While you may not recognize GungHo Online Entertainment as a company, you probably have played one of their games. GungHo owns Ragnarok Online developer Gravity Games, made Mimana Iyar Chronicle, and Lunar: Silver Star Harmony. Just a year ago, GungHo acquired Way of the Samurai 4 and Akiba’s Trip developer Acquire. GungHo’s next big step is a Westward expansion with their newly opened international branch, GungHo Online Entertainment America.
Siliconera spoke to Kazuki Morishita, CEO and President, about the company’s plans, developing games for Vita, and what’s going on with Ragnarok.
GungHo Online Entertainment owns a bunch of studios like Gravity and Game Arts. Where does Game Arts fit into your strategy?
Kazuki Morishita, President: Game Arts used to self publish games and create titles like the Grandia and Lunar series. Lately, Game Arts has been outsourcing the programming part. In the past, they’ve worked with Japanese game companies like Nintendo, Square Enix, and Bandai Namco Games. Since then they have been self publishing their own games again. Game Arts released Ragnarok Odyssey as well as Dokuro and Picotto Knights.
Game Arts is part of the group and is pretty much like a development team. It’s not independent, it is part of GungHo. Right now, they are trying to a game concept based off their skills for GungHo.
The Siliconera readers are fans of Lunar and I think they would like to know if there are any future plans for the series.
We are aware there is a big fanbase. People are e-mailing us and calling in asking for information about Lunar directly. If we can create something new we would like it to be beyond the fan expectations. Requests from fans builds pressure and gets the developers to move.
GungHo Online Entertainment also acquired Class of Heroes developer Acquire. Where does Acquire fit in? Compared to Game Arts and GungHo’s titles, Acquire has this… kind of wackiness to them.
At this point, Acquire is doing their own thing and GungHo is doing their own thing. I visit their office twice a week and exchange ideas and goals to improve the overall quality of the studio.
Acquire isn’t intentionally directed to make those wacky games. It just happened to be that way, but that’s their strong point right? We want to continue to have them do that and while they are doing that they are inspiring the other teams too.
And GungHo Online Entertainment America just opened too. What are your plans for the international branch?
GungHo Online Entertainment America will publish console games and mobile titles. They will also provide marketing support for all of GungHo’s games. Eventually, I hope they can develop games on their side too.
What kind of games are you thinking about developing for the American market?
When it comes time for them develop games that happens I’ll move to the U.S.! [Laughs.]
As a company, GungHo has been one of the strongest supporters of PlayStation Vita.
When we start developing a game we aren’t too concerned about the platform. Then we seek out the best platform we have for whatever concept we have. We are very interested in the Vita’s online and network features, which is why we made more games for Vita.
Are you considering to make games for other platforms maybe 3DS, as well?
We would like to focus making games for smartphones as well as portable devices. Right now, the current development status there are a lot more games for the mobile platform.
I can’t tell you the title just yet, but we are developing a title for the 3DS.
Which smartphone platform are you focusing on? iOS? Android? Perhaps, Windows Mobile?
I don’t have a preference for either iOS or Android. In terms of what’s easier for us to develop for it’s iOS because Android has a lot of devices and the debug process takes a lot of time. We create native apps, so whatever is most suited for the game is what we develop on.
GungHo Online Entertainment sells packaged products like Ragnarok Odyssey, has games tied to online subscriptions and have worked with the freemium model as seen in Puzzle & Dragons. Which are you going to focus on moving forward?
Moving forward, we are going to pursue the freemium model more aggressively. With that said I’m not criticizing the packaged business model. If there is a hybrid between a monetization system and package model that would be optimal. For mobile games, the standard is freemium. Even with our Vita titles we consider different models. Dokuro is a packaged game while Picotto Knights is a freemium title.
What do you think of the "kompu gacha" controversy?
The kompu gacha issue has mainly affected the social card games. I personally think having regulations on those things is the right thing to do. [Laughs.] GungHo doesn’t make social card games, so it doesn’t affect us.
When it comes to subscription games, how do you decide when it’s time to close a game world?
When we decide to discontinue a service it’s when we decide we can no longer provide a satisfactory experience for the users. From the time we announce the discontinuation to the termination of the service, we want to make sure every last user is happy and fully understand the service is ending. You might think we might be basing that on statistics or numbers, but that’s not the reason why we create games or end them.
Ragnarok as a series evolved from a massively multiplayer game to a strategy RPG to an action hunting game. What do you want to do next with the Ragnarok IP?
As you said, we’ve done many different styles of gameplay. We want to keep the quality of the IP high, so our thought is to focus on a certain type of gameplay and be selective on the platforms we develop for. We are focusing on Ragnarok Odyssey as a series, that kind of fast action gameplay.
So, we’re not going to see Ragnarok: The Side Scrolling Adventure or Rangarok: The Poring Shooter?
[Laughs.] I can’t say for certain I won’t make a shoot ’em or try another genre, but we want to be selective when it comes to making games with the Ragnarok IP.