Rockin’ Android has a different take on Japanese game localization. Instead of making publishing deals with studios, Rockin’ Android locked on to Japan’s indie or doujin scene. When we spoke with Enrique Galvez, President of Rockin’ Anrdoid, we asked how the company got started and his thoughts about the Tohou Project.
How long have you had the idea for Rockin’Android? Why is now the perfect time to start a doujin localization company?
Enrique Galvez, President: I’ve been formulating and fine-tuning the concept of Rockin’ Android for roughly five years, but I didn’t start writing the business plan until two years ago. I’m personally a fan of doujin soft and over the years I’ve noticed that the quality of the games were improving dramatically and with the proliferation of more creator-owned properties, it seemed that the timing was finally right to act upon it.
Another thing that pushed me was the success of the Wii. It seemed that people were enjoying simpler game mechanics simply because they were fun and not because of shiny 3D graphics.
How did you get started and how did you get in touch with the creators?
I’ve been in the anime industry for over a decade with my other retail business Banzai Anime. Having this retail store gave me regular access to Japan, which meant I would fly over 3-4 times a year for business. While doujin video games were not part of my anime retail business back then, they were my hobby, so I would head out to the Akihabara district to buy and research independently created games.
By the time I decide to contact the developers, I was well informed about their studios. I made certain I did all the proper research and then put in more research and prep work on top of that, before I e-mailed them and set up meetings with all of them.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge you’re facing?
The American market is obviously very different than the Japanese market and it poses it own set of obstacles, culturally and economically. Our games are produced independently so they don’t have large budgets or super flashy graphics. Our games are easy to pick and have deep play mechanics; the visuals are perfectly suited for the games and the intended goal of the developer.
Americans may look at a game like Suguri and think it’s for kids due to its colorful look, but if they look deeper, they’ll find an immensely satisfying and mature game-play. If we continue to market to the anime fan and hardcore gamer, our company can thrive, but the goal is to reach out and tap into a wider audience base and therein lies the challenge. We’re very grateful that the anime community has embraced us and that’s a great start.
There are a lot of doujin games out there. What kind of titles are worthy of the Rockin’ Android seal of approval?
First of all, the games must be fun and should easily translate into any language. They should have a polished look, be easy to pick up and play and have interesting stories and characters. There are over 300 doujin games out there, but most are using company-licensed characters from anime and manga properties, so we can’t license those, for obvious legal reasons.
The rest are either too Japanese-centric or too amateurish, unfortunately. We were lucky enough to be able to license our first choices, but we’ve also been turned down by some developers who don’t feel U.S. gamers would care for their games. We have to change their perception and for that we need your support. Thought I’d throw that in there.
Aside from localizing the text did you alter any of the games you worked on?
We will not alter a game unless it is absolutely necessary and if it ever came to that, we would first consult with the original Japanese game developer/creator before doing anything. Thankfully, that has not been a problem for us. As a company, we prefer to leave the game as intended by the developer.
The pack you created for Suguri is a great value. Do you think fans in Japan will import the Rockin’ Android version?
Yeah, actually to our surprise, we’ve received a good amount of orders from Japan. Suguri already has a large following in Japan so that makes sense. It’s the collector mentality and such…
Are you considering any console ports?
Porting our games over to Xbox Live, PSN and WiiWare has always been part of the plan. We made a splash at Comic-Con International recently and received a lot of attention from the big guys, so it’s in the works for next year. Sadly, I can’t say too much yet.
What do you think about the Touhou Project?
I’m a very big fan of ZUN-san and his games. I’ve met him several times and hope to work with him in the future. He’s influenced the doujin video game scene in Japan immensely, so it’s both startling and surreal to see him at Comiket; it’s like seeing a movie star. He is a one-man cottage industry.
Can you tell us about any of your future releases?
We’ve just released Qlione, a fantastic organic 2D shooter and coming soon is the cutest bullet hell shooter ever, Flying Red Barrel on September 24th. Both of these downloadable games are available from Direct2Drive and GamersGate.
Our next DVD-Rom release will be the legendary Gundemonium Collection which includes all three bullet hell shooter titles (Gundemonium Recollection, GundeadliGne, Hitogata Hapa) in one package. I wish I could talk more about 2010 and other upcoming projects, but you’ll have to wait ‘til the next interview.