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NieR Director Sees Himself "As Someone Who Provides Entertainment Within a Service Industry"


Game director Yoko Taro, renowned for his work on Square Enix's NieR and Drakengard series, recently shared insights into his creative process and his unconventional approach in making games.

Yoko Taro on His Balancing Act of the Business of Games and Game Design

"At First, I Listen to What the Publisher Wants from Me, But Later I Don’t."


Speaking to IGN in a recently published interview along with Stellar Blade director Kim Hyung Tae, Yoko Taro, the enigmatic and humorous creative director of Square Enix's Action RPG series NieR and Drakengard, explained his stances and line of thought regarding game development.

The NieR and Drakengard series titles have been widely acclaimed among the gaming community, praised particularly for their thought-provoking storylines. "NieR: Automata is like an inviolable holy grace," commented the Stellar Blade director, further praising Yoko Taro for the design of the 2017 release's unique protagonist, 2B.

"At the time, her character design was quite different from what was trending, but she still became beloved by many players. Now, both her looks and personal[it]y have created a new stream," said Kim. "She has become a brand of her own, which is a real achievement."


With the outpouring of compliments from his industry peer, Yoko Taro explained the decision to go against prevalent trends. He explained that, with the market of sci-fi action games being saturated and led by titles, such as Halo, which typically featured archetypal male characters "that shoots a gun, wearing clothes reminiscent of the United States Marine Corps," it didn't make sense for him to produce a game that shares the same characteristics and elements.

"[T]here’s already Halo and other games like that. It didn’t make sense for me to make something like that. I wouldn’t be able to do that better than Western developers anyway, since we’re further away from that culturally," he further shared.

Yoko Taro elaborated on his unconventional approach, stating, "I wanted to make a different style of game that has less competition. That’s why we went for a sci-fi battle action game with a female protagonist clad in black and blindfolded. At the time, there wasn’t anything like it, but now that Stellar Blade is about to enter the room I feel it will soon become a crowded market!"


In addition to discussing his creative decisions, Yoko Taro also touched on his approach to game development. Taro humorously examined his current situation in comparison to the Stellar Blade director's. "So you make games as an artist without thinking about business too much and still have your own company with 300 employees, while I think about business all the time and don’t even have my own company yet? That’s strange…" he remarked, jokingly adding, "I guess it’s because I’ve been a slave to Square Enix for so many years. Or I guess I should say I was enslaved by Yosuke Saito, NieR’s producer. It’s all his fault! Haha"

Adding to his perspective, Yoko Taro explained how his approach to balancing artistic vision and business priorities evolves throughout the game development process. True to his moniker as an "auteur" in the video game industry, he explained that initially, he considers the business aspects. However, as development progresses, his focus shifts more towards his artistic vision.

"For me, it depends on the phase of development. I start with thinking about the business side, but by the end not much anymore. So at first I listen to what the publisher wants from me, but later I don’t."

Sees Himself as "Someone Who Provides Entertainment Within a Service Industry"

In a separate conversation with media outlet Point 'n Think, Yoko Taro admitted that he saw himself as "someone who provides entertainment within a service industry," rather than an artist as most would regard him as. He shared insights into his upbringing, mentioning that his family background revolved around education and managing restaurants, rather than focusing on artistic pursuits

"To tell you the truth, I studied science in high school, but my grades plummeted in my teens, so I failed. Fortunately, I was a geek with a passion for video games and anime series, as well as being quite good with my hands. So I turned to art quite instinctively," he stated in the interview. "However, it was by watching my parents that I learned the all-important lesson of 'customer service.' To this day, I have to admit that I don’t define myself as an artist, but more as someone who provides entertainment within a service industry."

Stellar Blade X NieR: Automata: Yoko Taro and Hyung-Tae Kim on How Their Blockbusters Inspire One Another
Interview with Yoko Taro, director of NieR: Automata

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