Spike Chunsoft CEO Talks About Bringing More Visual Novels And Japanese Games To The West

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Siliconera recently spoke with Spike Chunsoft CEO Mitsutoshi Sakurai who hinted that multiple Mages titles are coming over. We took the opportunity to ask what else is cooking over at Spike Chunsoft.


Why did you want to open a US branch for Spike Chunsoft?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai, President and CEO: I felt this was the best time to come to America because the American fans and market are craving more Japanese content and they are being more accepting to Japanese games. One of the biggest reasons I saw potential in the market started with Danganronpa which NIS America published and it became a great hit. We self-published Danganronpa 1 and 2 on Steam, both of which have sold over 200,000 downloads. That was a success for us and through the Steam community we learned that communicating with fans directly is essential for being a successful company in the West. That was another reason why we decided to come out on our own.


Danganronpa was a very successful series for Spike Chunsoft, but it also, perhaps, ended recently?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: [Laughs] It’s taking a break.


With Danganronpa dormant, what is the biggest series from Spike Chunsoft now?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: Zanki Zero, we’re betting big on this. We see potential in Zanki Zero, it’s created by Terasawa-san, the same producer of Danganronpa.


Uchikoshi’s Zero Escape series is another popular Spike Chunsoft series in the West. Has there been discussion about releasing his earlier games like Ever 17 in the West similar to how 428: Shibuya Scramble is getting a Western release?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: You can look forward to an announcement in the near future on the title that Uchikoshi-san is working on right now. We’ll consider [his earlier games] if there is a request for them.


We were speaking with Suda51 earlier about the 20th anniversary of Grasshopper Manufacture and asked him about Michigan, which is a Spike Chunsoft title published in Japan and only had a limited release in Europe.

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: [Laughs] I talked with Suda-san about it too and personally I want to do something with Michigan one more time.


Spike Chunsoft is also acting as a global publisher for PixelJunk Monsters 2. Could you tell us about your partnership with Q-Games and if you have to plans to work with other developers?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: The title we have and our relationship with Q-Games is unique and different from what we were doing before. We will publish PixelJunk Monster 2 worldwide on multiple platforms. It has been a unique challenge for us and a direction we hope to expand in the future.


We also have a partnership with Mages and are releasing Steins;Gate Elite in the West. If there are good titles out in the market, we do want to seek partnerships with other developers.


What about Monochrome, the developer of Grand Kingdom?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: We have a very good relationship with Monochrome and if there are opportunities in the future we would like to consider it.


Spike Chunsoft also owns Shiren the Wanderer and develops Mystery Dungeon titles. With the popularity of the rougelike genre, will we see more Shiren games localized in the future?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: Everyone has been telling us it won’t do well. I agree the gameplay is interesting, but releasing those games would be a challenge.


Spike Chunsoft has a fighting game team that developed J-Stars Victory Vs. and Dragon Ball Z fighting games. Are you thinking about working with them to create an original series?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: Of course, we are thinking about it.


As a Japanese developer creating new games and now with a Western division, which games do you think will do best in the West?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: If it’s being made by Japanese talents and programmers, RPGs are probably their specialty. If we go into the FPS or shooter games, that’s something Western developers are better at. Since we have a partnership with Mages, we want to be the number one publisher of visual novels in the West.


Aside from the Mages titles, what other visual novels would you like to localize?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: Aksys published otome games and I’m assessing how they and Idea Factory are doing when publishing those titles because we have Kenka Bancho Otome. If it seems like it would do well, it would be interesting to do that as well.


The Kenka Bancho series is another long running series and we’ve only seen Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble which Atlus released nearly a decade ago. Have you considered releasing other games in the series?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: Atlus published that one title and it didn’t do so well. That made us decide to not release those games any more.


Atlus also released Conception II, are there plans to consider that RPG series?

We’re considering it, but we can’t make any promises.


One thing interesting about Spike, especially before the merger with Chunsoft, is Spike introduced many Western titles to Japan. Will Spike continue to release Western games like The Witcher 3?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: Yes, we plan to continue to keep that as one of the focuses of the business. We released the The Witcher, Ark, and we have another title we can’t announce yet, but has very big potential. We will continue to expand in the Japan market as well.

We have been localizing foreign titles for the Japanese market since 1999. In the recent years Western games are being more popular in Japan and we are very happy about that.


Which Western series are you a fan of and which Western game are you a fan of?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: The Witcher, I love the Witcher. I don’t have a favorite right now, but I want to try Far Cry 5.


As a publisher of Western games in Japan and developer of original games in Japan, have you thought about infusing some Western design elements in the titles you’re creating at Spike Chunsoft?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: It’s possible to do that and make a game, but that might not create a good game. Our focus is to make a game that is appealing to the Japanese market and then release the ones that would be accepted in the West.


One interesting thread about the Spike Chunsoft titles is the games from Danganronpa to 428 to the Zero Escape and now Zanki Zero is these games are dark. Does the team like making dark games?

Mitsutoshi Sakurai: [Laughs] It’s not the team likes dark games, it’s just the direction they like to go in. When they have concepts for new games, I make the final decision. Maybe it’s because I like dark games that’s why it happens. [Laughs]

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Gamer, avid hockey fan, and firm believer in the heart of the cards.