Nippon Ichi Software, known for bringing us Disgaea, Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman and the upcoming title The Witch and The Hundred Knights wouldn’t be the same had their CEO followed his childhood dreams.
Current NIS CEO, Sohei Niikawa, was like any other child and a big fan of Indiana Jones. Inspired by his childhood hero, he took it to another level as he grew older and majored in Archaeology. He dreamed of traveling around the world to explore ruins and dungeons while running from giant boulders. How did he go from future Japanese Indiana Jones to present day father figure and CEO of NIS? He talks all about it in a Nippon Ichi Software 20th anniversary Dengeki interview.
Dengeki: Today, we’ll be talking about how you got yourself into the gaming industry. Have you always had an interest in the gaming industry since you were a child?
Niikawa: Actually no, I’ve always dreamed of being Indiana Jones.
Huh? So you wanted to be an adventurer?
That’s correct. I’ve always wanted to explore the world and even majored in archeology. After graduation, I had plans of becoming a freelance archeologist to explore ruins from around the world. Just to be clear, I’m not joking, I was actually really serious about it (laughs).
So what made you decide to get yourself into the gaming industry?
One day, after playing ‘Final Fantasy V on the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo) and I thought to myself, "That was freaking fun"! The job changing, ability combinations and customizations, they were all really interesting. I had so many thoughts running through my head such as, "What kind of person would be able to come up with this?" and "If it were up to me, I’d make a system like this!"
I thought of it as an epiphany that was telling me what to do at the time. The following day I started looking for a place in the gaming industry. This was during my third year in college.
I’ve always loved video games since early age, and played them even before the release of the Famicom (NES). I was really into the Space Invader types and Janputer1 games when they were popular. I often stayed up late at night playing video games during my college years. It wasn’t until I played Final Fantasy V that I thought about getting into the gaming industry.
1Janputer is a mahjong arcade game developed by Space Invaders maker Taito.
It must’ve had a huge impact on you.
I just couldn’t escape the thought of it at the time. I still remember the speechless look on my professor’s face. I mean just a few days prior, I still wanted to be an archaeologist and out of nowhere, the gaming industry. (laughs)
Do you have any memories of what it was like looking for a job in the gaming industry?
At the time, there was a rather famous book called "Finding Employment in the Gaming Industry," So, I bought that and applied to at least 50 companies out there. Speaking of which, I actually applied for Nippon Ichi Software upon finding out about it after seeing an ad on "The Oni taiji!!! Mezase! Nidaime Momotaro".
Nippon Ichi Software is located in Gifu Prefecture, were you living around the area at the time?
No, during my college years I lived in Kanagawa Prefecture but I wasn’t about to pick a company based on its location. Honestly, as long as it had anything to do with game development, I would’ve been okay with any company.
That being said, although I was interviewed by several major gaming companies, there were many cases where the bigger the company was, the harder it was to be accepted. At the time it was expected to have previous experiences of either having several years of working at a game center and at least a year in sales. So I pretty much would’ve accepted a job offer from any company that would’ve given me the chance to do what I wanted.
After all that, how did you end up in Nippon Ichi Software?
After being accepted, I went to go check it out. It was a really small company at the time. There were 3 or 4 other people that were also accepted and after talking about how we could probably do what we’ve all been wanting to do at a company like this, I made up my mind and decided to join.
Although I found out afterwards, Nippon Ichi Software had only posted an ad just once and I had happened to catch it that one time. I sent an application and was accepted shortly after. Till this day, I am still amazed at such coincidence and the fate of it all. It makes me wonder about all the possibilities out there. I’m still very grateful to the people that made it possible for me.