Talking With Tak Fujii About Bringing Japanese Games Overseas Part 1

By Spencer . November 3, 2011 . 6:48pm

Behind the scenes Tak Fujii is the producers at Konami that handles games licensing deals from both sides of the table. He took care of N3: Ninety-Nine Nights II and the Japanese version of Darksiders, which Konami published in Japan. Fujii’s recent projects include the Western release of No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise and Frogger 3D. As a producer deeply involved with localization, Fujii and I had a casual conversation about bringing Japanese games overseas.

 

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This is going back a bit, but since it made you famous on the Internet, how did you arrange to publish N3: Ninety-Nine Nights II from Microsoft since it’s their IP?

 

Tak Fujii, Producer: That’s a secret deal between us and Microsoft. [Laughs.] Mmm… I cannot say too much about it. Well, Q Entertainment and Feelplus, let’s say they like us.

 

I know AQ Interactive must like you since brought No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise overseas.

 

It’s the same thing. Marvelous Entertainment is the rights holder and they are looking for publishers, right? I don’t know what the deal is with Ubi[soft] and Marvelous. Maybe they didn’t have any interest in the PS3 version of No More Heroes for North America. Marvelous was looking for a publisher in North America and Europe. They published it by themselves in the Japanese market.

 

Konami has an interesting relationship with AQI since you’re handling New Little King’s Story too.

 

Oh, that’s not my title, man! Currently, I don’t have any titles with Marvelous yet. In the future? Maybe, yes. [Laughs.]

 

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While I was walking around Konami’s Tokyo Game Show booth, only a handful of the games developed from the Japan side have been confirmed for the US like Pro Evolution Soccer, NeverDead, and Metal Gear. How do you feel about that since you handle East to West conversions?

 

It’s hard. As you know, the industry has changed. It’s a totally different business here compared to five years ago. This is my personal guess, but many Western gamers don’t play Japanese games anymore or maybe they never played Japanese games. They have no interest in Japanese games.

 

This is a story from Gamescom, when I discussed with Jay [Public Relations Manager at Konami America]. OK, there is a big FPS franchise in the West, the biggest one from somewhere. It has massive numbers. Maybe half or more than half of those players may have bought hardware just to play that game and no other games. They only have one game and they keep purchasing downloadable maps, additional content, DLC, DLC, DLC. And then a new one comes out and they just buy it. They never play sports games, action games, and have no interest in Japanese games.

 

Before Microsoft came into the console business, the center of development was Nintendo or Sony. It was very handy for us to discuss hardware and technology with them because everything was in Japanese. Now, reports have to go through the American division and are translated into Japanese for the technical division and then if anything comes back we have to translate that into English for support. It’s hard. Once America started getting into the console business, there is only English support and they are in the Western market. It was handy for them and so the roles changed.

 

Compared to other publishers you don’t have as much moe-moe in your line up. Well, aside from LovePlus, which make your titles more approachable to a broad market.

 

[Laughs.] Actually, there are tons of people that want to bring Tokimeki Memorial to the States.

 

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You also have franchises that are quite popular in the West like Metal Gear Solid, Contra, and Dance Dance Revolution. Since Konami has the knowhow to make games that appeal to both markets, how can you utilize that knowledge to make a game like Frontier Gate a worldwide game right out of the door?

 

That’s not my project, but I know what you’re talking about. The producer and I had a meeting last weekend where he talked about how the game has good feedback from the States. We may think about localizing that game, but it’s business.

 

We don’t want to have a localization like, "My name is blah blah blah. We have battle! Hey, you bastard!" [Laughs.] We don’t want to do that anymore. It has to be well translated and it’s got to feel native in the West. That’s the quality we’re looking for. It may happen.

 

How about this for business? If the scale isn’t right, because being a larger company Konami needs to sell more units for a game to be viable, would you consider to license your games to a smaller Western publisher?

 

If there’s a deal, yes, but I haven’t seen anything like that yet. We don’t need to sneak into the Western market since we have distribution deals already.

 

Bandai’s been doing exactly that for some of the titles developed by their Banpresto label and Prope.

 

It may be an advantage for that company and a disadvantage for our company or maybe not. We have our own strategy to grow in the Western market on our own. If we make a big mistake in the next couple years, maybe we’ll think about it.

 

Check back for part two tomorrow where Fujii talks about Hudson’s IP and Konami’s plans for Western expansion.


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