My interview with Makoto Iwai, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Namco Bandai Games America, started with their collaborative efforts in Tekken 6 and Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny. Both titles are key franchises, which also have added elements designed to make them more appealing in the West. Like many Japanese publishers, Namco Bandai is expanding westward. Iwai discuses the topic with Siliconera and answers a question about Retro Game Challenge 2.
Why do you feel it’s important to incorporate US brands like Tapout in Tekken?
Makoto Iwai, Chief Operating Officer: We are always looking for opportunities to work with any other brands, but this is a natural fit for us. Tekken, the nature of the game, and Tapout is so attached to MMA, which is rising. It’s a natural acquaintance and we’re happy about the collaboration.
Do you ever think we’ll see one of the Tapout spokespeople as a guest character?
Not at this moment, [laughs] unfortunately. This time it’s only for the Tapout special collaboration t-shirts.
Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny has Kratos from God of War get in the game. How did that collaboration come about?
Kratos is another natural fit for the Soulcalibur franchise. That franchise is well known for fighting with weapons and Kratos is a well known character who uses weapons to beat up guys.
We started with casual conversations and both teams loved it so it happened.
We haven’t seen much about Tekken 6 for PSP. What can you tell us about the PSP version?
PSP version… Basically, you can’t bring the same quality, as much as you would like to. But, we tried to provide the same joy for the people have a PSP.
Past press releases mentioned unique content. Can you elaborate on this?
Arne Cual-Pedroso, Public Relations Manager: More stages, that’s for sure. Pretty much everything in the console version will be in the PSP.
Are you going to sell downloadable content too?
MI: For PSP? Yes.
So kind of like how [email protected] has its own store?
Not that robust, but yes to meet everyone’s needs we’re working on it.
Oh that’s interesting Tekken 6 is one of the few PSP games doing that right now.
Actually, for the PSP downloads we are not sure. The main focus now is the high end versions. 360 and PS3 definitely have download contents.
A lot of my readers are Tales fans and we’ve been following Tales of Vesperia and Tales of Vs.
But, we haven’t seen any Tales announcements. What’s going on with Tales?
Well, Tales is being produced in Japan, but we have to be very selective. We’re carefully choosing which titles we deliver here to fans. I wish I could bring everything.
Nowadays, you might admit, that Japanese role playing games are not really expanding, to be honest. It’s called the JRPG nowadays. It used to be mainstream, but it’s not as much as it used to be. Of course we like to entertain those fans waiting for the franchise, but at the same time we have to think what is the best for this market.
I talked with the President of Xseed about the sequel to Retro Game Challenge and it sounds like they’re not going to bring it over. It seems like there’s such a huge Game Center CX fanbase now and it is a Namco Bandai developed title. Have you thought about releasing Game Center CX 2?
We’re thinking about it, yeah, but we can’t confirm anything.
Xseed has been publishing a lot of Namco Bandai titles. Do you feel like you have a good relationship with them?
Yes. There are several reasons behind that. We couldn’t release those franchises and it’s a natural fit for them.
I see that Namco Bandai Games America is doing more with their internal studios with titles like Afro Samurai and Splatterhouse. Is that the direction you feel the company is moving into?
Yes and no. We like to strengthen US development, but at the same time we are working more and more with the Japan team so we can make more games for the US and European market.
Looking at the world market, what’s happening in Japan, that market is becoming a different creature. Looking at what other Japanese publishers are doing, Sega, Capcom, everybody is trying to do more business in the US and Europe. The methodology is different, but what we’re doing and what we believe in, the right way for us is to strengthen US development at the same time work more closely with the team in Japan.
I see so that way you have the games in Japan designed for a worldwide audience instead of being made specifically for Japan.
Speaking of Japan, you just got the Dragonball license back. How do you feel about that?
Finally, my child came home. [Laughs] I never had to experience letting my kids go, but it’s just like that. The missing piece of your heart just came back, that kind of thing. We’re happy. We’re excited.
Since you have the Dragonball and Naruto licenses do you think there will ever be a crossover game?
Good question. Good question. Well, why not?
In Japan we have released that kind of crossover game, Jump Superstars. Nothing is impossible, but we have to be very careful about choosing what genre and what format. We don’t want to mess up those important licenses.