For Marvelous Entertainment, the last year has been quite the ride. What started with executive salary cuts arising from falling profits eventually culminated in the company selling off its stake in localization publisher, Rising Star Games, and a decision to cease development of new videogame properties. 2010 started on the wrong foot for MMV.
Cut to 8 months later in August. Following the release of multiple mobile phone titles and a strategy that involved scaling back development, MMV saw their first profits in months, ready to begin the recovery process.
With the company changing gears once again to re-open the lines of development with a focus on their recognized I.P., Siliconera spoke to MMV’s group manager, Tomio Kanazawa, to get a feel for what MMV’s approach to development would be in the coming years. Kanazawa also holds the post of Director of Marvelous Entertainment USA, Inc.
Marvelous have published a lot of interesting games that may not have sold as well as you would have liked them to. Looking back, what could you have done differently to make games like Sakura Note or Muramasa: The Demon Blade perform better in the Japanese market?
Group Manager of Marvelous Entertainment, Tomio Kanazawa: In regards to Muramasa and Little King’s Story, it’s hard to deny that sales have been difficult for us not just in North America and Europe, but as you mentioned, also in Japan. This is probably due in part to the changing target market for the Wii; focusing away from who we may consider to be “traditional” game fans.
With that said, we’ve still been very fortunate to receive praise not just from the worldwide gaming press, but also directly from our players. Even now, we receive requests from players of games like Muramasa and Little King’s Story to continue their stories, and we’re currently working to meet their needs. With this in mind, we feel that the most important element required for building a fanbase is trust, and in order to build trust, we need to continue to put out high-quality titles.
You’ve been getting into publishing in the mobile space and even on iPad, first with Little King’s Story, and then Followars. Is this a short-term experiment or are you positioning it as a significant part of your strategy in the years ahead?
As long as we continue to strive to provide new experiences for our players, we feel we shouldn’t tie ourselves down to any one specific hardware platform or console. Moreover, just like with the iPad and Followars, we’re always looking to open and explore new markets and possibilities. This is a strategy that we’ll continue to pursue.
[Producer] Hashimoto-san said at an investor meeting that MMV have high hopes for the 3DS in general, and we’ve already seen a listing for a 3DS Harvest Moon game. What do you think the device enables you to do that previous systems couldn’t?
Often-used phrases like “technical progress” and “next-gen” can’t begin to describe just how revolutionary this system is. The 3DS brings with it a new sense of joy, and because of this, we are extremely interested in the platform. As I answer this, we’re working on multiple projects, each taking advantage of the new opportunities the 3DS will provide.
[Note: MMV recently announced a second game, Animal Resort, for the Nintendo 3DS as well.]
[MMV President] Nakayama-san stated a couple months ago that he was optimistic about the 3DS’ online functionality specifically. How do you think this could potentially benefit a series like Harvest Moon? Are you thinking of adding a stronger multiplayer component or are there other plans?
As online play in games has continued to progress and expand, we’ve been exploring new and different ways to take advantage of it to bring unique experiences and opportunities to the Harvest Moon series.
As you may know, we recently announced a new Harvest Moon for the 3DS, and to this we’ve added new game-changing features that we think you’ll enjoy. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about them just yet, so please wait just a little bit longer!
A game like Muramasa could probably benefit from the 3D effect with all those background layers. It would also give you a chance to market the game to a new audience. What do you think?
That’s a pretty good idea! That is one of the many things we think our fans want, and we want to provide to them. We at Marvelous Entertainment want to continue to meet and exceed the expectations from our fans as we continue to bring them new experiences.
The No More Heroes ports on PS3 and 360 both exceeded expectations. What other MMV games could you see potentially benefiting from the same treatment?
When we create new titles, we don’t start with the strategy of revisiting them with future hardware ports. However, there are occasionally cases such as No More Heroes, where later on we revisit them to bring them to other hardware. Sometimes, by increasing the available platforms for these games, we can reach new, previously unavailable fans. These are exceptions to the rule, though, and they don’t change our fundamental strategy going forward.
Let’s talk about MMV’s future. What’s the plan for recovery over the next year or two? Could you talk about what your general strategy is going to be?
Including, but not limited to Harvest Moon and No More Heroes, we have a lot of great titles we have to offer to our fans all over the world. One part of our plan going forward is to continue to reinvent and refine these worlds to bring new, exciting experiences.
Right now, the game industry finds itself in a new world of change and diversification, brought on by new opportunities in mobile and personal computing. The entertainment world is quick to change, but we feel that we are quick to adapt and take advantage of the resulting creative opportunities afforded to us.
Much like with the iPad and Followars, we have recently stepped into social networking-based gaming. Change and adaptation are important, and our strategy will always include evolving and adapting, bringing new experiences to our fans.
What do you think the state of the Japanese and Western gaming markets is?
Like I mentioned before, we in the industry are in a period of rapid diversification and change. The Wii is succeeding as a family console while the PS3 and Xbox 360 are largely focusing on a different target fanbase. Meanwhile, the mobile world is being rocked by the presence of previously unheard-of competitors.
All that said, people will always love games, and the amount of gamers has been increasing at a very fast rate. Japan, North America, and Europe are developing new gamers in very similar ways, but one of the keys going forward is going to be tapping the comparatively latent fanbase throughout Asia.
Most importantly, we at Marvelous are always prepared for present and future change. The importance of being able to anticipate, enjoy, and meet this change head-on cannot be overstated, I feel.
Coming back to your current portfolio… How did Fate/Extra come about? Whose idea was it?
Fate/Extra is one of our favorites. We really love it. As a project, Fate/Extra was founded in the passion of our producer. It is a product of efforts to meet and exceed the hopes of our fans. We actually created Fate/Extra with Japanese fans in mind, but if it’s something that our fans worldwide wish to experience, then we hope we can bring it to them, too.
If there’s one game from your portfolio you’d like to have published overseas, that hasn’t been picked up yet, which would it be?
Our goal is to have something for fans of all types. So really, there’s not one specific title that we want to bring overseas; we really want to bring everything we can to the world.
Aside from Harvest Moon, out of all the original Marvelous IP, which would you like to revisit?
There’s a lot, really. There’s actually so much that I can’t really give a full answer. What games would you like us to revisit? What do your readers wish us to revisit?