SPOnG's long serving Japanese correspondent, Martin Olsen, continues his Letter from Nippon with the latest updates from the islands.
Yu Suzuki on Shenmue Online
I reckon the pages near the back of Famitsu
are generally the most interesting, because that?s where Japan?s game industry celebrities are given space to talk about all kinds of crap, and they always seem to do it in high spirits. There are pictures of them drinking coffee and smiling, which is how I?ve always thought video game visionaries should be pictured. In this week?s Famitsu
, Yoshiki Okamoto (ex-Capcom) interviews SEGA demigod Yu Suzuki.
We learn that Suzuki?s first car was a Nissan Sunny, for which he paid ¥70,000 (£375 or ?472) while he was a student in Okayama. Elsewhere he jokes that because he doesn?t play games other than his own he has no ability to copy other games and therefore, because his projects always start from ?zero?, he gets ideas from talking with people who have nothing to with games ? people, he says, such as ?the proprietors of eel restaurants.?
Anyway, Okamoto does all of us a service by twice asking Suzuki about the fate of Shenmue Online
. The first time, Suzuki just laughs and says, ?Come on, can?t you ask me something that I can answer??
But Okamoto?s a persistent interviewer and so as his final question he returns with, ?How is Shenmue Online
coming along, then??
?I wonder if it?s OK to answer,? Suzuki says. He then confers with SEGA?s PR person who is at the scene of the conversation and finally gets back to Okamoto: ?OK, I?ll say as much as I can? Due to a situation
, the project is in a ?Pending? state. But personally I?m hoping to be reunited with Shenmue Online
. I haven?t given up.?
And that?s the end of the interview. Cliffhanger, eh! Unfortunately he doesn?t elaborate on the ?situation? that?s caused Shenmue Online
to go into ?Pending? and he doesn?t talk about what he?s been doing during the suspension of work on Shenmue Online
, so all we can do is speculate and write furious letters to SEGA?
Japanese gamers on Xbox 360
Now for something completely different: what Japanese gamers really think of the Xbox 360. This wasn?t easy to research because not one of my friends, family or acquaintances here owns an Xbox 360 (except for people who work in the games industry, and they can?t really be counted). Which, I suppose, tells you something about how much further the 360 has to go before it builds a user base of note.
So I instead turned my radar towards Xbox Live and quizzed a few good citizens of Xbox Japan while racing them. They reckoned Microsoft was doing everything reasonably possible to make the 360 successful in Japan, but they also said they understood why the Wii and PS3 are outperforming the 360 ? ?Because people really like the Sony brand and Wii and DS are part of [Japan?s] culture now,? quoth one Japanese Xbox Live user.
We also talked about game types and the sort of thing Xbox is famous for (you know, big guns and all that), and it turns out the likes of Halo 3
, Forza 2
, Gears Of War
were what attracted these apparently veteran players to the 360 in the first place. ?We really like the serious games that are for older players,? said one of them. They didn?t seem to care as much about Infinite Undiscovery
, Lost Odyssey
or any of the other Japanese blockbusters, but they did agree that such local produce would be important for the future of Xbox in Japan.