Superstar Indies: Understanding a Japanese Videogame Phenomenon

Increasingly the videogame industry in the West has become a two-tiered system consisting of large AAA developers and smaller independent (indie) game developers. This has become especially true as AAA budgets inflate and create a dichotomy of large scale, high budget AAA games versus smaller scale, low budget Indie titles. However, little research has investigated the state of the videogame industry in Japan, and how its structure might be shifting with the rise of new platforms and payment systems for games. Yet, we have already witnessed some shifts from the traditional system of large Japanese firms, such as Square Enix, Sega and Capcom. One particular example of this shift is the rise of smaller independent companies founded by Japanese industry icons, which we label as “Superstar Indies.”

There are several examples of well-known personalities from the Japanese videogame industry leaving large corporations in order to start their own companies (see table 1). While this phenomenon is noteworthy by itself, the move of celebrity videogame producers, directors, and creators into a different segment of the industry raises several important questions. How are these new companies funded? What are the corporate structures that these new companies use? Can these companies be referred to as being truly “Independent” developers? Though each Superstar Indie provides a different set of answers to these questions, answering these questions could lead to a general reconfiguration of how we think about the Japanese videogame industry.

Through an analysis of this emergent phenomenon, this project builds upon established literature in the field of political economy of the videogame industry to argue that Superstar Indies transcend the traditional videogame company categorizations  of AAA and Indie (Consalvo, 2016; Dyer-Witheford & de Peuter, 2009). Analysis of the structures, rhetoric and outputs of this unique type of company pushes game studies scholars to acknowledge the diversity of different national systems, and prompt a reconfiguration of thought regarding how we study and theorize the global videogame industry.

Superstar Indies: Understanding a Japanese Videogame Phenomenon

Updated on 2019-07-22T05:11:27+00:00, by Patricia Petit Liang.