Interview with Keiji Inafune, the Father of Mega Man, on Choosing Kickstarter to Expand the Potential of Game Development [1/3]

On Aug. 31, at the PAX Prime gaming event in the U.S., one game development project showed its first signs of life.

Keiji Inafune, father of such games as Mega Man, Onimusha and Dead Rising, among others, has released the details about his latest 2D side-scrolling action game currently in development. Furthermore, his decision to try and finance the project through the crowdsourcing website Kickstarter has garnered a lot of attention. Gaming fans at PAX Prime welcomed the project with great enthusiasm. Meanwhile, just 40 hours after requesting donations, the project successfully reached its $900,000 goal. As of Sept. 6, the number of supporters is close to 30,000 and continues to increase. We got the chance to meet with the man in the center of this whirlwind of excitement, Keiji Inafune, for an interview.

TOM: We spoke with you recently about Soul Sacrifice and we appreciate you taking the time to meet with us again. This time, we would like to hear more about the Kickstarter project that has caused such a stir.

Inafune: It's surprising, isn't it?

TOM: Yes, we were very surprised to hear the news that you raised over $1,500,000 in just three days! What an amazing show of support!

Inafune: Yeah, I know it's quite an amazing achievement, but when I see numbers like that, I almost end up wanting more. It's made me realize the work I still need to do in order to gain support from more people.

TOM: We understand that you've currently set a stretch goal of $2,500,000, so one would expect you would do your best to reach that mark, correct? (The morning of the interview on September 5, the project had reached the $2,500,000 goal and announced plans to develop PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U versions of the game.)

Inafune: We actually have various others goals beyond that one. Since we've gotten so much support from users thus far, we've modified our stretch goal to include development of PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U versions of the game once we reach $2,200,000. It's a pretty flexible project overall, so we're trying to be flexible in how we respond to user requests. We will likely hear from people that want us to release the game for 3DS, PS Vita, and other mobile devices, but development does cost a fair bit of money, so we'll just have to continue getting support from our fans and see how far we can go with it.

TOM: You reached your initial $900,000 goal in about a day. Did you expect it to happen so quickly?

Inafune: I would be lying if I said it was beyond our expectations. Since past projects have raised as much as $1,000,000, I thought that if things went well we could raise about $900,000 in that amount of time. And I'm really glad that we did!

TOM: There's no doubt that this project has drawn attention from game fans around the world. We heard that the fans at PAX Prime yesterday were very enthusiastic. How was that?

Inafune: It was really moving to be greeted by so many fans. You can usually judge the way people feel from how the crowd reacts to the presentation, but it was truly moving to hear various people say things like, "I've been waiting for this game for along time!" and, "Thank you for making this new game." Also, it was great to see the messages from fans on the concept website afterwards. The number of questions and comments in English increased pretty dramatically. Luckily, many of our staff members can speak English so we're able to respond. Their enthusiasm certainly came through.

TOM: From which countries did you receive the most messages?

Inafune: From all over the world, except Japan, haha. I'm joking, but in comparison to the mail we've received from abroad, the number of messages from Japan feels pretty small.

TOM: Personally, We were impressed at how most Kickstarter projects in Japan were done only through the English website, but you chose to use the Japanese page as well for Mighty No. 9.

Inafune: Actually, one of our goals with making a Japanese page was to help introduce Kickstarter itself to people in Japan. Of course, we wanted to get funding from that audience, but I personally also wanted to let people in Japan know about Kickstarter.

TOM: So that's why you did it.

Inafune: I wanted to tell people in Japan that, through Kickstarter, developers can respond directly to their users’ needs when making games. Up until now, the company has always been the middleman separating the users from the developers, determining the budget, and making all the final decisions. With this model, even if a developer has a great idea for a game, if the companies decide not to support it, it will never get into the hands of its users. Vice versa, if users are requesting a particular game and the companies don't think it will sell, the developer cannot make it, no matter how much they want to meet the needs of the users. Kickstarter gets rid of the "game company wall" between users and grants new possibilities to game development. It connects the users directly to the developers, establishing a close relationship between them. Of course, this also means that developers are expected to earnestly strive to meet the needs of their users in a way not seen before.

* TOM: We heard many of the same sentiments from the people that started a Kickstarter-funded anime production. They said that having the expectations of your fans manifested in the amount of money they give you adds a certain amount of pressure, but also increases the motivation to meet those expectations.*

Inafune: This whole experiment with Kickstarter has been really interesting for me personally. I hope that more developers in Japan take advantage of it too. I also hope our project helps to put Kickstarter on the map in Japan, and makes it a more viable way for other developers to get their work out there. I think the fact that we, as Japanese developers, were able to raise over $1,00,000 from supporters all over the world should give others at least a bit of confidence to try it out.

TOM: Did you ever consider using any of the crowdfunding services in Japan?

Inafune: We were looking abroad from the beginning. Raising $1,000,000 was only possible because we got the attention of so many people overseas. While there are crowdfunding services in Japan, they are still small-scale. If you are trying to raise the amount of money required to develop a game, you're naturally going to need the support of fans abroad. It was clear from the beginning that if we were going to crowdfund this project, Kickstarter was the way to go.

TOM: How long have you thought about funding a game through Kickstarter?

Inafune: For about half a year.

TOM: That's more recent than we expected.

Inafune: Well I've known about Kickstarter for about two years and have always wanted to do something with it. But it wasn't until about six months ago that I really put my back into it and starting getting specific plans laid out. It took awhile for me to think about what I wanted to make, how I wanted to make it, and put the pieced together into a concept for a game.

Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter Page

photo by Miyuki Suemitsu

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.

Interview with Keiji Inafune, the Father of Mega Man, on Choosing Kickstarter to Expand the Potential of Game Development [1/3] 1
Interview with Keiji Inafune, the Father of Mega Man, on Choosing Kickstarter to Expand the Potential of Game Development [1/3] 2
Interview with Keiji Inafune, the Father of Mega Man, on Choosing Kickstarter to Expand the Potential of Game Development [1/3] 3
Interview with Keiji Inafune, the Father of Mega Man, on Choosing Kickstarter to Expand the Potential of Game Development [1/3] 4
Interview with Keiji Inafune, the Father of Mega Man, on Choosing Kickstarter to Expand the Potential of Game Development [1/3] 5

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