If you look at Japanese indie games in 2012, a different picture emerges. Although the performance was comparable to that of other countries, it was a private and small-scale activity, lacking commercial and cultural awareness both domestically and internationally.
Q Games is an exception, having been self-publishing since its inception and later partnering with Sony to produce the popular Pixeljunk series, one of the PS3’s indie game masterpieces. With some free time on their schedule, Q Games, like many other studios, launched an indie game event called BitSummit in their hometown of Kyoto to showcase the hard work of independent creators.
The story is a little more complicated, as explained by the event’s co-founder and many-faced John Davis (he works as a consultant and PR for the recently founded Japanese indie game publisher Shueisha Games). is also in charge).
”I had a few chances to go abroad at events like PAX, and I’d seen a community that had flourished both critically and financially since the early 2000s. But the same thing wasn’t happening in Japan. he says.
”Everyone was very narrow-minded and focused on what they were doing, they didn’t work together or promote each other. There wasn’t a big exodus from big developers to smaller studios. However, even if there was an outflow, it was a medium-sized studio like Grasshopper Manufacture.In Japan, it was originally a culture of doujin and hobbies, so there were few opportunities for small teams to gather.
“Do you know that going to the indies was kind of a swear word? (…) We tried to bring people together and be strong together, like, ‘The rising tide lifts all ships.’ I thought
”You know that going indie was kind of a swear word. Everybody says they want to work for Nintendo, they want to work for Bandai. So we and [BitSummit co-founder] James Mielke He wanted to bring people together and be strong together, like, ‘A rising tide lifts all ships.'” Partnerships and close relationships also contributed to BitSummit’s success
. While the event started in 2013 in a small venue, Sony’s sponsorship in a big way encouraged attendees and members of the press and helped keep it going. It also ensured that other sponsors would be willing to support the event.
At the time of the 4th event, Unity, Cygames, Xbox, Devolver Digital, etc. became major sponsors, and each company has supported the operation for more than 10 years since the first time. The event remains non-commercial through sponsorship, and table space for developers to showcase their work costs a nominal amount. In addition, it is expanding participation to indie developers across Asia through sponsorships such as Indie Megabooth, Taipei Game Show and Day of the Devs.
As a pioneer of its kind in Japan, the purpose of the first show was simply to bring people together in the same room and showcase the power of Japan’s independent creators to the domestic and international media.
At the end of the first event held in the spring of 2013, reports were received not only from Japanese media such as Famitsu, but also from Wired and Kotaku, and the event was widely recognized. Thanks to close ties within the industry, the presence of SUDA51 and Valve as guests and advising participants on game development and the inner workings of Steam also contributed to the great success. “It was a big boost to keep the event moving forward,” Davis recalls.
BitSummit grew from a small event for indie developers only to a large annual public event with over 30 sponsors over the next few years. It is now held over multiple days. At the beginning of its establishment, about 30 developers participated, and it was a one-day event divided into lectures and demo play, but this year, more than 100 games (90 invited by the executive committee and sponsored titles) were played over the three days. ) will be exhibited.
It will also be held in July for the first time since 2016, which is the peak season for the traditional Gion Festival, one of Japan’s most famous festivals. No matter how hectic Kyoto has become for event attendees, it’s probably fitting. Kyoto is not only a historical capital that fuses tradition and modernity, but also the creative center of Japan. Walking through the streets, you can see sophisticated modern infrastructure and shopping centers alongside traditional Japanese buildings, shrines and temples, giving it a unique charm that cannot be found anywhere else in Japan.
The preservation of historic buildings gives the city a sense of calm even in normal times (if the most popular spots like Kiyomizudera manage to push through the crowds), and this year’s attendees Before diving into Japan’s indie future, enjoy Japan’s religious traditions in the pedestrian-only streets.
Kyoto is a prosperous city, but what makes Kyoto economically unique is that it thrives on both its traditional and creative roots. Kyoto is Japan’s third-largest city for start-ups, with everything from traditional crafts using kimonos to giants like Nintendo and companies like Q Games open to ideas and collaboration by creators. is the base of In fact, indie game development was generally closed in Japan in the early 2010s, so Davis credits Kyoto and the Kansai region’s creative drive for the event’s initial success.
“There are a lot of small, independent traditional craft businesses,” he explains. “I think Kansai is a place where a creative spirit permeates and people aren’t too afraid to achieve things on their own. It wasn’t hard to convince the developers in the area, and I think it’s a cue.・There was an existing relationship between Games and Nintendo, and even though they didn’t sponsor the first event, I was able to build a good relationship with everyone and there was a lot of respect. Companies like Playism, which publishes a lot of Japanese indie and doujin, and local developers participated.”
”It was originally a Kansai event, so it took time to spread to Tokyo,” he continues. “The expatriate community is always tight-knit, especially Hachinoyon [who localizes, publishes and develops games), which has its headquarters in Tokyo and tends to attract a lot of people. Every week there are events and meetups in Kansai. but it didn’t have the same vibe as Alvin Phu’s (founder of Tokyo Indies), but I’m not sure if we would have gotten the same response if we had started in Tokyo I don’t know.”
Davis now works as a consultant at his own company Blacksheep Consulting, a job as global PR manager for Shueisha Games, and with industry in Japan and across Asia at BitSummit, an event that has grown from modest origins to greatness. are using their time. So how does BitSummit actually help developers and provide a platform to reach more players?
”I think it has a lot of potential for indies,” concludes Davis.
“I think Kansai is a place where a creative spirit permeates and people aren’t too afraid to achieve something on their own.”
”Since companies like Epic Games and Unity have opened offices, there are more avenues of support. We have Kickstarter, but we also have support from Campfire [a Japanese crowdfunding site], and Field is next. In terms of sales…” he stammered, muttering that it was quite difficult in Japanese. “For sites like Steam to make money, there’s a universal problem: it’s difficult to find an audience, but now Japanese developers face the same hurdles as overseas creators. Tokyo Indies and BitSummit.
Every time I go there, I see interesting games, but the biggest financial obstacles are marketing and promotion and getting the game out there.” ‘s business day opens, and it will be open to the public on the weekend of the 15th and 16th. BitSummit is committed to making the event a success for all participants and the developers themselves, and for everyone to enjoy the festival inside and outside Miyako Messe.
”I’m curious if there will be an influx from the Gion Festival, but I’m excited to see so many developers, especially those from overseas, participating in the event. It’s a pretty unique situation, and we have some great games. But
there are already plans to make BitSummit even bigger and better over the next decade, maximizing the space we have now and turning it into an event for related industries and creators in the doujin world. He said he was going.
”Next year, we’d like to expand Miyakomesse from one floor to two so that more creators can access it, as well as expand into analog games and involve the doujin community in events,” Davis said. He spoke with excitement. BitSummit is aimed at smaller creators, but the demand for space is creating a divide between hobbyist creators and the industry’s biggest events, and he hopes the move will bring the team acceptance in the future there is
”There’s a line between Comiket and general doujin circles and events like BitSummit and TGS. I’d like to have a creator-centric space like you see at other events, such as manga, comics, and illustrations.”
The industry has changed a lot in the last decade, but it’s hard to say that it won’t change even more in the next decade. Not only will BitSummit continue to provide a platform for indie developers to spread their work, but it will also allow more creators to find an audience for their games. Hope to get recognition.