This will be a sad day for fans of Mega Man, or of classic Japanese gaming in general. Keiji Inafune, the creative mind behind Mega Man, Dead Rising, Onimusha, and many other Capcom titles has announced that he will be resigning as Head of Research & Development for the company at the end of the month.
Aside from being a surprising and disappointing piece of news for the many gamers who had developed a strong connection to several Inafune franchises and properties, this announcement fits into a much larger picture of the current state of Japanese game development and its future.
In a blog post, Inafune announced that his time with the Japanese developer and publisher would be coming to an end, citing reasons that likely left fans more questions than answers:
"A manager's work means evaluating your subordinates and speaking your dreams. Anyone who can do both of those can be a manager. I thought that when I came here, and I still think that now."
Inafune reflected on his 23 years spent with the company, working his way up from character designer to head of development. As he sees it, there is simply nowhere higher to go with the company. It's a common occurrence to see high-level executives resign based on personal issues or desire to seek out new challenges, but Inafune's reason gave testament to his one-of-a-kind personality:
"I'm leaving Capcom with the intention of starting my life over."
"People that really know me, can see where I'm coming from. I'm not a regular dude. It's probably because I'm strange."
Keiji Inafune has thousands of fans who are no doubt eagerly awaiting news of his next professional endeavor, but the reasons he gives for leaving his employer of over 20 years demands a second look. In an interview with 4Gamer, Inafune explained that he still wishes to remain at Capcom, but that is one solution that can't be reached:
"Honestly, the situation has become such that I can't."
Since Inafune defines a manager as one who can evaluate subordinates and speak his dreams, perhaps an inability to do one or the other is where his motivations are coming from.
It's unlikely that Inafune is announcing his inability to manage a development team after years spent in the business, so perhaps the climate at Capcom has become one in which Inafune no longer feels free to create. After already expressing his feelings that the Japanese game industry, as a whole, was dying if not already deceased - an opinion he is not alone in holding - the notion of his creativity being smothered by the studio would explain quite a bit.
Now Inafune wishes to "start his life over," which will undoubtedly have thousands of video game fans voicing their desire for him to migrate to the North American games market, althouh they might have a point. An industry legend as well-known as Keiji Inafune would likely be sought after by every major developer or publisher, and offering creative control isn't the deal-breaker it once was.
It would truly be a shame to lose a creative mind as inspiring as Inafune, given his Mega Man Legends project is looking promising and already atop our list of most anticipated titles for the 3DS. While this may be the end of Keiji Inafune's time with Capcom, there is a very real possibility that the result of his departure could have long-lasting effects on not only that development studio, but the games industry as a whole.
We wish Inafune-san the very best, and hope above all else that his new life is one filled with zombies and arm-mounted blasters.