NIS America has a big year ahead with a mix of new kinds of games such as Bleach: Soul Resurrección and Cave Story 3D plus fan favorites like Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland and Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten. Disgaea 4 being a hit in Japan with retail reorders helped Nippon Ichi grow as a company. Our focus in this interview with Haru Akeanga, President of NIS America, is how NIS America can further expand in North America. As usual, I brought along reader questions to our talk.
Judging by the reader questions and requests on Siliconera, people are asking for remakes, perhaps remastered versions of NIS games.
Haru Akenaga, President: Our games use dot graphics and are impossible to remake in HD. We would need to redraw the graphics again. In that case, it is not easy work to do HD remakes. We’re going to think about other ways to reproduce our titles.
Perhaps, you can work on this idea for [PlayStation] Vita?
Hmm… good point. Actually, we already announced there are some titles in development for Vita. This news was released in Japan.
While it has been announced NIS America would bring Imageepoch titles overseas, we haven’t seen any games yet. I was wondering if you could clarify what’s going on between the two companies.
They are only making PSP titles [right now] and it is tough to sell PSP titles in the U.S. market. Their titles are really good so we want to push titles and sell more of them, but in that case we have to wait until they develop games for other formats.
Is there no hope for Black Rock Shooter? A lot of people, my readers included, want it.
I know, I love it! I want to do it.
NIS America has a very strong relationship with Gust. We heard from some of the fans that the delay between Japanese and North American releases are too long. Do you think it’s possible to release titles, like the core Atelier games, a little bit faster?
Actually, I have a question for you? We’re going to release the next game in the Atelier series, Totori, in the fall. If we released the next one in March, don’t you think it would be too soon?
Wow… now I’m on the spot! Now I know how it feels to do these interviews!
This is one of our problems. We released the first title in September, so that’s why the next one should be expected around the same time for users. Maybe one title would be released a year.
Our second problem is Gust has less than fifteen employees. All of their employees are working on another title in the series for Japan. In that case, they always release their new titles in June in Japan. March, April, and May is crunch time and that’s why we can’t work on localization. That’s a problem because the Atelier series has such a large amount of text. We need to take at least three or four months to translate all of it. Once we get a text file from them after they make a master disc, it takes about four months to get the translation done. At that time Gust is getting busier and busier on the new title, which is why they stop doing localization or work other than the next new title. We have a choice to ask another company to localize it, but basically they don’t want to give users a version they didn’t fully develop.
If you really think we should release the Atelier series earlier, we will think about it.
I’ll ask my readers about it, since their united voice is more useful than my opinion alone. [So, what do you think, readers?]
So about Disgaea 4 for Xbox 360… I know NIS America has been an approved Xbox 360 developer for so long one of these days you’re going to bring an Xbox 360 game to the market. And Disgaea 4, being one of the bigger NIS titles…
[Laughs.] We always ask the developers [at Nippon Ichi] to develop an Xbox 360 version. Especially with Disgaea 4, you know about the 50,000 minimum guarantee Microsoft has?
Yes, I’m aware of that.
Out of all our core titles, maybe Disgaea 4 is the only title that can reach more that 50,000 units for Xbox 360. That’s why Disgaea 4 is a big chance for us to jump into Xbox 360. I asked them to make an Xbox 360 version all the time last year.
So, it’s not going to happen?
The headquarters need more staff. They have only 80 employees and there is no Xbox 360 market in Japan. The priority is always there. NIS America will continue to ask them to develop for Xbox 360, but they have to make a decision to do so. It’s a complicated market. Actually, they still want to make PSP titles.
For the local market in Japan, the PSP is quite popular.
If they have time to develop for Xbox 360, they would rather use the time to develop titles for PSP. That’s the situation.
In America, it’s difficult to be a PSP publisher and Nippon Ichi has been a very strong supporter on the system. Have you considered releasing PSP games for PS3 untouched, even with the same dot-graphics?
Sony would not approve that.
What if you put two games on one Blu-ray? You could have ClaDun: This is an RPG with ClaDun 2 or Z.H.P. with another title. Or put all three on the same disc and have a triple pack?
We thought about bringing PSP titles for PS3 for the US market, but it is tough to do. Last year, we released Z.H.P.[: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman] for PSP. Before that we tried to port PSP [games] to PS3. We wanted to release Z.H.P. on PS3 in the United States. Because Sony has really high standards for quality assurance we tried to improve the graphics to match a PS3 standard from the PSP title. We tried to do so and tried to convince Sony, but unfortunately our graphics were not up to par.
If it was straight localization we could have released the title in summer of last year, but because we tried that’s why both titles were held until winter last year. We tried hard.