Level-5 president and CEO Akihiro Hino had plenty to share about the Yo-kai Watch series, an update on their new cross-media project Snack World, new focus on smartphones, and more in a recent interview with Nikkei Trendy.
Here are some of the highlights from the interview:
- The Yo-kai Watch series made its move to North America in October 2015. While the anime has received favorable television ratings, the game itself has been stuck at around the 400,000 copies mark for sales in North America, and Hino says that looking at it from a Yo-kai Watch perspective, that’s not nearly enough.
- It takes time for things to start catching on in North America. At the moment, Level-5 is putting together a plan of having things bloom like a flower in half a year or a year from now. While not much is shared about these plans [for Yo-kai Watch], Hino says the idea is to have North America get content that Japan has yet to see, or some content before Japan, or at the least at the same time Japan gets it.
- Yo-kai Watch’s third film will feature both live action and anime parts. They had originally wanted to go with a full-CG film, but it would take two years to produce and same for a full live-action film. Their goal is to release a new film each year, and thought of ways to make that happen, including its whole story.
- Snack World will get an abundance of information at Level-5 Vision 2016. The production of the anime has been taking a while, so the game and anime might end up releasing next year. They’ve made considerable progress in its script.
- Yo-kai Watch 3 takes place in foreign lands and will see a renovated map. Hino feels that it’s a discourtesy to use the same map for a new RPG. While the third installment contains some Yo-kai data from the previous game, the company CEO didn’t want to make it using just that alone. The ROM size is said to be about double that of Yo-kai Watch 2.
- After releasing their smartphone app Yo-kai Watch PuniPuni, Hino and the company has been astounded by its success. Level-5 will focus more on smartphone compatibility, and Hino even goes on to mention that he hopes to see all future titles from the company be compatible with smartphone, meaning he wants all future console titles have a way to be played via smartphone. Hino expects to have some kind of rule on how these console games will be carried onto smartphone, but he has realized that kids today are starting to play games on smartphone and felt a change in generation when looking back not so long ago when all the boys in first grade would only talk about the Nintendo 3DS. He feels that smartphone presence in the industry will only continue to grow.
- On the subject of VR, Hino says that he personally likes it and they’re trying all kinds of things with it at Level-5; however, he doesn’t think it’ll be a good means of profit early on, and that it might be a tough business to enter. When talking about whether VR will change the way games are played, Hino says that there might be trouble playing VR games for long periods of time and that he feels that its movements are a bit stiff. While he can’t say what the future holds for VR gaming with technological advancements, for now he’ll say that “it has potential.”
- After the big bang that is Yo-kai Watch 3 in 2016, Hino believes that the rest of the year will see a big pause for the Yo-kai Watch series. He feels that 2017 and beyond will see the start of many new things.
- Level-5 is opening a Tokyo Studio where they will work on voice recording and video distribution. The voice recording studio will be around the level of a film production company’s, and Hino wants to be able to do all the voice-recording in-house with the new studio. The advantage of that is being able to have more freedom in booking voice talents with an in-house voice recording studio. That also means having in-house engineers so they can make changes whenever needed or pack in some last minute work, overall seeing a great improvement in quality. As for the video distribution studio, Level-5 will be able to take advantage of it by having talks about their work and such in programs right after an episode of the anime airs. Hino wants to have a program that can help the company communicate better with the fans in mind, while sharing the latest on their work.