのアイディアを出したんです。"日本のインディゲームフェスティバルをやりたい"、と。」


“There was the perception that there wasn’t a strong indie community here,” he continues, “and that was kind of true, I think it was more fractured about four years ago when we started. There were a lot of people doing things but it wasn’t like indies in the West now, where you have a really big sense of community. And so the purpose was to show that there are Japanese indies and also give them some exposure with the West.”



The show as a whole has grown enormously in the four years it’s been running, and this year had 80 or 90 developers showing off about a hundred games. “We’re really proud of what this show has done,” continues Davis. “I think that it’s probably brought together Japanese indies in a way that they didn’t really have an outlet for previously.”




The scene on display at BitSummit, then, is certainly gaining momentum, but I’ve often wondered about the drive to become independent in Japan in general. From a broad cultural perspective, after all, groups are an intrinsic part of Japanese society. Individuality isn’t prized in the same way it is somewhere like the United States or Australia. Japan also has less of an entrepreneurial culture and a tendency to be risk-averse. Does that mean budding Japanese game designers are less likely to go out on their own?





“I think there’s a perception that when you leave school, or something, that you go to a big company,” says Davis. “It’s kind of that old zaibatsu culture that Japan had, like big corporations, employment for life, and people, they graduate, and if they want to work in game dev, they go to a Capcom or a Square or something like that. I think that now with Steam and Sony supporting indies so much, and Nintendo now, Microsoft as well, there’s this kind of people pushing from the bottom up.”




Masaya Matsuura, the President of NanaOn-Sha and creator of PaRappa the Rapper, believes that this zaibatsu culture is still a big thing in Japan. “Recently,” he tells me, “young Japanese people want to be stable, very stable, so they want to be hired by the more stable companies. This kind of thing makes a bad difference for the creativity of the country sometimes. I can say it in a simple way – to be creative you have to be risky, so this kind of balance? Stable, [and] creative will not match. It’s kind of a simple thing.”


「近ごろは」彼は教えてくれた。「若者は安定を求めています。まさに安定を。そして彼らはより安定した企業への就職を希望します。このことがこの国の創造性においてしばしば悪影響を齎します。簡単に言えば――創造的であることはリスキーであること。そのバランスをとれるでしょうか? 安定と創造性とはかけ離れた言葉でしょう。簡単な話です。」


Swery, of Deadly Premonition fame, agrees that there are still cultural obstacles. Up and coming developers in places like Europe, he believes, “seem to be more interested, or have more of an enthusiasm, to be independent than I believe people in Japan do. Here in Japan there still does seem to be a culture of wanting to get into a good big company and not strive off on your own.”

レッドシーズプロファイル(Deadly Premonition)で知られるSwery氏も、文化的な障壁が未だ存在していることに同意する。「ヨーロッパなどの新進気鋭な開発者は」彼は確信する。「もっと興味を持ち、より意欲的で、私の考える日本人よりも独立的であろうとしています。ここ日本では、未だ優良な巨大企業に就いて、自身での努力はしない、という文化があるようです。」


With this in mind, however, it’s worth pointing out that Japan actually does have one of the richest and most vibrant independent publishing scenes in the world, but it’s almost all within its own borders. I’m talking about doujinshi, or self-published manga, and it’s absolutely massive. It has a host of conventions, including the long-running and world-famous Comiket (Comic Market), and you’ll find doujinshi (new and second hand) being sold alongside official manga all over Japan.




Doujinshi is known in the West as the Japanese equivalent of slash fiction – a world in which every imaginable combination of characters can be paired up, but it is also a place where established canon is expanded upon, and where fans can experience new adventures in universes they love. There’s also a lot of original content. At its core, though, doujinshi is work by fans for fans, and the production values are often impressively high.



With such a thriving artistic community creating manga (and anime), it shouldn’t be surprising to discover that there are also doujin game creators, and they’re mostly separate to what we would call “indie”. How big is the doujin game scene? “Absolutely huge,” replies Alvin Phu, the CEO and Lead Developer for indie outfit Hanaji Games. “Not a lot of people in the West see that stuff.”


「ガチで大きいです」ハナジゲームズのCEOでリード開発者のAlvin Phu氏はそう答えた。「欧米の人たちでソイツを見たことがある人は多くないでしょうね」


Phu runs Tokyo Indies, “a monthly indie and doujin meet-up in Shibuya. We get about eighty, a hundred people coming every month.” Tokyo Indies is one of the main indie meet-ups in Japan, the other being Sagar Patel’s (another ex-pat) monthly Kyoto Indies meet-up. “For me, making Tokyo Indies,” Phu continues, “I kind of want to unite both of those crowds together. A lot of people are like – oh, I don’t speak English, or – oh, I’m doujin, I don’t even know what indie means.”





This highlights a fundamental distinction between the two. Broadly speaking you might say “indies” are setting out to forge a career, while “doujin” are creating games as a hobby, as passion projects first and foremost. “There’s a lot of that,” Phu replies when I ask if that’s the case, “but isn’t it every game dev’s dream to make games for a living? Who wouldn’t want to do that?”


「そういう人が多いんです」とPhu氏は私が以下のように尋ねるとそう言った。「しかし、ゲーム開発者は皆、ゲームで生計を立てたいと願ってるんじゃないんですか? どんな人がそれを望んでないんでしょう?」


Phu believes it’s the dense, established nature of game development in Japan that’s an impediment. “There are so many game companies within this small space,” he says, “that it doesn’t really make sense, financially, to even go and make your own thing. And so, a lot of those guys, they also work for the big game companies, but they want to make some small stuff too, so it’s not really a big deal for it to go commercial, or whatever. It doesn’t really matter.”



“It's more fan based,” says Chris McLaughlin, a programmer at Vitei Backroom, a tiny studio established by long-time Nintendo collaborator Vitei. “It's making games for the love of making games, really and not making money. Japanese people don't, at least by my measure… look at making games by themselves as a way to make money, as a way to survive as a job, it's like, ‘This is something I'm doing for fun and I can sell it at Comiket.’”

「よりファンベースなんです」任天堂のコラボレーターであるヴィテイの設立した小さなスタジオ"ヴィテイバックルーム"のプログラマーであるChris McLaughlin氏はそう語る。「本当に、ゲーム制作愛のためにゲームを作り、金は生み出さない。日本の人々は……まあ自分の見た限りでですが……彼らが作るゲームを商売の道具として、生活の糧としては見てないんです。あたかも、“これは趣味でやったモノで、コミケで売ることができる” 的な感じで。」


Alex May, the “audio wizard” at Vitei Backroom, compares it to the demo scene. “It’s pure indie. It's like, ‘Screw the money, does your game look better than my game?’, that's what it's about,” he tells me. “When you go to Comiket people will buy the game, and maybe you get a bit of extra money but that's not important. Does your game look better than my game? If it's actually copying a well-established idea, that's the whole idea of doujin, it's fan art, really. If it's copying well-established ideas, that's fine. Does it look better than theirs? That's what's important.”

ヴィテイバックルームの“オーディオの魔術師”、Alex May氏はデモシーン(訳注:リアルタイム生成のCG音楽再生動画を作るジャンル、日本では"メガデモ"とも)と比較する。「純粋なインディなんです。まるで"金がなんだ!お前のゲームは俺のより良いのか!"と。そういうことです。」

彼は言う。「コミケに行くと、参加者はゲームを買い、薄利を得る。でもそこじゃないんです。お前のゲームは俺のゲームより上か? もし定番ネタのコピーそのものであっても、それは全て同人のネタであり、ファンアートです。定番ネタをコピーしても、それはアリです。他のものより良いものか? そこが大事なんです。」


The vast majority of doujin works live solely within the domestic market, where they’re allowed not only to exist, but to thrive. It’s a uniquely Japanese scene, in which intellectual property holders don’t prosecute the artists creating – and selling - derivative works. (For further info, read this excellent piece.) Thus, in addition to the obvious language and cultural barriers, there’s even a legal grounding for why many doujin projects aren’t able to be readily transposed elsewhere.




This means there’s a huge amount of game content being created in Japan that we’ll never see. It’s not just the self-proclaimed doujin game makers, either. There are plenty of “indie” creators whose work – for a variety of reasons - may never leave Japan. A lot of the games at BitSummit “probably won’t even be released commercially; they’re just pet projects,” says John Davis. “There’s a lot of guys… that have other jobs and they’re indie in the true, like, ‘making games in my garage’ type of thing. Platforms definitely have a lot to do with it. Steam is not that big here, and the dominant console is PS4, and it’s not as easy to release there as to release on Steam or something. And really, the biggest platforms here are mobile platforms, so there’s a lot of that there also.”

これは、我々がまだ見ぬ膨大な日本製ゲームの存在を意味する。これは同人ゲームメーカーもまた同様だ。様々な理由により日本を離れない"インディ"開発者たちが大量に存在している。ビットサミットの数多くのゲームは「きっと商業的にリリースされることはないでしょう。ペットプロジェクト(訳注:需要や必要性を度外視した自己満足のためのプロジェクト)なんです。」とJohn Davis氏は語る。「他に仕事を持っていて、でも実際はインディ開発者、あたかも”ゲームを自宅ガレージで作ってます”みたいな感じの……そんなヤツらが数多くいるんです。プラットフォームは確実に関係してきます。Steamはここ日本ではさほどシェアが大きくありません。主要なコンソールといえばPS4で、リリースするのはSteamやその他のプラットフォームのそれと比べて容易ではありません。実際、最大のプラットフォームといえばスマホで、それにも数多くの対応が必要になります。」


Of course, the idea that there are a lot of games in Japan that never reach Western shores is not new. It has always been this way. “I know that when I used to come to Japan, 20 years ago, you had – in your mind – ‘oh, Japan makes this game and this game and this game’,” says Chris Charla, the director of ID@Xbox, “and then you got to Akihabara or whatever and you’re like - there’s a whole world of games that just don’t get localised, that don’t make it to the States, including some really great games.”

もっとも、西海岸に届いてない日本のゲームが数多くある、ということ自体については目新しい話ではない。以前からずっとそうだった。「そう、私が日本に来た時もそうでした。20年前のことです。あなたがかつて思ったように "あ、このゲームも日本製、このゲームも、このゲームも" と。」と"ID@Xbox"のディレクターであるChris Charla氏は語る。「そして、秋葉原とかそういう場所に行って、ローカライズされてないゲームの世界が存在します。それらは米国向けには作られていなくて、そこには本当に素晴らしいゲームが含まれています。」


“One thing that’s cool about the potential of the indie scene here,” Charla continues, “is that if someone does work with ID@Xbox or PlayStation or whatever, they can get worldwide distribution, and so it’s actually an opportunity for Western gamers to see games we never would have seen in the olden days.”



Does the fact that so much of this is about the potential of the Japanese indie scene mean that it’s “behind” that of the West? “I think it's going to a different end goal than we are in the West,” says Vitei Backroom’s Alex May. “I wouldn't say it's behind, it's just moving in an arguably more pure, less commercial direction and [is] just more about the camaraderie of it, I suppose.”


「日本のインディシーンは我々欧米とは異なる最終目標に向かってるんじゃないかと思います」ヴィテイバックルームのAlex May氏は語る。「隠れている、と言いたいのではなく、それはほぼ確実により純粋な方向に、非商業的な方向に、そして仲間意識のような感じで進むんじゃないかと考えます。」


“‘Behind’ isn’t a word I’d use,” agrees Chris Charla, “it’s different. It came from a slightly different place and it’s going on a slightly different trajectory, but… it’s amazing, amazing content.” And not only that, “I think every scene’s different, right? The L.A. indie scene is different to the Seattle scene, and I actually think it’s cool that you have geographies now, where y’know, an L.A. game can feel a little different to a Seattle game. And of course, Japan is going to be its own scene.”

「"隠れている"、というのは私の使いたい表現ではないです」Chris Charla氏は同意する。「違います。ちょっと別の場所から来て、ちょっと別の軌道を通ってきて、でも……実に信じられない、信じられないようなコンテンツです。」そして、それだけではなく、「あらゆるシーンは違うものじゃないですか? ロスのインディシーンはシアトルのインディシーンと違いますし。実際に地域性があることは素晴らしいことだと思うんです、どの場所であっても。ロスのゲームはちょっとシアトルのゲームとは違ったりして。そしてもちろん、日本も独自のシーンが築かれているんです。」


There’s no doubt, however, that Japan’s indie scene is being influenced by the West. “People are starting to look around and seeing what the Western indies are doing, and saying – ‘hey, maybe we can do this by ourselves,’” says John Davis.

とはいえ、日本のインディシーンが欧米から影響を受けていることは間違いない。「みんな欧米のインディがどうなっているのかを見回して、そして言うんです。"俺らにもできるだろう"って。」John Davis氏は語る。


Even Steam is having an impact, despite the lack of PC gaming culture in Japan. It’s shown “a lot of Japanese devs that they can release a game on Steam here and release it worldwide at the same time,” says Davis. “And actually, there’s a market for your games in other places. It doesn’t have to just be Japan. A lot of people love the weird quirkiness of Japanese games that you don’t see anywhere else.”




Localisation is obviously a critical step in making that a reality. “I think that developers should make certain to support English at the very least when they make their game,” Swery says. “If you at least make English and Japanese versions, people in countries all around the world may play the English version. This increases the potential for your game to find an audience.”



So too does working with an established player in the console space. PlayStation, Nintendo and Xbox are all actively trying to woo Japanese indie developers to release games on their systems. “SIEJA has been providing various types of support for the Japanese devs,” Shuhei Yoshida, the President of SIE Worldwide Studios, tells me. “Whether it's tech support, devkit loan, promotional support or publishing/localizing support. The PSN store in Japan has an ‘indie games’ tab to help players to find new indie titles quickly, giving more exposure to these titles.”

据え置き機での既存プレイヤーへの作業としても同様だ。PlayStation任天堂、そしてXboxは日本のインディ開発者に自らのプラットフォームにゲームをリリースしてもらおうと積極的に働きかけている。「SIE Japanは日本の開発者に様々なサポートを提供してきました」とSIE ワールドワイドスタジオの代表である吉田修平氏は語る。「技術サポート、開発キットの貸し出し、プロモーションのサポート、あるいは販売/ローカライズのサポート。日本のPSNストアは"インディゲーム"タブがあり、新たなインディタイトルを素早く見つけられるよう、よりそれらのタイトルが表に出るようになっています。」


Helping to find an audience is definitely a big deal for indies given how easy it is to release a game on Steam or the App Store only for it to never gain any traction. Xbox places a similar emphasis on this. “If you ask developers what’s the key thing for them, a lot of it is about promotion and discovery,” says Chris Charla. “So we really index a lot on promotion and discovery.” That extends beyond visibility on the platform itself and through to including indie games in media briefings and on the show floor at public events. Nintendo, for instance, had a booth showing its indie line-up at BitSummit this year. The company wasn’t at Tokyo Game Show in any capacity.

他に呼び込みを行うことなく"Steam"や"App Store"でゲームをリリースするだけの容易さを考えると、お客様を見つけてくれることは間違いなく大変なことだ。"Xbox"も同様に重点を置いている。「ゲーム開発者に(プラットフォームで)何が重要かを尋ねると、宣伝と発掘に関することです」とChris Charla氏は語る。「なので、私たちは宣伝と発掘に力を入れています。」




It all helps legitimise independent development, as has the fact that a number of “older veteran game developers like Iga and Inafune… are saying – we don’t need to work at these big companies, we can get a project,” says John Davis. “Not everyone can Kickstart a project, but it just proves that it’s a viable path.”

こういった支援は独立での開発を正当化し、「実際に五十嵐孝司氏や稲船敬二氏など幾人もの古参のベテランゲーム開発者が独立しており、彼らは"私たちは巨大企業で働く必要はない、プロジェクトを持てるんだ"と言っています」とJohn Davis氏は語る。



“There’s always been a core Japanese indie scene,” explains Chris Charla, “but now there’s a really solid [broader] Japanese indie scene and we’re seeing lots of cool creators like Igarashi-san and Mizuguchi – star independent developers - and it’s just awesome.”

「日本のインディシーンのコアはずっと存在してきましたが」とChris Charlaは解説する。「でも今は本当にカッコよく幅広い日本のインディシーンが存在し、そして五十嵐さんや水口哲也さん(スター独立開発者)など数多くのクールなクリエイターと交流しています。本当に素晴らしい。」


It’s not just the big names, either. “The success of Moppin with Downwell has been a big inspiration for other Japanese indie devs,” comments Shuhei Yoshida. “I hope more Japanese indie titles see global publishing and success in the Western market.”

著名人ばかりではない。 「もっぴん氏の"Downwell"による成功は、他の日本のインディ開発者に大きな刺激となりました。」と吉田修平氏は解説する。「もっと日本のインディタイトルが世界に広がり、欧米市場で成功することを願っています。」


So the perspective for aspiring developers seems to be changing, but how are indie games seen in the eyes of the public? Have Japanese gamers’ attitudes towards them changed in the last few years? “Yes and no,” says Yoshida in response to this question. “More Japanese gamers are aware of indie titles thanks to efforts by Japanese indie publishers and Japanese media, but still [the] majority of gamers in Japan are only interested in traditional Japanese developers' titles. We will continue our efforts to improve the situation step by step.”

開発志望者の見方は変化してきているようだが、一般人の目にインディゲームはどのように見えているのだろう? 日本のゲーマーのインディゲームへの考え方はここ数年で変化しただろうか?



It’s a gradual process, then, and multi-faceted. “Five years ago when I was at Grasshopper,” says John Davis, “we released Black Knight Sword and a pitching game [Diabolical Pitch] and Sine Mora – download-only games, and we had to really convince Famitsu to cover them and put them in the magazine, because it was their policy that they only did games that went to retail. But they’ve since changed. It was like 2010, 2011 or something, and they were like ‘no we’re not going to cover downloadable games’, but now, they have to. There’s just so much quality that comes out that’s not going to make it to the store shelf, because it doesn’t need to.”


「私がグラスホッパーマニファクチュアにいた5年前ですが」とJohn Davis氏は語る。「"Black Knight Sword"と"Diabolical Pitch"、そして"Sine Mora"をダウンロード専売でリリースしましたが、私たちはファミ通にこれを雑誌に掲載してもらえるよう本当に説得しなければいけませんでした。彼らは小売に流通するゲームのみを扱うことをポリシーとしていたからです。しかし、それらも変わってきました。2010年か2011年頃なら彼らは"ダウンロード可能なゲームを取り上げるつもりはない"って感じでした。しかし現在、彼らは取り上げるようになっています。品質が非常に高いからですね、店の棚になんか置かれてません。なぜならそんなことは不要ですから。」


By now you’re probably starting to get a bit of an idea of just how different the gaming and cultural landscape in Japan is. To give a broad brushstrokes summary – Japanese people are certainly creative, as evidenced by the size of the self-publishing industry, but live in a society that’s largely non-entrepreneurial, where people value group membership and stability over individualism and risk. Thus, in many areas this creativity is funnelled into fandom, as opposed to towards commercial success.




For Japanese creators that do want to form a small independent studio and make games, there are then huge differences between Japan and just about every other country in terms of gaming culture, and that introduces a whole new set of questions. How do you find success in an international market that’s – arguably – more receptive to indies without dooming your project locally?




For instance, the biggest platform for indies internationally is PC, but PC gaming culture is non-existent domestically. That’s a hurdle, obviously. Mobile, on the other hand, represents the largest gaming audience in Japan, but Japanese tastes are very different to other regions, so it’s (mostly) either/or in terms of who your mobile game is for. And good luck targeting Japanese gamers with a mobile game – aggressive advertising drives the market. “It's like a hyper exaggerated version of how it is in the West now,” says Vitei Backroom’s Alex May. “Everybody's playing the same game… [these] mega titles… they just come in waves like epidemics on the trains.” This squeezes out smaller titles even more effectively than they’re currently squeezed out in the West. (Which is the main reason many devs have re-focused on PC over mobile here.)



「それは欧米で現在起こっているそれの逝きすぎたバージョンのようですが」とヴィテイバックルームのAlex Mayは語る。「みんな同じゲームをプレイします。メガタイトルを。それらは電車の中で伝染病のように波が来ます。」これらは欧米で現在起こっているそれよりも、より効果的に小さなタイトルを締め出す。(これが多くの開発者がモバイルよりもPCへと再フォーカスする主な理由だ。)


So the dominant platforms are different, tastes in games are different, there are numerous cultural factors and you don’t speak the same language. “The average indie developer is stuck in a complicated crossroads,” says Alex May. “The idea of releasing overseas is just a bit challenging.”

支配的なプラットフォームは異なり、ゲームのテイストも異なり、いくつもの文化的要素があり、そして同じ言語を話さない。「普通のインディ開発者は込み入った岐路に立ち往生してしまいます」とAlex Mayは語る。「海外からのリリースはちょっと難しいですね」


Japan also isn’t a country with many foundational structures to support indie developers. “There are a lot of small companies in Japan but they go bankrupt fairly quickly,” says Hitoshi Sakimoto, one of the most celebrated composers in the Japanese game industry, who has been running his own independent music and sound production company Basiscape for almost 15 years. “I believe the main reason for that is because there isn’t really a foundation to support those companies, whether it be venture capitalism or even tax breaks. There’s just not a foundation there to help them out.”



When I asked Masaya Matsuura about government funding or support for independent developers in Japan he exclaimed “No, never!” and had a good laugh. Matsuura also sees the private sector as being even more risk-averse in Japan than in other countries. “A Western developer can find investors for their project,” he says, “but this kind of thing doesn’t happen in this country… they just invest in the person or the company… they don’t invest in the project.”



“Becoming independent isn’t something I would go and say is a completely good thing,” admits Hitoshi Sakimoto. “It’s really up to the individual. If you want to do something that you want to do you have to go and do it yourself. If you work for a company there are limitations, and if you really can’t take that anymore then you gotta go and do it by yourself. And once you do that you can start adding people in, but life will get difficult. There’s no regular paycheque at the end of the month, there’s ups and downs, but if you really want to do it, you’ve got to do it yourself.”



Being an indie anywhere in the world is tough, obviously, but it’s fascinating just how different the picture in Japan looks. No wonder the Japanese indie scene is such a complicated, unique beast. No wonder it operates on its own terms. And no wonder it’s still finding its feet outside Japan.



Make no mistake, though – it’s growing. The evolution of BitSummit is proof of that. It’s also proof of the enthusiasm and passion running through the scene in Japan, and just how many people are invested in helping connect independent game creators with an audience. After all, this one show has the likes of Shuhei Yoshida rubbing shoulders with Masaya Matsuura, it has Nintendo exhibiting alongside Q-Games, it has icons of the Japanese industry like Koji Igarashi and Hironobu Sakaguchi actually manning booths, it has ex-pats making a life for themselves in Japan and working alongside Japanese natives. And above all, it has some exciting games on show.




Is the age of the Japanese indie dawning? Against all odds? I sure hope so. After all, no one makes games quite like the Japanese.

この時代は日本インディの夜明けなのか? あらゆる予想を覆して?





Thanks for Cam Shea.