Marvelous, the makers of Harvest Moon, No More Heroes, and Senran Kagura, are moving into a new direction. The company started off as a creator and publisher which worked with external developers. Now, with the development muscle from AQ Interactive and social games knowhow from LiveWare, Marvelous AQL will have an expanded foothold in the Japanese market.
In this interview we spoke with Toshinori Aoki, Executive Managing Director of Digital Contents, and Daniel Kurtz, Business Development Coordinator, about the merger, their thoughts on new hardware, and publishing partners for North America.
Toshinori Aoki, Executive Managing Director of Digital Contents: We’re very thankful for Wada-san’s work on Harvest Moon. Starting from the very first Nintendo DS game, Wada-san was not the director. At the time and presently, the series is handled by [Yoshifumi] Hashimoto-san. Because we have been running the series successfully on the DS and Wii, we think that will continue in the future.
Have you thought about making HD Harvest Moon to other consoles, kind of like how Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny is a PS3 game?
TA: The game has a large fanbase of both male and female gamers. I’m not sure if one is larger than the other, but we know it is a title female gamers cherish. And we really appreciate that. In the future we will release Harvest Moon on platforms we believe it will sell well, but right now we think female gamers don’t favor a HD version as much as they do with having fun with the series.
Maybe this is a series that is mobile focused? Right now we’re making The Tale of Two Towns for 3DS with Natsume. It’s not that we’re against bringing Harvest Moon to Wii U, PS3, or Xbox 360. It’s just that this is a series where we are thankful for fans and we don’t want to force them to buy a new system.
We want to bring it to where the fans are. Up until now, we felt the fans were on the DS and we think that a lot of those fans have gotten a 3DS. So, we want to bring it on those platforms first before we start planning bringing the series to another console. It’s not that we’re not thinking about it, but right now we are focused on working on The Tale of Two Towns for the 3DS.
While Marvelous has a number of long running series, your company is also developing new IPs. You may not be able to announce any new titles, but what genres are you considering?
TA: There’s nothing in particular we’re following like we have to make a TPS, RTS or RPGs. We want to work with our strengths, which is making unique games with a story and a world that players feel like they are a part of. Luminous Arc, Harvest Moon, and No More Heroes are like that. We want to continue bringing games like that to fans around the world.
From here on out, we really want to be focusing more on the global market. You may notice how our games may have a little less text you have to read, but that doesn’t mean want to reduce the depth of the world. That is something we consider to be at the heart of a Marvelous title.
Moving forward, Marvelous which used to rely on external developers, will have a huge internal development team from the merger with AQ Interactive.
Daniel Kurtz, Business Development Coordinator: For the AQL merger, for those that don’t know, it’s with AQI (AQ Interactive) as well as LiveWare. Liveware focuses mainly on online content and online social games. Whereas AQI has been fantastic at publishing games as well as development. Marvelous is going to become a company hundreds of people strong. We’re going to share a lot of power and we’re going to focus on bringing the core strengths of all three parties together in order to create new experiences that we couldn’t before even though we were working closely together up until this point.
Marvelous won’t just work as a publisher. Marvelous will work as a producer and in project management very closely with the AQI developers. And vice-versa, with the AQI developers, they will take on more of a production role to develop new games.
How does that affect our relationship with third party developers? It does and doesn’t. Are we going to have a lot of titles that are developed in house? Certainly, but that doesn’t it mean that we’re going to cut ties with Grasshopper Manufacture, Vanillaware, Imageepoch or any of the other companies we worked with strongly up until this point. They are very important partners to us and we plan to keep working with them in the future.
How does Marvelous pick publishing partners in North America? You started working with Natsume and Xseed, but then began licensing title to Ignition and now Konami. Since Xseed is owned by AQI, will Xseed handle Marvelous’ games in America again?
DK: This is tough to answer because it’s not that we do or do not want to do something. Recently there have been some titles we have not released with Xseed, but we still very much value Xseed as a partner and as friends. The reason why we can’t answer this question is just because we value this relationship so much we need time to discuss with Xseed and do something that makes everyone happy.
Are you interested in PlayStation Vita?
DK: Yes, for new IPs and old IPs. Wii U, we’re definitely excited about that too. Whenever a new platform comes along we’re excited about it.
Marvelous was a big support of Wii and maybe that was difficult for your company since your titles were new IPs and the best selling games for that platform tend to be those tied to existing IP.
DK: Did some titles sell as much as we wanted them to? Maybe not. But any time we look back on a title we don’t wring our hands and worry about the platform and sort of point fingers or anything like that. We’re proud of what we brought out on the Wii. Those are titles we very much value going forward. Whatever platform they were going to be on, they were going to be on. It’s not going to be affected by their past history. We’re proud of what we brought out and are looking forward to developing for a new platform.
Are you going to be supporting Wii U in the same magnitude as you supported Wii?
Tomio Kanazawa, Producer: For Wii U, we think it will be appreciated by casual and family gamers. We are looking forward to hearing how much it will target core gamers, as well. While we are planning titles for Wii U, in terms of how much we’re going to commit to it, we’re still thinking about that.
Check back tomorrow for part two where we discuss the future of Marvelous’ key franchises like Luminous Arc, Grand Knights History, and Deadly Premonition.