Japanese developers are lagging behind. I don't think there's any argument or debate; sadly, it's a fact commonly referenced by the Japanese devs themselves.
But many of the hardcore gamers often ask: is the Japanese assessment of Western tastes and preferences skewed? Long-time JRPG fans have asked this question due to the death of slower, more strategic turn-based experiences; after all, those titles didn't suddenly start to sell like crap. In truth, they were taken away from us so Japanese studios could follow a perceived shift to "twitchiness" on the part of Western audiences.
And maybe it's happening everywhere in Japan. Maybe they're making gross exaggerations that are only exacerbating the problem. Even the great Hideo Kojima seems to have fallen prey to the idea that US gamers only want to play shooters. Now, it's true that Call of Duty dominates on a yearly basis and 2011 could be viewed as the year of the FPS ( Crysis 2 , Resistance 3 , Battlefield 3 , Killzone 3 , RAGE , etc.). But not all those titles dominated the sales charts. Far from it.
In fact, if you look at some of the most popular games of the generation, you see a pretty fair sampling of genres. Action/adventure, which includes names like Grand Theft Auto , Assassin's Creed , Batman , and Uncharted , seems to be doing exceedingly well; just ask publishers like Take-Two and Ubisoft. Even the hardcore RPGs seem to be thriving; they're not turn-based, but they're definitely not CoD-like, either. How many copies did The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim sell all told? And what about progressive titles like Heavy Rain ? A big success, relatively speaking.
The idea that shooters is the most popular genre in the West could be called into question, really. "Action" or "Action/adventure" is still the broadest genre by far, and these titles not only tend to dominate sales charts, they also win a whole bunch of awards. Even if 2011 could be considered the year of the shooter, do you see a lot of shooters winning Game of the Year Awards? This year, that honor seems to be mostly reserved for Skyrim , Uncharted 3 , Arkham City , and Portal 2 , among others. And what about other genres? Know how many copies Gran Turismo 5 sold worldwide?
I just wonder if the Japanese devs are dead flat wrong in their views. Maybe they're letting assumptions get the better of them. Or maybe they just don't want to admit that so much of the innovation and creativity seems to be coming from the West these days, and that it's difficult to keep up. …that'd be known as "sour grapes," and I'd hate to accuse the Japanese game makers of that. As far as I and many other gamers are concerned, there are still fantastic creators over there (Kojima is only one example).
But if we take an accurate overview of what works in this industry today, it's all too easy to say, "oh, shooters are all that matters," when in fact, it isn't true at all. Let's be a little more realistic. All you have to do is look at the numbers. Remember, GTAV has a shot at outstripping the new CoD this year…again, only one example.