Making the move...

Lynn Fredricks lfredricks at
Sat Mar 18 09:33:05 EST 2006

Hi Chipp,

Yes, this is a very relevant list, though some things have changed at bit.

> He gave 3 reasons for this:
> 1) The culture. Great software is typically created by a 
> small group of only a few developers-- not the Japanese way 
> of throwing manpower at a problem. Furthurmore, typcially 
> good developers are not very social and can be obstinate 
> (duh!), which again flys against the culture. And, the 
> program all night when on a roll, then sleep all day type 
> would never fly in a Japanese corporation.

There is a growing "studio" mentality in Japan and also, the weirdness that
is family owned business. A few years ago, a merger between Sega and Bandai
failed because Bandai is a family run business, and Sega is more mainstream
(actually they have a more hardcore, no prisoners culture comparable to

What Chipp is referring to above is interesting because, it rarely happens
in the office but it can happen in incremental improvements happening on the
"floor" -- where suits rarely go. A surprising amount of those incremental
improvemetns come from the floor.

> 2) It is very difficult for startup companies to begin in 
> Japan. There are huge incorporation fees, plus it's almost 
> impossible to go public, so it's difficult to find investors, 
> Because the 'equity' of a software startup is not 'tangible', 
> it's very difficult to get banks to become involved, and a 
> good banking relationship is very important to startups.

This has gotten better in some ways, worse in others. When the Japanese
bubble economy popped, quite a few banks simply closed, merged or were
bought out. While there is now a VC climate in Japan, I don't think its
really made up for the hard times.

At one time simple incorporation stamp cost you $10K. Now it is possible to
get by with much less, or create a foreign subsidiary without the huge paid
in capital requirements of yore.

> 3) Lastly, the best computer languages were based in English, 
> and very different from the way Japanese read and write.

And in addition, the computer industry was dominated by the NEC 9800
platform, which was close but not quite the same as the AT architecture here
- dominated as in Microsoft made versions of DOS and Windows for it. Id say
this is one of the reasons why the Mac maintained a foothold longer in Japan
than in other places - the mainstream x86 architecture had to compete with
the NEC platform.

> I imagine much of this has changed in the past 10 years or so 
> since we last talked, but I still believe many of his 
> concerns have some validity. Of course, as recently as a 
> couple of years ago, I toured a new CG Manga studio where 
> people slept on the floor under the desks in makeshift 
> tent-beds and generally had a more 'western' feel like many 
> game studios do today.

Yes, and I think there is a certain infectiousness to this as well, esp in
creative industries.

> Of course, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. And, 
> we've yet to see any big mainstream programs come out of 
> Japan. But, there are some. 
> I believe Shade 3D is a Japanese program (Lynn, you may know 
> about this?).

Yes, and while it is a great product, the mid-market (and up) marketspace
for 3D applications, as a vertical market, has been in a total bloodbath for
years -- and its gotten much worse with the acquisition of Alias. Shade is
an excellent example. Its quite good, esp if you come from a CAD or
architecture background. E-frontier, makers of Shade, acquired Curious Labs
(makers of Poser) now little over two years ago, and they are making some of
those famous Japanese improvements to Shade to adapt to the US market. They
also have a good US staff that really know the 3D industry here.

Another piece of software that is Japanese is --- the Ruby language.

My first company did a lot of work with early Japanese game companies (back
in the Super Nintendo days) and while the underlying software was incredibly
fast (written mostly in assembly, with very little of that wimpy C or C++
stuff ;-)) - it seemed that almost all the games were exactly the same,
except for some funny graphics and backstory.

Best regards,

Lynn Fredricks
Worldwide Business Operations
Runtime Revolution, Ltd

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