Nintendo 3DSNintendo DS

Indies Zero: The Draw Of Portable Games


In case you missed part 1 of our interview with Indies Zero, you can catch up on it here.


Picking up where we last left off, we continue our talk with Retro Game Challenge and Electroplankton developer, Indies Zero, about their thoughts on the games industry and what the future holds in store for them.


Final Fantasy Art Museum trading cardsFinal Fantasy Art Museum trading cards   

I notice you have products like a Legend of Mana trading card game and Final Fantasy trading cards listed on your site. What other kind of work does Indies Zero do, aside from games?


Good job finding them! As we introduced on the site, we’ve been involved in creating trading cards and also toys called “Batoen,” which is played by rolling a pencil sort of like you would dice. [Batoen => Battle Enpitsu => Battle Pencils] These few years, we have placed creating for the Nintendo DS as top priority, but that isn’t the only thing we work on. If it’s something that can expand the world of fun, we will design anything, even if it’s not games. We have a whole bunch of people who love things that are both interesting and fun, so we actively take on designs that will fulfil their competitive spirits yet tell the players this as well.


Are these products taken care of by a specific team?


No. Like with game development, we choose members from all of the staff, finding just the right person for the job. We don’t have any team that specifically specializes in a certain area. Everyone creates games; everyone creates toys. That’s how we’re set up. For creating card games, we look into all designs based off of having played all the games in the world regardless of likes and dislikes.


Do you envision yourself expanding into other, non-game-related works in the future?


At this point in time, we have no such plans. I believe rather than going for a rapid growth venture, we should slowly, gradually widen our breadth. I believe we should first concentrate on the game creation we all love.


Love & Berry on the Nintendo DS

A lot of companies that develop for portable systems like the PSP and DS are doing well. For example, other than Indies Zero, we have h.a.n.d., Jupiter, Lancarse, and Matrix. Do you think the safest route business-wise is to concentrate on portable games?


From the start, our company specializes in intertwining the advantages of portable gaming systems as a key idea in to the gameplay. Rather than the “Battle of the Graphics” that distinguishes games on the console systems, we want to master creation of games on a portable system that is both portable and focuses on communication. Thanks to that, we’ve accumulated lots of knowledge about the process and innovation for the portable systems.


As a result, with the advent of DS, the portable game systems have gotten extremely popular, and it is much easier to focus on the development of ideas and use trial-and-error compared to if we created for the high-end machines such as the PS3 and Xbox360; we can take on new challenges with little risk, and we can convey our ideas to the world simply. I hope you understand that we didn’t choose this from the perspective as a safe business option.


Also, from a business perspective, developing games for portable systems is not a safe option. The simply-designed plans and products are passed over, and there are many competitors and rivals in developing. There are a large number of games being released, so often you’ll find that if you don’t have a unique game design, you’ll get buried and people won’t even realize the game has been released. From the angle of cost as well, the publishers don’t want development for portable games to be expensive, so you have a tighter development cost and deadline. If you don’t create a unique product within these boundaries, the company loses credibility.


In other words, we develop for the portable game systems because we can bring the ideas we come up with to life there, and not because we’re thinking of whether it is safe or not.


The staff at this company has mainly concentrated on developing for portable games this whole time. We’ve come to be how we are now by presenting to the world new ideas, new experiences, and new discoveries that are made possible because the staff work with and frustrate over portable systems. On top of that, we are especially good at bringing out ideas that can be brought to life on the portable game systems; it is a factor that I believe surpasses those of other companies. Developing for portable games creates an environment for us that allows us to fully use our abilities, which is why we continue to develop for portable game systems.


Indies Zero is aiming to be a company that will bring unique ideas to life on portable systems in the future as well, and we will continue to make game creation our main objective!


Double Pen Sports for the 3DS

Do you feel like the line between portable game development and console development is getting  thinner as portable systems increase in power? How do you see this affecting the Japanese games market in the  coming years?


This may go into talk about Japanese business, but if I had to say anything, I believe the portable game world may be greatly expanding. Nintendo has announced the 3DS, and there are rumours that Sony will be releasing the PSP2. I believe that the current market, where people can choose either to bring their portable games around with them or sit still with a console game based off their lifestyle, is a good environment.


For us in development, we welcome the range of graphics will increase due to the evening out of the rendering power; but portable game systems are those that you can bring around and play wherever you go, so I believe that game creation won’t change if we have designs and ideas that have that concept as a priority. Portable games, up until now, have had a lot of unseen work put into it because of the limit on space and weak graphics, but now we can spare that effort, manpower, and time and put it towards the better graphics and presentation.


What’s next for Indies Zero? The company has been expanding steadily. What’s the primarily goal over the next three years?


Actually, we have projects other than Double Pen Sports progressing at the moment, but I can’t talk about them here. However, I can promise that the next one will definitely be a title that will make players happy. Please look forward to it!


As for the goal three years from now, our goal for the company will never change. That is, “to continue setting a new standard for the world.” We are always keeping our antennae out every day for information in the world and for what is currently “in,” so that we can convey to the world interesting ideas, new experiences, and new emotions.


In the world of business where the flow is harsh, it is always a big problem whether it is changing or not. I believe that you always have to strive to be flexible, so that you will always change and won’t coagulate, yet make sure that the passion within you will never change. After all, if the passion, the most important part, changes, then you’ll lose your direction.


We always take ideas that will make the players happy as top priority, and we will continue to create games while thinking of styles that will best make these ideas shine in terms of genre, style, graphics, sound, etc.! I hope you continue to pay attention to Indies Zero in the future as well!

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.