Facebook game maker and hot US start-up Zynga recently announced a joint venture deal with Softbank, setting up a Japanese subsidiary to start bringing popular online social games from the west over to Japan for use on Softbank mobiles and Japanese web services. With that, we thought it might be a good time to take the first of a series of looks into the games industry in Japan, the changes taking place and how you might be able to take advantage.
Rico Shen / Wikimedia
Coming to Japan to make video games is the dream of many but breaking in can seem all-but impossible. However, scratch below the surface and it might not seam as hard as you think. While openings exist for translators, proofreaders and testers (GaijinPot has featured some from companies including Aeria Games and GALA) the need for developers continues to be huge.
Konami, Sega and other big game companies will recruit during job fairs, this one at UBX in Akihabara recently is a good example. They require Japanese, as will the majority of positions, but also have a need to add to their creative teams with new ideas.
Another way that is increasing in popularity is to go through the education system. Digital Hollywood and HAL are two examples here. Both are promoting their classes to foreigners and put graduates in touch with industry figures upon course completion. Again, although Japanese is required, conversational level is often enough to get by.
If going through a Japanese college does not sound your thing or you already have qualifications then taking the direct method of contacting game companies also pays off. In these cases however making the most of your foreign skills is paramount.
Game Score Blog / Flikr
If you can draw, bring a sketchbook portfolio and show it off. Japan produces some of the world’s best designers but they often end up lost in the corporate crowd, therefor you will need to stand out. Have your own game idea? Tell them all about it, especially if you can tie it in to something that they already do.
In addition, be prepared to harden yourself to big-company corporate culture. The successful game companies in Japan work round the clock and despite the fun products that they put out, they expect professionalism at all times.
Make sure this is something you want to do for your own development in the games industry too. Despite the Japanese games that meet with huge popularity overseas, 90% of titles that see the light of day locally are churned out to a smattering of applause and sales.
Check GaijinPot jobs for what developer jobs we have currently and check back to see new ones as they come in. Part 2 of this will look more at how the industry itself is changing.