How Japanese and Western game dev differ, from a dev who has done both

One of the biggest differences between Western and Japanese development can be seen in how devs from each region approach game pitches, explains Jordan Amaro.
"The thing I want to stress is that [...] when you make games what nationality you are doesn’t really matter. Still, there’s definitely a sensibility and an aesthetics that are very Japanese."

- Game designer Jordan Amaro talks about his experience working with both Western and Japanese studios

Jordan Amaro is one of two Western game developers working at Nintendo, though he says he’s now spent more time making games in Japan than he ever did in the West. Still, his unique circumstance grants him a certain level of insight into how differently the two regions handle specific aspects of game development.

In an interview with Glixel, Amaro shared just that, explaining that one of the biggest differences between Western and Japanese development can be seen in how devs from each region approach game pitches. 

“It seems to me, when I look at the way game design was done at Kojima Productions, the way it’s done at Capcom and Nintendo, the way I feel it’s being done at Platinum Games or From Software, I feel there’s a lot more importance and focus given to game mechanics over world, setting, story, message, all that stuff,” he explains.

Amaro goes on to say that, in his experience, Western developers prioritize the scope, visuals, and features of a game as its selling point while Japanese developers tend to lead with mechanics.

“For example, when we used to have Kojima Productions L.A.—we had an office in Los Angeles—we would get proposals for new games, pitches. It always started with: ‘This is the world you’re in. This is the experience I’m going to give you.’ And gameplay was relegated to page 5 or 6 or 10,” Amaro tells Glixel. “It was always about who you’re playing, who is the character, what’s going on, but not the ‘how,’ how am I playing this?”

“In Japan, a pitch is a page, maybe two. The first page you write what the game is about and how you play it,” he continues. “And the second page, maybe you need an illustration. We don’t care about who, or what the story is, what the game world is, all of this doesn’t really matter.”

Amaro dives into these differences further and talks about how Overwatch and Splatoon represent those differences in the full interview, which you can find over on Glixel.

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