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Postcard from GDC 2005: The Japanese Game Industry: Past, Present and Future

March 11, 2005

Kenzo Tsujimoto is not only the CEO of Capcom, but also the chair of CESA, Japan 's Consumer Entertainment Supplier's Association. Unfortunately, due to this being Tsujimoto's first time to GDC, nothing was discussed in great detail, and the majority of the talk was spent discussing the various roles of the associated organizations CESA, CEDEC and CERO.

Aside from these well-documented groups though, he did drop a few other interesting ideas here and there. First, he says that the games industry is Japan 's only major export oriented entertainment sector, with a much higher export percentage than music, movies or literature. This is an industry that grew on its own, with out the assistance of government help, which is why groups like CESA rose to help regulate the industry from the inside.

He also gave stats for the game market in Japan , for the year 2003. Console sales were at around 613 billion yen, arcade earnings were roughly 164 billion yen, and mobile games brought in about 34.4 billion yen. Also of note, Japan has traditionally been very down on second hand game sales, whereas the US market generally doesn't have a problem with it. In Japan , sales of used games comprise about 30% of the market, which Tsujimoto hopes very much to change. A recent government ruling declared the practice of selling second hand games to be completely legal, so this will likely not change anytime soon. Overseas shipping of games in 2003 was 55.6 percent of the total games sold from Japanese companies.

Kenzo Tsujimoto

Further, several western companies have started to do somewhat well in Japan , and Tsujimoto cited EA as a good example of this. For western publishers to succeed in Japan , several factors must be taken into consideration. First, Japan is a very competitive market, with around 1,000 new titles yearly, says Tsujimoto. Also the Japanese have very particular taste, he says. So western companies should pursue aggressive marketing, learn about the specific Japanese market, or team with an established Japanese company.

Finally, the Capcom CEO outlined his ideas for strengthening the Japanese export industry in the future. First, he feels that the GDC and CEDEC, Japan 's developer conference, should have stronger ties. Data should also be shared on a global scale. All regions should exchange market statistic information, as well as research of the impact of games on learning, violence and the like. He also feels that major conferences across the globe should be coordinated to not overlap, allowing greater flow to these events, and less direct competition in areas where it is unnecessary. There should also be joint measures against copying and piracy, he maintains. Lastly, a greater cooperation and exchange of ratings info would allow easier exporting throughout the world.

While much of this talk may sound like something you've heard before, what's significant here is who's saying it - the CEO of one of the largest Japanese electronic game companies in the world.

Some of Capcom's many characters throughout the years.


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